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The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  2,401 ratings  ·  280 reviews
Breece D'J Pancake cut short a remarkably promising career when he took his own life in 1979 at the age of 26. In 1983 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 acros ...more
Paperback, 178 pages
Published February 1st 1988 by Henry Holt & Company (first published 1983)
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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 earn
February 2009

This 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
Jul 21, 2014 Teresa rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: Mikki
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 rea ...more
Bridget Hoida
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 resis ...more
Feb 03, 2008 Anders rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anders by: the believer, circa 2006?
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, ...more
aidan w-m
Sep 14, 2014 aidan w-m added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like stories
Shelves: 2013
i sometimes wonder if these are as good as i remember them being. whatever the case, i know that when i read it i really dug his style, which came across as so organic, despite his editorial meticulousness, that its mysteries were not common textual concerns but the same mysteries that life tosses up for us everyday.
Jul 21, 2008 Alex rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: favorites
Occasionally one comes across a writer who seems to exist causa sui, not a product so much as an expression of circumstance. Breece Pancake is of this rare strain. His stories are gems without fissure, staggering glimpses of lives worn down by time and experience. This collection is absolutely excellent.
I'm going to give all the credit to author Alan Beard who tipped me off to Breece D'J Pancake. I'll have to eat crow that a Brit new more about Pancake than I did, even though the latter was homegrown. Then again, Alan's stories of life in the Midlands share a similar a bent so its not too surprising he's a fan of Pancake's work (and do check out Taking Doreen Out of the Sky" by Alan, can't recommend it highly enough). Back to the matter at hand...

As I carried this book around New York City, I
Pancake's characters are all operating on everything they've got, which is about 70% of what they need. His protagonists, by and large, hunt through these stories driven by hunger and led by a stubborn sense that a sort of perfection can be found in simple human kindness. They're bursting with a desire to give everything of themselves, but seldom find takers. The stories themselves are descriptions of good, flawed people--noble people--operating on tiny margins, making bruising marches through t ...more
Kirk Smith
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, its...Shit- Grit- and Mother Wit. I don't kno ...more
I just purchased a third copy of this book. The first two were thrust into the hands of unsuspecting friends. I am eager to become reacquainted.

So plaintive. so emotive. gut wrenching.

I'm not sure how I've never run across this guy, but he is absolutely captivating. A tragic personal story, not too dissimilar to John Kennedy Toole from what I understand. He ultimately succumbed to his pain and committed suicide before he could gain the recognition deserved.
The Hemingway comparison is obvious,
To stumble on Breece D'J Pancake is to learn a whole bunch of lessons about the nature of genuine talent. Genuine talent doesn't require that you relate to it or find yourself in its depictions or learn important life lessons or be the first to tell your friends your eye for it. Genuine talent doesn't need cheerleaders or fawning critics or book clubs.

Genuine talent overwhelms and defies its lesser rivals.

The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake comprises genuine talent and acts as a fine standard agai
This superb collection of twelve short stories by Breece D'J Pancake are truly the greatest thing I have ever read. Moving and lyrical, you can feel the musical rhythms of the speech of truckers, coal-miners, and West Virginia mountain-folk echoing the rhythms of their lives. Unfortunatly, Pancake killed himself at the age of 26 leaving many questions and these twelve stories. We will never know what other great stories and novels Pancake had in him but my bookshelf weeps at their loss.

I bought
The author died young. Suicide. The stories are tough, he's sort of a more drunken, more poverty stricken Raymond Carver. But I mean that in a good way. I think this book may be out of print. Find it if you can though, or call, you can borrow mine.
fantastic writing, grim subject matter, the trials of working class people in a small rural town. A precursor to Carver but also more expansive. Would have been a great writer had he not committed suicide.
The first thing you must do to appreciate the strengths of the twelve stories posthumously collected in The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake is to distance yourself from the cult of Breece D'J Pancake, an accretion that has formed around his writing since his suicide in 1979 at the age of 27.

There is certainly good writing here, but Pancake wasn't quite yet the new Hemingway of his jacket copy or the savior of modern fiction. Several of his stories are well-polished gems, but more than a few ("The
A very beautiful and transporting writer, in which I can personally see some influence of Kerouac and Salinger, rather than the Hemingway described by Joyce Carol Oates. What a shame his life was ended so early, a shame for him, and a shame for us. The characters in Pancake's stories here remind me of the thin elongated people created by the sculptor, Giacometti. He once said that he was sculpting not the human figure but "the shadow that is cast" and this is exactly how I see Pancake's literary ...more
B. Rule
These are hard, flinty stories and you can taste the coal dust of West Virginia mines on them. Breece writes without tenderness but with some humor and a keen psychological understanding about the characters that populate the hollows of his home state, and it's clear that he has an innate feeling for the rhythms of that society. These are stories where people live lives filled with regret and are squeezed by poverty and impossible choices, and an inordinate number of animals die senseless deaths ...more
Un colpo di pistola nella notte del 7 aprile 1979: Breece D’J Pancake si suicida senza lasciare un biglietto, senza eventi scatenanti o un segno che potesse far presagire questo atto.
I suoi racconti furono raccolti e pubblicati postumi la prima volta nel 1983, riscuotendo da subito l’attenzione della critica, di altri grandi scrittori e del pubblico.

