Chris Offutt’s 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, Andrew J. Offutt — noted science fiction/fantasy/porn/erotica author. 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. 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
Synopses & Reviews
In “one of the most sensitive, nuanced examinations of father and son relationships” (The Boston Globe), award-winning writer Chris Offutt struggles to understand his recently deceased father, based on his reading of the 400-plus novels his father—a well-known writer of pornography in the 1970s and 80s—left him in his will.
Andrew Offutt was considered the “king of twentieth-century smut,” with a writing 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 1970s when the commercial popularity of the erotic novel reached 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 more than four hundred novels, including pirate porn, ghost porn, zombie porn, and secret agent porn. The more he wrote, the more intense his ambition became and the more difficult it was for his children to be part of his world.
Over the long summer of 2013, his son, Chris, returned to his hometown to help his now widowed mother move out of his childhood home. As he began to examine his father’s manuscripts and memorabilia, journals, and letters, he realized he finally had an opportunity to gain insight into the difficult, mercurial, sometimes cruel man he’d loved and feared in equal measure. Only in his father’s absence could he truly make sense of the man and his legacy.
In My Father, the Pornographer, Offutt takes us on the journey with him, reading his father’s prodigious literary output as both a critic and as a son seeking answers. He “enters the darkest and most mysterious of places—the cave of a monstrous enigma named Andrew J. Offutt—armed with nothing but his own restless curiosity. Spoiler alert: He makes it out alive, walking into the daylight to bring us a deeper, funnier, more tender and more heartbroken truth—and his masterpiece” (Michael Chabon).
"One of the most sensitive, nuanced examinations of father and son relationships I’ve read." Boston Globe
“A literary detective story interwoven with memories of a youth riddled with sexual confusion and inarticulate yearning. . . . There is a touching universality to his tale and its mix of longing and despair . . . . In the end, the value of this haunting account lies in Offutt’s refusal to find a pat moral in his journey.” The Washington Post
“A generous reminiscence . . . ruminative and melancholy . . . Offutt somehow manages to summon compassion for his father. That, ultimately, is what makes this memoir so unexpectedly moving.” The New York Times
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.