cover image My Father, the Pornographer: A Memoir

My Father, the Pornographer: A Memoir

Chris Offutt. Atria, $26 (274p) ISBN 978-1-501-11246-1

A son grapples with the lurid, overbearing legacy of his eccentric father in this conflicted memoir. Novelist and screenwriter Offutt (The Good Brother) catalogued the literary oeuvre of his father, Andrew, after his death. The list included more than 400 pornographic novels published under various pseudonyms from the 1970s through the 1990s (sample titles: Oversexed Shana; The Submission of Claudine) and dozens of more mainstream sci-fi and fantasy novels. The fraught experience of creating that catalogue frames Offutt’s gnarled recollections of Andrew: a domestic tyrant whose wife and children tiptoed around his temper; a sharp if oddly balanced intellectual; an epic crank who bombarded presidents and popes with cantankerous letters and alienated almost everyone; an insecure narcissist who felt safe only within his fantasies or soaking up the applause of acolytes at science fiction conventions. Offutt nicely balances a fascinating, appalling portrait of this larger-than-life figure with shrewdly observed insights into Andrew’s secret frailties and the intense, squirmingly awkward relationship that sprouted between them. It’s also the story of Offutt’s own coming-of-age as he flees his father’s claustrophobic house for the freedom of the Kentucky hills where he grew up, and then embarks on a peripatetic writer’s life. This is a frank, clear-eyed, but subtle memoir that works through raw emotion to arrive at an empathetic understanding of what fractures and binds families. (Feb. 9)