The Father Won't 'Kiss' And Tell

IN HER RECENT MEMOIR, "The Kiss," Kathryn Harrison told the world that, beginning when she was 20, she had a four-year affair with her father. She has been estranged from her father for years; she doesn't use her maiden name and masked her father's identity in the book. But the book has aroused so much controversy it was inevitable someone would try to track down her father. Last week New York Observer reporter Warren St. John located him--identifying him only as a retired minister living in a small Southern city--and popped the obvious question: was it true? In a fraught interview, Harrison's father claimed he'd never heard of his daughter's new book. "You say that Kathryn has said that she had an affair with me? I guess if people want to believe that, golly." But he never explicitly denied the affair, saying he didn't want to call his daughter a liar.

And there's no evidence to suggest that she is. Still, some, including the newly Pulitzered memoirist Frank McCourt, have said that Harrison should not have published her book while her father was still living. In a statement last week Harrison said, "In writing this book, I exposed myself and not my father." But her father told the Observer he feels exposed: "Lots of people know Kathy... I live a public life, I was the pastor of a church... And I can see everything that I am in jeopardy." He also expressed concern for his three younger children, Harrison's half-siblings.

Reporter St. John has spoken to Harrison's father since the article was published. He has now bought the book, but says he hasn't read it--and he's discussed Harrison's allegations with his family. Says St. John, "He had no idea what the fallout of her book would be, but the family was all aware of it and coping."