Chris Offutt, an award-winning writer of fiction and TV scripts for shows such as True Blood and Weeds, has published a deeply personal memoir about his father, Andrew. Offutt’s father was a prolific writer, authoring over four hundred novels, primarily porn in various guises, but also science fiction and fantasy, using over a dozen pseudonyms. After Andrew Offutt died in 2013 of alcohol-induced cirrhosis, Chris was left to manage his father’s estate, which included a sizeable collection of pornographic fiction and memorabilia.
Like nearly all boys, Chris desired his father’s approval noting “despite lifelong difficulties with my father, I lived for his attention” but realized “Dad never knew what it was like to have a proud father and didn’t know how to be one himself.”
In this memoir Offutt writes of the boys he grew up with in the Kentucky hills (“what I loved and felt most loyal to were the wooded hills, and not my father”), of being sexually abused by a man he refers to as “fatman”, of his failed enlistment in the army, and, of course, the fraught relationship between a father and a son.
“despite lifelong difficulties with my father, I lived for his attention”
Despite the bleakness of acknowledging that “we disappointed him with our need for a father”, Chris and his family grew closer following his father’s death, and Offutt comes to understand his father better and develop sympathy for him and the life he chose.
And despite other painful experiences, Offutt recalls the joys of childhood, writing “I was happiest with the pack of boys from our hill, sets of brothers on foot and battered bicycles. I don’t recall particular events, only the sense of friendship and loyalty, laughter and acceptance…. We had each other. We were free. We were happy.”