cover image The Same River Twice: A Memoir

The Same River Twice: A Memoir

Chris Offutt. Simon & Schuster, $17.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-78734-9

What keeps this first book by Offut from becoming a familiar nonfictional Bildungsroman is the author's sensitivity to nature and his lyrical prose in writing about it. Offut, however, is far less successful in describing people: his memoir is populated by a predictable array of derelicts, oddballs and near-psychotics as he journeys around the U.S., dreaming alternately of becoming an actor, a painter, a playwright and a poet, yet usually doing little to realize his aspirations. Only those who are intrigued by America's social underside will enjoy Offut's portraits of human flotsam. The underlying plot of the book concerns his wife's pregnancy and the birth of their first child, a son, but neither Offut's approach to nor his words about this subject are original. (Jan.)