The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake
Yes, that is his name. Or rather, it was his name. Breece Pancake killed himself under rather confusing circumstances shortly before his 27th birthday, after having several stories published and numerous endorsements from other writers. Born and raised in West Virginia, Pancake wrote what he knew - the land, history, and people of West Virginia were his subjects. In his focus on one geographical location, he reminds me of Ivan Doig, who writes mainly about the mid-West and West. Though the writing is fairly simple and straightforward, Pancake's stories are anything but simplistic. In fact, though each story is quite short and this collection no more than 150 pages long, it is difficult to read them straight through. Pancake captures an incredible pathos in 1970s West Virginian denizens, a pulling tension between tradition and family versus change and growth. The protagonists, male and female alike, have minds that are painful to step inside; they are stunted and unfulfilled, but unable to push beyond their surroundings into something more. It's clear that Pancake had an innate talent for writing, and it is an immeasurable shame that he had to leave the world so soon.