‘My Father, the Pornographer:’ Great title, better memoir

my-father-the-pornographer-9781501112461_lg.jpgI’d never heard of Chris Offutt before I saw the title of his newest book, but I had been familiar with some of his work.

A writer with credits on two TV shows I watched for a while, (“True Blood” and “Weeds”) I had likely been intrigued by the characters Offutt created and laughed at his dark, twisted humor.

Both are present in spades in “My Father, The Pornographer,” his new memoir of his childhood growing up in the hills of Kentucky, the son of a man who made his living writing pornography.

It’s the kind of honest memoir, like “The Glass Castle,” “Angela’s Ashes” and, well, um, hmmmm… are there others? that makes you wonder how some people make it through.

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1950s Paris comes alive in haunting tale by Nobel winner

I admitted I was not up for the challenge of the 600-page Bleak House. Even though I enjoyed it and still think about the characters, I realize that it was like tackling a marathon after having only run short sprints. One has to build up.

Exhausted from my marathon, I’m back now to sprints.

If you’re a regular reader of Shelf Improvement, you’ll know that book covers draw me in as often as a title or author. So when I saw the title, “In the Café of Lost Youth” and the author, Nobel Prize-winner Patrick Modiano (to whom I had just been introduced) and size (118 pages) I was almost there.  The cover was the clincher.

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Classics Challenge gets mysterious

When I was moving from children’s books to more adult fare, I cut my teeth on Agatha Christie.

baskervilles.jpegI was 11 years old in 1976 when she died. The Detroit Free Press, which we had delivered at home, devoted the back page of the last section (the one with the comics) to a photo spread and story about the woman who essentially created a genre of fiction.

I asked my mother whether she would let me check one of Christie’s books out of the library and she said she’d have to think about it, not being familiar with Christie’s work. She got back to me a few days later, saying she had read or heard a minister say he let his children read the books because they were, at the core, very moral.

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On the difference between liking a novel and reading it

To my great shame, two of my four children are not readers. Our oldest and our youngest would read anything anywhere, but the middle two read only what they have to when they have to.

bleak houseI tried and tried to find books they might find interesting, to no avail. Even when they liked a particular book, they still had no problem not reading them. “If you like it,” I would ask them pointedly, “why do I have to force you to read it?”

That’s a question I’ve been asking myself since I started reading Dickens’ “Bleak House,” my choice for the Classics Challenge 2016 category of a book that had a place in its title.

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