Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Spotlight on Pancake

Over at the bookworm blog there's an "author fun facts" post, encouraging bloggers to share some interesting facts about an author they've come across. It's a great idea and will hopefully introduce people to authors they haven't heard about.

This week I checked out the collection of short stories by Breece D'J Pancake (unfortunately I forgot the book at a friend's place, and I'll have to wait for a break in the wild sleet and snowstorm to head out and retrieve it). I found out about Pancake through the Omnivoracious blog's wonderful post, "The Books of the States", which recommended good books and authors from each state in the US. I also read about Pancake in this NPR piece.

Some facts about Breece D'J Pancake:

- He died in 1979, a couple of months before his 27th birthday. Suicide, most people say (a handful think it was an accident).

- He was born in West Virginia, and his stories are rooted in his home state.

- He published 6 stories in his lifetime, which were compiled posthumously with 6 unpublished stories into one volume: The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake.

- According to wikipedia, the 'D' stands for Dexter, the 'J' for John, and that D'J was a misprint of the initials D.J. in The Atlantic (the wikipedia article also mentions his conversion to Catholicism)

- He's an acclaimed writer who's been compared to Hemingway (including in a non-literary sense; in addition to the way both authors died, they also both loved and spent a lot of time outdoors). Pancake's skill, craft, substance, and clarity, however, are considered uniquely his own.

- From his biographer:
"He'd stay up real late at night, maybe four or six hours later, he'd wake in the wee hours of the morning and maybe write some more. His work ethic was incredible. His fiction is very tight and very well-phrased. And that comes from writing over and over and over again. And some of these stories, he wrote maybe twenty times, maybe ten handwritten drafts, then typewritten drafts..."