Chris Offutt has made a remarkable career for himself as an award-winning author and screenwriter (“True Blood,” “Weeds”). In his stunning new memoir, he turns to the complex legacy of his father, Andrew Offutt, a prolific writer of pulp science fiction and pornography. And by “prolific,” we’re talking more than 400 paperbacks of series fiction, with titles like Blunder Broads and The Girl in the Iron Mask. (The complete bibliography in the back of the book is worth a perusal for its less family-friendly titles.)
Prominent NPR talk show host Diane Rehm’s memoir, On My Own, is a plainspoken but passionate account of the death from Parkinson’s disease of her husband of 54 years and of her journey through the first year of widowhood.
In her deeply personal new book, In Other Words, acclaimed novelist Jhumpa Lahiri notes that “writing in another language represents an act of demolition, a new beginning.” It’s a neat summing-up of what takes place in this brief, meditative memoir—Lahiri’s first work of nonfiction—as she shares the story of her passion for Italian and how she set out to master it.
Only a society riven by fear and desperation would have incubated a figure as initially uncredentialed and unimpressive as Adolf Hitler. A school dropout and frequent vagrant, Hitler had no achievements to speak of until he served honorably in the German army during the Great War.
Like so many teenage girls, Ruth Wariner and her friends used to spend hours back in the 1980s dreaming and talking of future romances. But despite living in a fundamentalist “plural marriage” colony in Mexico that had broken away from the Mormon church, most of them did not hope for a polygamous future as a “sister wife.” They knew all too well what that meant.
Esteemed historian Ian Buruma turns his attention to a happy marriage in his elegant new book, Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War. While his grandparents might seem a more limited subject than his recent Year Zero: A History of 1945, this family love story is deeply intertwined with history. Using their correspondence during both the First and Second World Wars as his primary source, Buruma crafts a finely observed portrait of an assimilated Jewish family in England between the wars.
No relationship is more fraught than the one between father and son; the son is always trying to please his father, and the father is feeling guilty about whether he loves his son enough. Now imagine that your dad is a gonzo journalist who has famously hung out with Hell’s Angels and loved his booze, drugs and guns. In Stories I Tell Myself: Growing Up with Hunter S. Thompson, Juan F. Thompson lucidly and longingly tells us just what it was like being the only child of the notorious writer.
Robert Lowell was considered by many to be the English-speaking world’s pre-eminent poet after the Second World War. In 1946, when he was barely 30 years old, he received the Pulitzer Prize for his second poetry collection, Lord Weary’s Castle. He received a second Pulitzer for The Dolphin in 1973, and many other awards followed until his death in 1977.
In this captivating companion to the sensational book and 1991 movie Not Without My Daughter, it is the daughter’s turn to tell her tale. Now grown, educated and fiercely independent, Mahtob Mahmoody recounts her harrowing escape with her mother from a tyrannical and abusive father in war-torn Iran.
Celebrity memoirs often have a predictable arc: I was born, and for a brief while I was much like you, eating cereal and riding bicycles, then (big famous thing) happened and now here I am, not much like you at all. These memoirs fill a need, because we want to know about the famous thing but also the steps that led to it, in hopes that we might trade our own cereal bowls for shrimp forks. By that metric, Mary-Louise Parker’s Dear Mr. You, a memoir written by an actress, is the farthest thing imaginable from a celebrity memoir. For this we can rejoice and be glad.