When one reads The Stories Of Breece D’ J Pancake, one can tell that BDJP didn’t know how good he was as a writer. The stories are too natural. BDJP had the ability to pick up on his surroundings and transpose them to the page seamlessly.
Unfortunately BDJP is dead. This was his first and last book ever written because he took his life when he was only twenty-six. The book comes with a forward and two afterwards to explain BDJP. Maybe that was the publisher’s way of tying to explain the magic of these stories.
I picked up the book a few years ago because it had a fox on the cover and at the time I was into foxes. I hadn’t read a word within, just bought the book on a whim, knowing it had something inside for me. Joyce Carol Oates compared BDJP’s debut to Hemingway’s and Margaret Atwood called his voice “exceptional, gritty, mordant.” Both writers were correct. So what could I add?
A few days ago it snowed. And snowed. And snowed. My world was piled high with white and I thought, perhaps I should read about this fox, with his white cover. What I ended up doing was being transported to rural West Virginia, a world of miners and cowboys and farmers, a world I knew nothing about when I arrived.
What got me was the setting, the care BDJP put into his sentences, “The sun was blackened with snow, and the valley closed in quietly humming, quietly as in an hour of prayer.” That quote is taken from “First Day of Winter” the last story in the collection. It made me look outside and see my world in a new way. All that snow, and in all my life, I would have never seen the sun black with snow.
The stories left me with impressions. The characters came on the page declaring things like, “You look hell-bottom low” paired with BDJP’s flawless sensibilities “Questions and complex sentences, Bo had learned were the great shield of liars.” The book was plain and simple as the snow outside my window, and I wish, do I ever wish, that BDJP had lived long enough to give more stories. And I see the irony that it makes me somehow like one of his characters, selfish and sad staring out at all this snow unsure of anything other than it’s beauty.