Discovering Someone New
You know that feeling when you discover an author that completely changes your life? Jon Michaud does. He writers over at The New Yorker about discovering the sole work of Breece D’J Pancake.
“These bleak qualities may make Pancake’s stories timely, but it is their compressed artistry and distilled feeling that make them timeless. I read the book with no foreknowledge of Pancake’s work or life—always a welcome experience. On my first pass through, I was reminded of an astonishing variety of other writers. Thematically and structurally, the book owed a lot to “Dubliners” and “Winesburg, Ohio,” but, stylistically, Pancake was fully formed, an uncanny hybrid of dirty realism and Southern gothic. A whole world I didn’t know about was opened up for me. After finishing the book, I would have happily gone spelunking in the library basement for more of Pancake’s work, but there was none. This is Pancake’s only book, originally published in 1979, three years after his death, at the age of twenty-seven, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Like the pedestalled feet of a ruined statue, these twelve stories can only hint at the body of work that might have been produced had he lived.”