Friday, 20 February 2009

The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake

Foreword, by James Alan McPherson

This determination to improve himself dictated that Breece should be a wanderer and an adventurer. He had attended several small colleges in West Virginia, had traveled around the country. He had lived for a while on an Indian reservation in the West. He had taught himself German. He taught for a while at a military academy in Staunton, Virginia, the same one attended by his hero, Phil Ochs. He had great admiration for this songwriter, and encouraged me to listen closely to the lyrics of what he considered Ochs's best song, "Jim Dean of Indiana." Breece took his own writing just as seriously, placing all his hopes on its success. He seemed to be under self-imposed pressures to "make it" as a writer. He told me once: "All I have to sell is my experience. If things get really bad, they'll put you and me in the same ditch. They'll pay me a little more, but I'll still be in the ditch." He liked to impress people with tall tales he had made up, and he liked to impress them in self-destructive ways. He would get into fights in lower-class bars on the outskirts of Charlottesville, then return to the city to show off his scars. "These are stories," he would say.

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