A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Saturday Shorts Week 21
Welcome to our weekend series for 2014. Every Saturday this year one of our staff will suggest a favorite short story from the library’s collection, all of them a great choice for quick weekend reading.
I open the truck’s door, step onto the brick side street. I look at Company Hill again, all sort of worn down and round. A long time ago it was real craggy and stood like an island in the Teays River. It took over a million years to make that smooth little hill, and I’ve looked all over it for trilobites. I think how it has always been there and always will be, at least for as long as it matters. The air is smoky with summertime. A bunch of starlings swim over me. I was born in this country and I have never very much wanted to leave…
Maybe it was just the present tense narration, or maybe it was that sudden leap the narrator makes from the present to the distant past and then back again, but something about this first paragraph really grabbed my attention when I opened to page one of The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake. I’ll admit, I only bothered to open the book at all because I found the author’s name curious, but it’s quickly become one of my favorite story collections.
That first tale, “Trilobites,” is pretty representative of Pancake’s work. It’s dark, introspective, full of interesting juxtopositions, and set among the driftless little towns of Appalachia. Like a lot of the other stories, it’s also got a subtle plot that is slowly teased out of the narrator’s pained thoughts. In this case it boils down to a coming of age tale, exploring the family troubles and romantic disappointments that drive a young man to finally uproot and leave his hometown for the first time.
It’s all told with a wonderful, realistic voice that never gets sentimental or overly gloomy and will pull you in. Give it a try next time you’re in the library, I bet you’ll end up taking home the whole collection.
Review by Matthew