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on 26 June 2006
I originally came across this collection of stories by accident, and as soon as I had read the first one I began to search for more material by this astounding author. Sadly his life was short and this remains the only collection available. When reading these stories one can tell that little research was required, this was his life, his land and his people. The characters and situations are so consistent, so real, that it is easy to slip into this dark and troubling world and feel part of it. Pancake has the true gift of writing as though this was easy, as if these words are flowing without effort, and yet he worked tremendously hard to achieve this effect, and the end result is simply stunning. Read this, if you appreciate true writing genius you will not be disappointed.
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on 13 July 2012
I came across Pancake by accident, he was mentioned in a review of "Once you break a knuckle" by DW Wilson, and I was instantly intrigued. In the review Kurt Vonnegut was quoted as saying "he is merely the best writer, the most sincere writer I've ever read." That was enough to spur me on to order the book of his collected stories, there are only a dozen stories. I finished it last night and am already looking forward to reading it again and savouring every word. It is so economically written, every word, as in poetry¸ has its specific place, and every word works hard. As Cormac McCarthy made the South his own, Pancake has made rural West Virginia his terroir and he brings the countryside to life with his profound knowledge of it. The stories as terse, gritty and told with power and grace, it you like Raymond Carver, you will love these. My only regret is that there are no more, I have read them all.
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on 4 March 1999
This is an utterly sterling collection of short fiction set in Appalachian by a writer who truly knew the people, their language, and their land. Though setting thoroughly permeates these stories, they will be treasured by anyone who appreciates characters so real you know what they look like, how they walk and sound...
Pancake (his real name) died in '79, I think, four years before this collection was published. American literature is immensely poorer for having lost him...
Buy the book. It ain't expensive and you won't be sorry.
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on 11 June 1999
I first read this book in 1988, but I have returned to it many times since, to reflect on the beauty of the prose and the land it describes.
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on 21 December 1998
Breece Pancake is the best short story writer that you've never heard of. His tales of modern West Virginia life are good the way Hemingway's work is good, or Raymond Carver's. Pancake has things to say and he says them with authority, style and grace. This is an outstanding collection.
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on 28 March 2000
It really is time you discovered this man's work. His suicide while in his mid twenties cut short a literary career of incredible promise and denied Pancake the true recognition he deserves. Set among the land and people of West Virginia that he knows and understands so well, these sparse, graceful stories are beautifully crafted and both move and compel the reader. It is not overstating things to compare this book to 'Dubliners'.
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on 20 March 2014
I still think about various of these stories most days. I've always thought Hemingway was a bit overrated, but Pancake wrote exactly as well as the hype would have you believe Hemingway did. Pancake just had this complete feel for the time and place he wrote in that completely immerses you as a reader. I can't recommend these stories highly enough.
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on 19 April 2015
An absolute jewel of a book. If you don't know of Breece D'J Pancake's work, do yourself a huge favour and start reading these fabulously constructed short stories now. Wonderful stuff.
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on 29 January 2014
Fine, unselfconscious short story writing, very spare words masking currents of tough American backwood lives. Great. It got to him, though.
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on 28 January 2015
One of the best books of short stories you will read.
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