Similar to our ongoing Issue/Editor series' with Unsaid IV, Hobart 11, and Redivider 7.2, editor of NY Tyrant, Giancarlo DiTrapano, has graciously agreed to go through the new issue, Volume 3. Number 2, piece by piece to discuss how this issue came to be.
Breece D'J Pancake
- excerpt from A Room Forever
I first encountered The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake early in 1986 and have probably dipped into that collection at least once per year since. This isn't the first time something of his has appeared in NY Tyrant, so it's pretty apparent you're a big fan of his work. I love how even in this, a portion of a letter to his mother (originally published in A Room Forever by Thomas E. Douglass), the things that shine in Pancake's stories shine through--specifically his very strong sense of place.
Do you see a similarity between his letter writing and fiction? And what exactly is it about Pancake's writing that makes him a New York Tyrant favorite? And has it been difficult obtaining permissions to reprint his stories and letters?
I have probably given the work of Breece D'J Pancake
more of my time and thought than I have given most other writers. And with only
one collection to his name, that may indicate an unhealthy obsession on my
part. Trilobites, published as a classic reprint in Tyrant 3, is an example of everything I think literature should
strive to be. What's special about Pancake was his ability to modulate. Sure,
he could have blasted you out of your seat sentence after sentence if he'd
wanted to (don't think that he couldn't have) but he knew about letting the
reader breathe, and then maybe making him sweat a little and widen his eyes,
but then letting him breathe again. A lot of writers today (some known as
"sentence-writers") think that you have to murder it with every single
line, and they may be right about that. But I don't think so. There's a
thing called subtlety and another thing called restraint. If you do not use
these two things, you risk making your writing too purple, which can be fine, I
guess, but it can also come across as immature or clinical or overworked.
Pancake knew this, and he practiced it. 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. 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. I discovered Pancake in
college. He was born in my hometown, and his stories take place in the