Chris Offutt, author of Kentucky Straight and The Same River Twice (among others), was the son of noted and prolific science fiction/fantasy/porn/erotica author (and one-time president of Science Fiction Writers of America [SFWA]) Andrew J. Offutt. My Father, the Pornographer is a father-son memoir that finds its author searching for clarity and insight following the 2013 loss of his dad. Raised in rural Kentucky, Chris was forever seeking the attention, affection, and approval of his father, all the while fearing the former insurance salesman who left his business behind to stake his claim to authorial immortality. Verbally abusive and "maniacal," the greater the elder Offutt's reputation grew, the more distant he became to his family.
My Father, the Pornographer is as much Chris's story as it is Andrew's. As Chris waded through the leftover belongings of his late father, he sought (or had thrust upon him) a more revealing glimpse into the man who penned over 400 books (most under various pseudonyms) perhaps at the expense of normal, more conciliatory family relations. While Andrew's biography is itself compelling, the true beauty of Chris's memoir is witnessing his development as both individual and author — attempting to transcend his upbringing while forever being bound by it.
Offutt's memoir, moving and expertly written, is the tale of a single family, but the unhappiness endured, however singular, may well resound for anyone with a less than savory upbringing of their own. My Father, the Pornographer, telling the tale of both a literal and metaphorical cleaning out, is a raw, candid, and striving work that offers as much about its progenitor as it does its complicated subject. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
After his father’s death, Chris Offutt moved 1,800 pounds of his father’s literary estate into his dining room and began to grapple with his troubling legacy. My Father, the Pornographer is Offutt’s incisive and even-handed memoir of his relationship with a difficult and fascinating parent. Recommended By Mary Jo S., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
After inheriting 400 novels of pornography written by his father in the 1970s and ‘80s, critically acclaimed author Chris Offutt sets out to make sense of a complicated father-son relationship in this carefully observed, beautifully written memoir.
“Clearing Dad's office felt like prospecting within his brain. As I sorted, like an archaeologist, backward through time, I saw a remarkable mind at work, a life lived on its own terms.”
When Andrew Offutt died, his son, Chris, inherited a desk, a rifle, and 1800 pounds of porn. Andrew had been considered the “king of twentieth century smut,” a career that began as a strategy to pay for his son's orthodontic needs and soon took on a life of its own, peaking during the ‘70s when the commercial popularity of the erotic novel was at its height.
With his dutiful wife serving as typist, Andrew wrote from their home in the Kentucky hills, locked away in an office no one dared intrude upon. In this fashion he wrote 400 novels, ranging from pirate porn and ghost porn, to historical porn and time travel porn, to secret agent porn and zombie porn. The more he wrote, the more intense his ambition became, and the more difficult it was for his children to penetrate his world.
Over one long summer in his hometown, helping his mother move out of the house, Chris began to examine his deceased father's possessions and realized he finally had an opportunity to come to grips with the mercurial man he always feared but never understood. Offutt takes us on the journey with him, showing us how only in his father's absence could he truly make sense of the man and his legacy. This riveting, evocatively told memoir of a deeply complex father-son relationship proves again why the New York Times Book Review said, “Offuts obvious kin are Richard Ford, Tobias Wolff, and Ernest Hemingway.”
"Offutt's obvious kin are Richard Ford, Tobias Wolff, and Ernest Hemingway." The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Chris Offutt is an award-winning author and screenwriter. He worked on the HBO drama True Blood and the Showtime series Weeds. His books include Kentucky Straight, The Same River Twice, The Good Brother, Out of the Woods, and No Heroes: A Memoir of Coming Home. His work has appeared in The Best American Essays, The Best American Short Stories, and many other anthologies. He lives near Oxford, Mississippi.