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The Undertaking

Life Studies from the Dismal Trade

Thomas Lynch


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Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (6/22/2009)
Paperback (8/1/1998)
Paperback (4/1/1998)


A chronicle of small-town life and death told through the eyes of a poet who is also an undertaker.

"Every year I bury a couple hundred of my townspeople." So opens this singular and wise testimony. Like all poets, inspired by death, Thomas Lynch is, unlike others, also hired to bury the dead or to cremate them and to tend to their families in a small Michigan town where he serves as the funeral director. In the conduct of these duties he has kept his eyes open, his ear tuned to the indispensable vernaculars of love and grief. In these twelve pieces his is the voice of both witness and functionary. Here, Lynch, poet to the dying, names the hurts and whispers the condolences and shapes the questions posed by this familiar mystery. So here is homage to parents who have died and to children who shouldn't have. Here are golfers tripping over grave markers, gourmands and hypochondriacs, lovers and suicides. These are the lessons for life our mortality teaches us.

Praise For The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade

An exquisitely dressed but subliminally bruised homage to life and its glazed-eyed endings. --The Observer (London) on Grimalkin & Other Poems

— The Observer [London]

From somber to black comedy to plainspoken to lamentation. . . . The Undertaking is a masterpiece.

— John Lanchester

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393041125, 224pp.

Publication Date: July 17, 1997

About the Author

Thomas Lynch’s stories, poems, and essays have appeared in Granta, the Atlantic, Harper’s, the New York Times, and elsewhere. His first collection of essays, The Undertaking, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Lynch lives in Milford, Michigan.