The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake was published in 1983. It's a book that's long been on my list of Want-to-Reads, but I've put it off for the usual groundless reasons. But then, this week Pancake blipped onto my radar twice. First, one of my Facebook friends included Pancake in a photo album of favorite authors. Then, I saw this post over at The Emerging Writers Network where Dan Wickett, EWN proprietor, talks to Giancarlo DiTrapano, editor of New York Tyrant, about publishing Pancake's work in the latest issue of the magazine. DiTrapano says:
You know the whole philosophy/theory/idea about a great short story being a piece that nothing can be added to and that nothing can be taken out of it without the piece suffering? Like say it's treated as an animal, and say a certain sentence is the liver. If you take out the liver, the animal will die. If you take out a certain sentence, say the liver-sentence, the story itself will die. Anyway, that theory goes something like that. I don't even remember where I got that from or if I made it up myself, but I used to think it was total bullshit until I read "Trilobites" [the first story in the Pancake collection]. That story, in my opinion, is the closest you can get to a living breathing thing on the page. Absolutely everything matters in there. Everything is tied to something else. It's like a maypole, or a tapestry, but with live veins for the ribbons or the thread.Okay, fine. I get the hint. I'll start reading Pancake today. It's Sunday--what else am I going to do with myself?
2. The LA Times' Jacket Copy blog scours the back rooms of eBay so I don't have to. Here's a list of their 12 favorite non-book literary oddities on the auction website, along with some appropriate snarky commentary. The Sherlock Holmes finger puppet, the Gertrude Stein stein, and the American Psycho belt buckle are all pretty cool, but I'm particularly fond of what Jacket Copy has to say about the Albert Camus earrings: the perfect accessory for the day you're thinking, "Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?"
3. At the Alaska-based 49 Writers blog, Andromeda Romano-Lax (The Spanish Bow) faces rejection, and comes out swinging on the other side. She offers up good advice, including this:
The harder the publishing world gets, the more writers will drop out because they just can't endure, mentally and financially. Persistence is the key. Learning how to persist, how to endure, how to keep risking and growing is essential. And yet so hard. But the good news is: if you're particularly stubborn, your chances are better than other people's chances. And it's easier to cultivate stubbornness than genius.
4. At The Millions, Doug Bruns ponders the positive effects of imprisonment. While I'm not thinking about going all Thoreau with my life, I've often fantasized about all the reading and writing I'd get done during seclusion. I like how Bruns puts it:
Prison cells. Towers in Bordeaux. Cabins in the woods, and tents on the sides of mountains. At work behind the scene is the argument that life can be forced into an edifying and redeeming corner. It is a persuasive, if not compelling notion: That when everything is lost or set aside or taken from you, only then do you have the opportunity to do what it is you truly wish to do, to review your list of what is worthy and what is wasteful.
5. While you're at The Millions, click over to the journal Rosecrans Baldwin kept while waiting for the publication of his debut novel You Lost Me There. "Writing is My Peppermint-Flavored Heroin" is funny stuff and makes me want to read You Lost Me There all the more.
You Lost Me There took me four years to write. Before it, I wrote two other novels, one that was junk and another that received many polite rejection notices from big publishers. What happens if this book is judged to be corrosive to the Earth? What if little girls cry when they read it?
6. Joyce Carol Oates reads at the same prolific pace as she writes. Surely, she must be a clone.
7. I have high hopes and low expectations for the upcoming movie Everything Must Go starring Will Ferrell in a downbeat role. Everything Must Go is based on one of my favorite Raymond Carver short stories, "Why Don't You Dance?" and that makes me twitchy. On the one hand, I really enjoyed Ferrell in his other playing-against-type movie Stranger Than Fiction. On the other hand, I wasn't all that impressed with Robert Altman's Short Cuts which turned out to be a mashed-potatoes version of Carver's fiction. It wasn't bad, but it didn't have the contained power of Carver's individual stories. I'm still waiting for the movie version of "Popular Mechanics."