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Release: Immediate

Arts Center Relations


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 Lights bookstore.

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 year.