Rick Bragg, be afraid. Be very afraid. Chris Offutt is going to give you a run for your money. Characterized by a clarion style, an ability to capture the voice of the southeastern hill country and a keen, impartial eye for detail, Offutt's new memoir No Heroes tells of the author's return to rural Kentucky where he was born and raised. Originally from Haldeman, Kentucky, Offutt was one of the few boys from his town to go to college, and one of even fewer to attend the local state school, Morehead State University.
Morehead gave Offutt enough steam to propel him into a prosperous writing and teaching career on the West Coast. Though successful, married and blessed with children, Offutt found himself hopelessly homesick for Kentucky—its woods and wildflowers, the truant boys and wayward girls he grew up with. Offutt's opportunity to come home again arrives when Morehead advertises an opening for an English professor. He gets the job, hoping to recognize his own young, ambitious self in his students. But he doesn't mince the cultural limitations of rural Kentucky. The prologue of No Heroes is organized around a list of things Offutt has to bring with him from the city music and books and another list of things he can leave behind: the tuxedo, the foreign car, the burglar alarm and the attitude. In fact the prologue really sets up the dichotomy Offutt experiences throughout the book: his deep emotional connection to the hills of his childhood versus an intellectual hunger for something outside those hills.
While in many ways he has grown distant from his hometown and its unspoken rules, he finds that it is the only place where he can be completely himself. "Here, you won't get judged by your jeans and boots. . . . Never again will you worry that you're using the wrong fork, saying the wrong thing, or expecting people to keep their word. . . . You are no longer from somewhere. Here is where you are. This is home."
Lynn Hamilton writes from Tybee Island, Georgia.