My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I think we all spend about 1/3 of our lives trying to get away from our parents, 1/3 trying to decide what kind of people we really are and 1/3 trying to figure out how we understand ourselves through the lens of our parents and grandparents. To say the least, Chris Offutt has had an interesting search for the last part of this equation.
As an author myself, I find myself increasingly wondering where my influences and ideas come from. And that is what primarily attracted me to this book. In My Father, the Pornographer: A Memoir Mr. Offutt peels back the onion that was his father. Sometimes he really didn’t like what he found, but he continued to work at it because buried deep in the refuse of a life lived, there are pieces of himself to be understood. The story isn’t only a look at his own father, but an inward look at himself as well.
I really enjoyed reading this. It’s well written and highly engaging. Yes, some readers will find his father’s chosen literary subjects detestable. However, many of you will value the search for answers as engaging as I did. He approached the task of dealing with his father’s belongings the way in which an archeologist would deal with trying to piece together part of a lost civilization. In this case the civilization is his own father. And his father’s world, was complex and varied.
I got the impression that Chris genuinely respects his father as a writer, although not necessarily the subject matter. His respect comes through in the written word. In the end he discovers some fundamental truths about his father. Interestingly enough, I don’t really think these conclusions are unique. More likely, they are symptomatic of the human experience. We all build offices for ourselves where we feel safe and secure. Places where we are the masters. The form of those sanctuaries take different forms, but they are all sanctuaries of one degree or another.
After reading this book, I found myself wondering what they will ultimately find in my office after I’m gone from this planet. What will they find as they leaf through my belongings? I think of the consequences of this book, whether intentional or not, is to make you take a closer look at your own life and realize that after you are gone, your imprint on this world is still very much here on earth.
To Mr. Offutt, I say thank you for this look at your father’s life.