Over the course of the next week, I’ll be sharing reviews of Chris Offutt’s last two books — the memoir My Father, the Pornographer and his latest novel Country Dark. In addition to these reviews, I’ll then have a full interview conducted with Chris over the past couple of weeks.
The recipient of a Whiting Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, recognition from the Academy of Arts and Letters, a host of published novels, short story collections, and memoirs, and many other accolades, Chris, a Kentucky native, is our local boy made good. From Hollywood to the famously exclusive halls of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Chris has been there. But the road started in Kentucky and returned several times to the same, and I have no reservations telling you he is the best our fair commonwealth has to offer in literature.
I was first made aware of Chris’s work as a senior year in high school, but not in the classroom. I visited my uncle, Gayle, who, at that time, wrote poetry under the name G.C. Compton. Gayle was my first literary hero. The winner of four consecutive Plattner Awards from the journal Appalachian Heritage, he was also the first and only Appalachian writer I had ever read. That changed when he handed me Kentucky Straight, Chris’s first collection of stories. “This guy has it right,” my uncle told me. “He knows what he’s doing.”
My uncle’s words were true then and they’re still true today. Chris has it right, in so many brilliant and simple ways. It’s Chris Offutt Week here at Enclave. So relax and enjoy the bird nests and turtle shells and a look at our greatest Kentucky author. You heard me: bird nests and turtle shells. And the greatest Kentucky author. Wait and see.