» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum

March 3, 2003
Home is here and everywhere else and rarely spoken of with indifference. It is a place to where some never want return. And to some it's a place they can't. To others it's that place they wished they'd never had to leave. Home's an old, out-of-style, ill-fitting, soft sweater for most - unattractive and unflattering and somehow uncomfortable and immensely comforting at once. It's the one we just can't give up to Goodwill. Just ask Chris Offutt.

In his latest book, No Heroes: A Memoir of Coming Home (Simon & Schuster, 2002) Offutt once again takes us back home with him to the hills of eastern Kentucky. In previously published works, the short story collections Kentucky Straight and Out of the Woods, and the novel The Good Brother, the hills provided not only a setting, but the reason for writing in the first place. Offutt doesn't just seem to find material in the people, the mores, the geography, the air, the light, the scent of Kentucky - he seems to be haunted by them.

I'll be straight. I'm a super-fan of the man's writing. He's just damn good. Criticize his dialogue? Forget about it. It's on. It's real without being cutely quaint, and when it's funny, it's because it doesn't seem calculated. He grants his characters the gift of respect and lets them be on the page - existing with an unmatched degree of authenticity. Think of all the ways you can express the idea of "genuine." Add one more, and you'll have a story by Chris Offutt

In No Heroes, Offutt gives life to the real-life. It's the story of his homecoming. After accepting a teaching job at his alma mater, Morehead State University, he returns not just to Kentucky, but also to both its beauty and its ugliness. And here the struggle ensues. His journey toward a reconciliation of his place within the inertia of the hills is intertwined with the story of his in-laws, Arthur and Irene, Polish survivors of the Holocaust living in New York. Offutt's spare narrative style is congruous with Arthur and Irene's straightforward personal accounts of surviving the concentration camps, and in this absence of embellishment, the poignant details of their experiences resonate.

The parallels between Offutt's and his in-law's stories are apparent, but never is the gravity and severity of Arthur and Irene's past trivialized for the comparison. As evidenced in the Appalachians, the mechanisms used to subjugate in contemporary American society are relatives, in purpose, to those used in Nazi Germany. The lack of educational, cultural, and economic opportunities is a more passive and less immediate method for extinction. But it's a killing-off nonetheless.

Offutt has a particularly keen eye for processing the complexities of a human deprived. It's this acute ability that allows him to convince us that Home (even if we can't get there physically, psychologically, or emotionally) never ceases to be.

Michelle Brotherton

See other articles by Michelle Brotherton.



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