The Collected Breece D’J Pancake: Stories, Fragments, Letters

Breece D’j Pancake. Library of America, $24.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-59853-672-0
In this vibrant collection, Pancake’s quirky, indelible prose is shadowed by the poignancy of his personal history. An intense, artistic misfit from rural West Virginia, Pancake died by suicide in 1979 at age 26, four years before The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake was published. In the front matter, Jayne Ann Phillips claims Pancake produced “some of the best short stories written anywhere, at any time,” and James Alan McPherson notes how Pancake synthesized a Hemingway style with themes and characters inspired by his home state. And, indeed, the stories live up to the hype. Pancake balances muscular precision and economy with rich, evocative detail. In “The Mark,” a struggling couple brushes aside the difficulties of the wife’s pregnancy to take their prize bull, Pride and Promise, to a fair. “Fox Hunters” offers a bracing slice of West Virginia life, complete with junk cars in various stages of repair and an opossum or two. The successful protagonist of “The Salvation of Me” learns that you can’t go home again. In addition to the stories and five fragments, the book includes a lengthy section of Pancake’s letters, which reads like a memoir. With its impressive quantity of annotation and tribute, this omnibus offers Pancake fans a deeper look at the artist and will go a long way to inviting others to join this legion. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 07/30/2020
Release date: 10/27/2020
Genre: Fiction
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