A Critic's Meta-Review: 4/5
Breece D’J Pancake (not to be confused with the famous Brazillian disc jockey from Greece that uses pancakes as turntables...good God, that was awful—please forgive me) was only twenty-six years old when he took his own life. He had just entered into the creative writing program at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville (a town that I, along with many people, will forever associate with tiki torch-wielding white nationalists who murder innocent schoolteachers with their crappy Dodge Challengers [okay, maybe the car wasn’t really all that crappy but forgive me for taking out a little bit of justified rage on an inanimate object here] and cheap plastic bottle vodka) after spending some time as an English teacher at a couple of military schools. According to his friends and family, he was an extremely giving and compassionate young man. A poor white southerner (one of the most disenfranchised and least respected socioeconomic classes in the United States; a group of people that, despite being cast aside by most of us Yankees as a bunch of ignorant, cousin-lusting Bible thumpers that were responsible for ushering in the previous presidential administration, are actually really decent folk that abhor racism and seek nothing more than a little love and understanding - just like the rest of us - but, of course, who needs to take the time to really figure any of that out when you can just default to widely held social schemas that are continually validated by the engines of mass media and popular culture which are, rather conveniently, headquartered quite a ways away from the region that they seek to chastise? I digress), he would nonetheless go out of his way to ensure that all those he would come into contact with were being more than accommodating, providing them with gifts paid for by whatever surplus earnings he could scrape together, sometimes even sacrificing his own ability to feed himself. Just to make others happy.
That is all well and good, and tragedy certainly colours one’s perspective when approaching a work of art—it is what makes the worst of Nirvana songs still seem so brilliant—but, nevertheless, as someone who strives to maintain a certain level of objectivity in my reviews (to the degree that objectivity can even be cultivated when one’s task is to offer up thoughts and opinions on something), I shall avoid falling into the conniving quicksand of my base emotions and stay stoic throughout this endeavour.
Okay...here goes nothing, folks:
I guess I should start by saying that, regardless of whether or not I actually enjoyed the story itself (and don’t worry, we will get to that in just a moment - no need to set aside your teacups for reheating, people), I learned at least two facts from reading it:
- When cows are playing, that means rain is coming. This will serve as a handy indicator of an impending downpour once I move out of D.C. and onto that farm out in Martinsburg, West Virginia that I have been thinking about ever since I took that bike trip up to Harper’s Ferry two weeks ago.
- Green lightning bugs do not come out after it rains - only blue ones. This is something that I am going to have to keep an eye out for next time I go camping (which probably will not be for a while since it seems like we are in for a pretty chilly next few months).
Also of note is that the word “turkle” is synonymous with turtle. I am not sure why more people do not refer to those shell-dwelling curmudgeons by this name. It adds a bit of a bite.
Overall, Mr. Pancake does a really great job painting a sort of pastiche of the other “rustic” pieces that he was without a doubt inspired by, from the scattered narrative to the twangy dialect, as well as descriptive imagery that evokes a sense of longing for a time period and a region that one has never even set foot in; indeed, while reading to this, I began to tear up due to nostalgia for my childhood home in rural Ohio, despite only having ever passed through Ohio as a means of reaching Pennsylvania on a couple of occasions.
I did find it interesting that, upon seeing his former girlfriend Ginny after being apart from her for some time, Colly (the narrator of this story) was unable to make love to her in the same way that he once was back when they were together - to the point where he had to picture the waitress from earlier in order to keep his soldier standing at attention for battle (you’ll have to pardon my rather militaristic metaphor; I was watching Platoon the other night). I definitely got a bit of a chuckle out of the fact that Colly and 50 Cent both share the same approach to fornication, as demonstrated by Colly’s insistence that Ginny “isn’t making love; she’s getting laid.”
The only thing that I found myself really taking issue with was Colly’s quip that “it just doesn’t do to work your ass off at something you’re not no good at.”
Nonsense - how else does one get good at something? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am off to practice my Italian and work out a few scales on the mandolin.