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Breece D J Pancake Cut Short A Remarkably Promising Career When He Took His Own Life In At The Age Of In Little, Brown And Company S Posthumous Publication Of This Book, A Collection Of Stories That Depict, With Astonishing Power And Grace, The World Of Pancake S Native Rural West Virginia, Electrified The Literary World With A Force That Still Resounds Across Two Decades The Stories Of Breece D J Pancake Has Remained Continuously In Print A Perennial Favorite Among Aspiring Writers, Participants In Creative Writing Programs, And Students Of Contemporary American Fiction Trilobites , The First Of Pancakes Stories To Be Published In The Atlantic, Elicited An Extraordinary Response From Readers In And Continues To Be Widely Anthologized Upon Its Initial Publication, The Stories Of Breece D J Pancake Received Front Page Reviews In Newspapers And Literary Periodicals Throughout The Country


10 thoughts on “The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake

  1. says:

    These 12 stories silenced the general clamour I carry around with me Few experiences can render me peaceable sated, but with Breece D J Pancake, this guy just surrenders everything, he is authentic, and as John Casey mentions, Breece absorbs, learns ages everything he welcomes While he lived Receiving that honest and embracing nature of his is a nourishing and often bracing experience The stories offer you a bruising The characters are deeply connected to nature, they are earnest when they choose to dream, they fill up on wild meat and whatever emptiness disguises itself as The prose is just his It is exciting, vigorous, tarred feathered Trilobites is a known favorite, it has the high polish, but the raw gold is mined from A Room Forever Fox Hunters In the Dry All 12 are a master class.If you haven t had the pleasure yet, you are in for a treat.


  2. says:

    February 2009This was a difficult one to review objectively After all, to read Breece D J Pancake is to know Breece D J Pancake, and to know about him is to know about his death A self inflicted shotgun blast to the head at age 26, and these twelve stories the only works he left how can you ignore that This collection has an almost mythical aura to it, the kind that seems to surround the works of all artists who died long before their time This is all he wrote this is all we have And with that realization, there s almost a need to elevate the work, no matter the quality, to greatness You want to join the cult I know I do.Thing is, Breece D J Pancake deserves all that He deserves the accolades, he deserves the praise, and he certainly deserves to be read Mind you, these stories aren t polished they re rough around the edges, jagged in places Breece Pancake wasn t trying to be neat here There is absolutely no pretension these are not the stories of a self aware literary figure who exploits fiction rather than telling it Pancake s stories are honest brutally so, at times and he does not embellish It s as if he is familiar with the people and places of his stories and he is, you ll learn he really is , and, perhaps most importantly, he respects them, too.It is difficult to separate Pancake s stories from Pancake s life and death , and it s almost painful to imagine what other stories he would have given us if he had lived longer But there s no use crying over such an old loss He left us these twelve stories and we should read them.


  3. says:

    A solid 3.5 s for me.Stark There is nothing uplifting about these stories Reading them had me feeling raw The characters aren t particularly likeable Whether they re trying to escape where they live, or end up returning, there is an overall sense of dissatisfaction among them.But oh, the writing It draws you in and you feel the same desolation, and breathe in the same air Haunting, aching, sad The pictures painted here will stay with you The crispness of the writing shows a depth of understanding of both the people and the natural landscape where it s set.It saddens me to think that this little collection is all we have of Breece Pancake s work There is so much promise contained in these pages It seems that he was a troubled soul, and this is what we have of those thoughts.I have to admit that a few of the stories I simply did not understand at all The dialect threw me But the ones which I did had a deep impact.Not any easy read by any means, but worth the time Many thanks to GR friend Ian, whose review piqued my interest in reading this book It s always a joy to discover a new Writer.Ian s review can be found at


  4. says:

