Through it all, Mr. Offutt somehow manages to summon compassion for his father. That, ultimately, is what makes this memoir so unexpectedly moving ... he pities his father’s loneliness, for being sentenced to a lifetime preoccupation with torture and a headful of savage sexual fantasies, predicated on the harming of innocents.
The in-your-face title of this memoir would seem to speak for itself. What is contained in the pages, however, is much quieter and more compassionate than one might expect. It’s not only a story about pornography — in fact, not much is said about Andrew Offutt’s work until over halfway through the book. Instead, this is a meditation on Chris’s childhood, using the material found in his father’s office to gain a better understanding and a different perspective on his father than he had previously held ... Chris tells the story of his father with great care and poignancy. This isn’t the typical bitter recounting of a terrible childhood — instead, it’s melancholic and thoughtful.
Some of the chapters here are curiously disjointed, skipping back and forth between the present and the past with no discernible pattern and a kind of tonal uncertainty that leaves the reader unsure of what to make of certain passages ... In the end, the value of this haunting account lies in Chris Offutt’s refusal to find a pat moral in his journey, or to reach for some neat, bow-wrapped reconciliation.
...one of the most sensitive, nuanced examinations of father and son relationships I’ve read ... In My Father, the Pornographer,’ Offutt vividly recounts both his and his father’s flaws, but he never lets them get in the way of his search for answers to one of life’s prickliest dilemmas: fathers and sons.
...[a] powerful, gracefully written memoir ... Offutt beautifully captures the cultural and subcultural mores of the 1960s and '70s, including a peek into the burgeoning world of science-fiction conventions.
[Offutt] may never write a more memorable memoir than this one: Provocative and courageous, the book veers from the painfully revealing to the strangely opaque. As Chris tries to fathom the distant father who lived so much of his life behind locked doors, he raises almost as many questions as he answers.
Offutt imbues this book with a deep layer of meaning and observation. Despite the titillating subject, the pornography stands in for any obsession that can overtake any person. The real story is one of a complex father-son relationship made even more complicated by unsettling revelations that come to light after death.
The author reserves ample sympathy for himself. He is, as in his previous work, a captivating storyteller, but self-pity and bitterness, two pitfalls of the genre, occasionally creep into his memoir ... My Father, the Pornographer is at its best when Offutt pulls back from the everyday battles to express larger truths. He captures, in beautiful language, that parental loss is profound, regardless of how fraught the relationship with the parent.
Chris Offutt continually reaches beyond his own feeling to sympathize with a man many readers would prefer to demonize. In that regard, My Father, the Pornographer is contemporary memoir at its best. It achieves the rare miracle of re-creating the human heart on the page.
...a heartbreaking, hilarious, and humane exploration of the filial relationship ... My Father, the Pornographer is a better book because it doesn’t assume a phony 'objectivity' or 'distance;' it’s a searching, open-hearted memoir that doesn’t contrive an easy position for its author in relationship to his father.
At times this memoir can feel like a catalog of Andy Offutt's flaws and failings, but what slowly emerges is a portrait of a tortured artist — one who, oddly, found fame in the underworld of erotica. I did not feel sympathy for this man, and you won't either. But you will come to understand why this book needs to exist.