Happy Birthday to Breece Pancake--West VA's finest
Even though he only published one book, Breece Pancake is one of my all-time favorite writers, and apparently today was his birthday (although he committed suicide in Charlottesville, VA long ago using the same method as Hemingway). What follows is a blog about books by Dwight Gardner from the New York Times that talks about Breece:
Breece D’J Pancake at 55
I wrote a post last week that mentioned the late short story writer Breece D’J Pancake, and his admirers came out of the woodwork. I got a lot of e-mail about him. So this seems worth saying: today’s his birthday. Pancake was born 55 years ago today, on June 29, 1952, in South Charleston, West Virginia.
The advertisement above appeared in the Book Review on April 3, 1983, on the occasion of the publication of “The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake.” (Joyce Carol Oates reviewed it in our pages.) Pancake himself, of course, was no longer around - he’d committed suicide almost exactly four years earlier, at 26.
In his afterword to “The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake,” John Casey, who assembled the collection, explained how Pancake got his unusual initials:
When he sold his first story to The Atlantic he scarcely took a breath. (He did do one thing by way of celebration. The galley proofs came back with the middle initials of his name set up oddly: Breece D’J Pancake. He said fine, let it stay that way. It made him laugh, and, I think, it eased his sense of strain - the strain of trying to get things perfect - to adopt an oddity committed by a fancy magazine.)
In a 2002 interview in a publication called The Hook, Casey was asked if he has a favorite Pancake short story:
“Trilobites” and “In the Dry” are two of the really good ones. “The Honored Dead” I also like. “The Mark” is my favorite in a way. It’s the only one from a female point of view, but he does it well. I used to say that there are 12 stories in the book, and five of them are just clearly out-of-the-park home runs. There’s only one that I thought might not be as good as the others, but it turns out to be a favorite of a lot of people: “Time and Again,” the one about the guy who picks up hitchhikers and feeds them to his hogs. It’s kind of gothic. But a lot of people love it.
Happy birthday, Mr. Pancake.Link