    I m struggling with this review, just as I struggled with these stories not because they re difficult, despite the instances of jargon that aren t always clear from the context and that I came to feel were too inclusive but because most of the stories left me lukewarm The descriptive language and some observations shine, but right now the only character I can bring to mind even though I finished the book last night is the first person unreliable narrator of Time and Again, which I read twice It s the the only one I wanted to read again, even though it s probably the simplest, most straightforward of the bunch.I almost started off this review by apologizing to the book because it arrived from the library at an unusually busy time for me I read most of the stories late at night when I might ve been too tired, but I read that way quite a bit and if a story fires my imagination or captures my attention, when and how I read it is not usually an issue Perhaps I needed to read this with my short story friend, Mikki, who recommended this book to me and gave it five stars I m sure she would ve pointed out things I ve missed though the symbolism in The Mark seems almost too obvious and The Salvation of Me seems autobiographical, adding interest to a story I might ve otherwise found boring Perhaps the overall style and content is not for me Pancake has been compared to Hemingway and I struggle with him too.The most interesting fact I read about the author after I finished this book is that he converted to Catholicism not long before his death, which was either suicide or accidental, at age 26 He took the name John after his conversion, thus the initial J That left me wondering if any of his Catholicism might ve crept into his later stories, though I can t recall anything that would lead me to that conclusion.


  5. says:

    Just 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 The writing was brilliant, and I have a sense that there was a part of Pancake in every one of these stories, he knows his people and his territory well He committed suicide at the age of 26, and his depressive personality is on view in all of these stories Not a one of them has anything in it of hope or escape from the bleak landscape that was his part of West Virginia.I was in WV once, in Harper s Ferry, which I thought was a pretty little town nestled in the hills above the Potomac River Breece Pancake s WV is clearly not the same place, and his characters are not people I would feel comfortable with at all It s really too bad that these 12 stories are all we ll ever have of him as I said, the writing was brilliant and a wicked sense of humor was on display in some of them.Favorite story because of the humor The Salvation of Me


  6. says:

    I m normally a fast reader, and the first story in this collection straight away got my attention and caused me to read on quickly On reaching the end, I had the distinct feeling I had missed something, and I went back and read it again, taking my time a bit That s one of the features of this collection The stories really have to be read slowly to be properly appreciated Even at that, I m not sure I fully understood them, but for what they re worth my impressions are below.Breece Pancake was born in 1952, committed suicide in 1979, and was a native of West Virginia The context of time and place is important to these stories, almost all of which feature male characters from rural West Virginia in the 60s and 70s Panacke s characters work as farmers, miners, mechanics, truck drivers, etc They go hunting and fishing, and they fight In First Day of Winter , an old man asks his son to go hunting with the admonition Won t be Thanskgiving without wild game In The Scrapper , a bar and street brawler seems to almost consciously struggle against the affectionate feelings he is starting to develop towards his girlfriend Meanwhile the story Time and Again , packs a punch of the metaphorical kind.I would have to describe this collection as one of the bleakest I have come across Entrapment seems to be a common theme across a number of stories, especially in A Room Forever , The Salvation of Me , and First Day of Winter The title story Trilobites has a slightly different feel, but to say would introduce spoilers That story incorporates a search for fossils, and that touches on another common theme Throughout the stories the main characters uncover bones and artefacts mice skeletons deer skeletons, human skulls from Indian burial grounds, and Indian arrowheads, underlining the connections that the lead characters feel for the land A powerful set of stories, but each was written separately and I think they might work better read that way, rather than as a collection.


  7. says:

    Ever buy a book for the poem on the first, unnumbered, page because the poem is so spot on you can hardly stand it And you didn t have a pen or a big enough scrap of paper or the time to kneel in the aisle of the store and scribble the first line and maybe perhaps the author And although Professor Dane taught you well and with certainty how to lift a page from any book, including those in fancy temperature controlled archival rooms like the Huntington and the Bancroft and the Getty you resist and buy the whole damn thing, in hardcover, even though you are fairly sure no one is watching, and even if they were with some spit and a string you could lift it anyhow So you buy it outright and tote it through the city Even though your walk is long and the Santa Anas are blowing hot and your bag is already bursting with books you haven t yet read, and are supposed to, and most likely will not get to You buy it and forget about it You buy it and shelve it with the others And then one day, when the very same winds are blowing hot and nasty you recall the poem and search out the book only the poem isn t in there any Someone tore it out Without class Without style or skill With jagged edges So you flip through the book hoping it s folded in half and tucked neatly inside and that s when the words start and draw you in and you realize the poem was a piece of crap written by a two bit hack, but this book