Pagina dopo pagina, questi dodici racconti entrano dentro in maniera quasi subdola, silenziosa, mentre cresce un urlo che vorrebbe spezzare la paral
May 15, 2008 El rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to El by: Russ
There are some people who leave this world entirely too early (whether by their own hand or not), some people so talented that it makes those left behind wonder what more they could have produced if they had had the opportunity to go further. Breece D'J Pancake was one of those people.

His twelve stories in this collection almost all take place in rural West Virginia. He wrote what he knew, and he wrote it well. His subject matters ranged from sex to hunting, and his characters were recognizable
Scott Hammer
The comparison to Hemingway is inevitable, but should be avoided. Save that for Raymond Carver (or his editor) instead. These stories are quiet and unbearably lonely. Terse prose and regional affect. I don't mind, as most people do, the idea that Pancake had some sort of promise unfulfilled. By reading these stories, I can't imagine how he could have done anything else other than end his life. I mean that as a compliment. This collection is so heartbreaking, so real, there is absolutely no postu ...more
This is a collection of lingering impressions as much as it is a collection of stories. And damn, what impressions.

I picked it up for the Appalachian association, since finding a piece of literature that replicates the earthy & transcendent countrified darkness of a Bonnie "Prince" Billy album has been my personal grail for the past year. This is the closest I've come to that. As it turns out, it also sort of makes "I See a Darkness" seem like a romp in the sandbox.

Count me among those bem
WITHOUT A DOUBT one of the great books of American short stories by a talent gone entirely too soon. Who knows what Mr. Pancake would have served up for us. This collection as a whole encompasses the darkness of American careening down the long open roads on a collision with every disaster from which we think ourselves invincible. Even the author left us on that very road he described better than most.


I didn't know what to expect when I started this collection of short stories. I heard about this author from the Literary Disco podcast but I haven't listened to it yet.

This is a brilliant collection of short stories from a writer whose life was tragically cut short like so many writers before him. Breece D'J Pancake is the Jeff Buckley of short stories. I feel like his notoriety is so much greater in death than it ever would have been in life. Perhaps most of that is the apparent potential tha
Almost all of these stories are amazing. The only ones that fall short of amazing are the ones that feel both a little overwritten and under-edited (mutually exclusive things, I believe), and even then they were pretty good. That and a little bit of non-artful misogyny as well kept this from being a 5-star collection.
Years ago, I read my first Breece D'J Pancake story, "The Honored Dead." It is one of Pancake's finer stories, but they are all so haunting and all mine such similar territory that it can be hard to single out a specific story, a lone character. He strikes me as the rare author without epitome, one whose legacy is best understood through experiencing the entirety of his tragically limited output. Just 26 (5 years younger than I am now) when he took his own life in 1979, Pancake was able to craft ...more
I've been meaning to read the stories of Breece Pancake for something like six or eight years. I've picked up the book about once a year, reading the introduction and then the first paragraph, or page, or once or twice two pages of Trilobites, and get bowled over by the precise and beautiful language, which works so hard and lands every punch, and after that paragraph or two pages I'd put the book town thinking it was too rich, and I wanted to save it for just the right time.

And it's just a good
Tight prose. Chiseled.

(from the preface by James McPherson) -We once attended a movie together, and during the intermission, when people crowded together in the small lobby, he felt closed in and shouted, "Move away! Make room! Let people through!" the crowd, mostly students, immediately scattered. Then Breece turned to me and laughed. "They're clones!" he said. "They're CLONES!"

-The hillsides are baked here and have heat ghosts.

-I watch the cattle play. A rain must be coming. A rain is always
Breece Pancake was a troubled soul. An outdoorsman at heart, he found himself propelled beyond his West Virginia comfort zone, by his remarkable natural talent as a writer. A compulsive gift-giver, he seemingly sought acceptance from all quarters, whilst inwardly resigning himself to the outsider status often felt by truly great artists. A position that his upbringing in rural small town America constantly reinforced. In a letter to his mother he wrote
" I'm going to come back to West Virginia w
As a writer and a native West Virginian, it was inevitable that someone would recommend this collection to me eventually. I rarely read an entire collection of short stories in one sitting, but this blew my socks off. What I love about Pancake's writing is it's unpretentiousness--his syntax is deceptively simple, his images are down-to-earth, body-driven, visceral. Even though most of the collection concerns male characters, Pancake does not fall into the Hemingway/Salinger trap of using simple ...more
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Breece (Dexter John) Pancake was born in South Charleston, West Virginia, the youngest child of Clarence "Wicker" Pancake and Helen Frazier Pancake, and was raised in Milton, West Virginia. Pancake briefly attended West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon before transferring to Marshall University in Huntington where he completed a bachelor's degree in English education in 1974. After graduati ...more
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“i feel my fear moving away in rings through time for a million years.” 19 likes
“I lean back, try to forget these fields and flanking hills. A long time before me or these tools, the Teays flowed here. I can almost feel the cold waters and the tickling the trilobites make when they crawl. All the water from the old mountains flowed west. But the land lifted. I have only the bottoms and stone animals I collect. I blink and breathe. My father is a khaki cloud in the canebrakes, and Ginny is no more to me than the bitter smell in the blackberry briers up on the ridge. --from Trilobites” 7 likes
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