CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Arts Center Relations
UI CAMPUS NOTES -- IOWA CENTER FOR THE ARTS
OFFUTT READS JUNE 19 -- Fiction writer and memoirist Chris Offutt, a
graduate of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, will read from his
new novel, "The Good Brother," at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 19, in
Shambaugh Auditorium of the UI Main Library.
The free reading will be broadcast live on WSUI radio, AM 910, as part
of the "Live from Prairie Lights" series, sponsored by the Prairie
The "good brother" of the title is a Kentucky man who avenges
his brother's death with murder, and then must construct a new identity
in a faraway place. To research the creation of a new identity, Offutt
accumulated actual documentation for the character, including driver's
and pilot's licenses, birth certificates, a passport and a religious ordination.
"His name was on my mailbox," Offutt says, "and he got more
mail than me for a long time."
For Offutt, the change of identity in the novel implies more than escape
from a crime. "We no longer live in a world where your name, your
clan, your kin have the same impact that they once did," Offutt says.
"We can be free from the burden of family and past. We can go anywhere
and start all over. The cost of this is loss of community and sense of
self, even purpose."
In his new life in Montana, the character becomes involved with the
militia movement. "I tried to show the circumstances that would lead
people to get involved with the 'armed right'," Offutt says. "The
media tend to demonize these people, create stereotypes of them, make them
all out to be bad. Coming from Appalachia, I have had to face similar bigotry
all my life. There's no Jed Clampitt in Kentucky any more than there's
a Grizzly Adams in Montana."
Offutt graduated from the Writers' Workshop in 1990, and his life in
Iowa City was reflected in the memoir "The Same River Twice."
He also has published a volume of short stories, "Kentucky Straight,"
and his fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Esquire, GQ, the New York
Times and other periodicals.
His work has been honored with an NEA grant, a Guggenheim fellowship,
the Whiting Award, a Michenor fellowship and awards from the American Academy
of Arts and Letters. The British magazine Granta identified Offutt as one
of the 20 top young American writers.
Offutt just completed a stint as a guest faculty member at the University
of New Mexico, and he will teach at the University of Montana next academic