  8. says:

    My Thanks must go first to Melanie for suggesting this amazing book Thank you for sharing this The image of a fox on the cover was very misleading as I might have expected peaceful nature stories A poor assumption, these stories are dark, violent, challenging, hopeful, tragic and just so damned good that I can t explain except to say these stories satisfy absolutely There is buzzing energy as you hold the book, hot young blood pulses through it, itsShit Grit and Mother Wit I don t know what it is but in my hand it is some of the most powerful writing I have come across The forward itself is wonderful and helps one see how important Breece s legacy is He captures so much from the decade it was from and of his West Virginia homeland The stories are so finely crafted, edited to perfection, bristling with sensations I can not say enough about how he concludes his stories with just enough wiggle room that readers can twist it in their own way One of his friends, John Casey says that in his writing there is a bending of violence into gentleness Perfect pitch I like to think that the raw and savage power in these stories came from Breece Pancake s desire to consume himself by attacking life with such passion and ferocity that he could not survive A premonition Enough for him to know to leave these perfect stories Such a beautiful gift God bless you for what you left us.


  9. says:

    Staggeringly brilliant stories on a level of achievement with


  10. says:

    The stories of Breece D J Pancake real name look unflinchingly at the gritty realities of the impoverished Appalachian region its difficulties, tragedies, and impossibilities, and the strength that people pull together which is somehow never quite enough Pancake grew up in the hills of West Virginia and took his own life with in 1979 at the age of 27, just as his literary career was beginning to gain a little momentum While alive, The Atlantic accepted a few of his stories for publication, but this posthumous collection brings together the work he was doing in the University of Virginia s creative writing program just before his death This collection isn t for the weak of heart, and should be avoided when already feeling down I basically had to put the book down after each story to catch my breath and collect myself They re heavy, pounding stuff that ll get caught in your head.In his work, it is evident that Pancake was weighted down by the psychological ramifications of the decaying South s extreme poverty This collection is packed with frustration young girls taking to prostitution, beloved dogs being murdered by best friends, serial killers, heavy drinkers, waitresses, cockfights Pretty much every story features a character whose life had been charted out since they were conceived, born into a household ripped apart and forced upon a path not of their own choosing In this light, it s tempting to read Pancake s own biography as just another story in his collection James Alan MacPherson, a professor who took Pancake under his wing at U of VA and encouraged him to send his work out for publication does just that A writer in his own right, MacPherson s introduction manages to do just that I would recommend the introduction on its own, it s that good Most importantly, the introduction captures the deep respect MacPherson had for Pancake and inspires the reader to feel the same way after understanding Pancake s own battles It shows that the dark, crushing powers which Pancake shows ripping his characters apart inside acted on him as well.Parallels of Pancake s work can be noticed in early Palace Brothers albums, specifically Days in the Wake, or the work of director David Gordon Green George Washington, All the Real Girls , both of whom may well have been inspired by Pancake s work These artists similarly capture a certain feeling of modern post industrial Southern intellectualism and sensitivity which, rather than allowing an escape from the poverty of opportunity plaguing them, instead gives their protagonists a vivid and profound awareness of what they re losing and missing These stories are rich with regional detail the characters use Southern syntax so deep that it can be indeterminate what they re talking about, but this doesn t detract from the stories The detail Pancake infuses into the stories lends them a magical feeling, shrouds them in a bit of mystery that serves to cut through what I think is a natural predilection on the part of Northerners to condescend to the people of the South The people of Pancake s stories are experts in their own right, can hunt, skin, brine, and eat a squirrel without too much thought, and are aware of and ripped apart by obligation, family, lust, and impossibility.