The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade

The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade [Reading] ➭ The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade ➵ Thomas Lynch – Every Year I Bury a Couple Hundred of My Townspeople So opens the singular testimony of the poet Thomas Lynch who like many poets is inspired by death, but unlike the others, he is also hired to bury Every Year I Life Studies Epub Þ Bury a Couple Hundred of My Townspeople So opens the singular testimony of the poet Thomas Lynch who like many poets is inspired by death, but unlike the others, he is also hired to bury the dead or to The Undertaking: PDF or 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 ears tuned to the indispensable vernaculars of love and grief Undertaking: Life Studies PDF Ë Here is the voice of both witness and functionary Lynch stands between the living and the living who have died with outrage and amazement, awe and calm, straining for the brief glimpse we all get of what mortality means to a vital species.

  • Paperback
  • 224 pages
  • The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade
  • Thomas Lynch
  • English
  • 27 August 2018
  • 9780140276237

About the Author: Thomas Lynch

Thomas Lynch has Life Studies Epub Þ authored five collections of poetry, one of stories, and four books of essays, including National Book Award Finalist The Undertaking He works as a funeral director in Milford, Michigan, and teaches at the Bear River Writer’s Conference.

10 thoughts on “The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade

  1. Frances Mican Frances Mican says:

    I thought this book was kind of a snooze. And then I got towards the end - he starts talking about abortion in a really stupid way, including such archaic gems as Or is it one of those Women's Issues men are supposed to keep quiet about, the way they were told to about abortion, as if it were the gender, not the species that reproduces. Uhhh... what? Go back to your cave, bro. And write something more interesting the next time you come out. Douche.

  2. Adam Swift Adam Swift says:

    As far as Lynch's way with the written word, and even the subject matter, this book deserves close to five stars.

    However, as the streak of Conservative Irish Sentimental Paternalism and Misogyny became more of a wide river throughout the book, it became harder and harder for me to stomach. Yes, let's reflect on how things were better before there were things like indoor plumbing and reliable birth control for women. Lets put things from the modern world in quotation marks.

    By the time it got to a passage that basically read --

    He moped around the corners of her life for a week or two that would be called stalking now --

    I both slightly admired the wordplay but also grunted in disgust, yeah, you chauvinist dick, it would probably be called stalking now because it actually was stalking, and the book went flying gently across the living room floor.

  3. Darlene Darlene says:

    'The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade' is a collection of essays... a memoir of sorts by Thomas Lynch. I was aware before beginning this book that Thomas Lynch.. along with his brother and father before him... is a funeral director, an undertaker, if you will. I also became aware that Mr. Lynch is also a published poet; and these beautiful essays WERE written in that unmistakeable lyrical voice of a poet.

    There is no collective theme in this book of essays.... the writings are simply Mr. Lynch's musings on everything from his 'dismal trade' to his family; to life and of course, death. He writes honestly about how his trade keeps him in a constant state of fear regarding the health and well-being of his own children. After all, he KNOWS what COULD and DOES happen to children... from illness to horrible accidents... and because these children are his responsibility and they are his life's work, he cares for these children and their lives.. and deaths are never far from his mind.

    I think though, that the essay that resonated with me, was one in which he discusses just how his trade came to be. Mr. Lynch summed it up perfectly in a passage I have continued to think about... Just about the time we were bringing the making of water INTO the house, we were pushing the birthing and marriage; the sickness and dying OUT. He, of course, was referring to just how much the introduction of indoor plumbing seemed to change everything... even how the members of families lived their lives, interacted with each other and eventually died. He went on to say.... This is also why the funerals held in my funeral parlor lack an essential manifest-- the connection of the baby born to the marriage made to the deaths we grieve in the life of the family... the rituals by which we mark the things that can only happen to us once, birth and death... carry the same emotional mail--- a message of loss and gain, love and grief, things changed utterly. Mr. Lynch's point that something we all take for granted and that we have no memory of ever being without... indoor plumbing.... could have changed the way he conducts his business and practices his trade seems astonishing to me and yet, he makes an interesting and valid point. With the introduction of indoor plumbing into households, it DID become true that the bed which saw a marriage begin and which witnessed the birth of children and then later became the same bed which ushered a person from this life to another DID change. This whole life cycle of a person.. of a family.. rarely all plays out in the family home anymore. Hospitals and funeral parlors have taken the place of the family bed. People's lives don't often play out in the same space and the circle of life doesn't usually begin and end in the same place. And to think that much of this came about because of indoor plumbing is interesting to think about... not necessarily good or bad.. just simply a change.

    Mr. Lynch's very unique use of language, along with his ever-present wit, made these essays a pleasure to read and provided me with much food for thought.

  4. Fred Fred says:

    I had hoped for much more from this book. It received good notices and won the American Book Award. But there were a few aspects of the book and the writing that put me off, and I quit at the halfway point.

    First, I would very much like publishers to stop putting out essay collections that appear to be continuous narratives. Such a form can be done well (Atul Gawande's BETTER achieved a continuity with a consistent theme and editing that reinforced it, despite the fact that it was clearly a collection), but more often it seems a cheat to readers who are hoping to pick up a book on a single subject. Instead they get a loose collection of short pieces that may or may not relate to the subject in which they were interested. That is the case here.

    Second, I'm afraid I found Thomas Lynch's style overly adorned and florid. This is probably in part because, in addition to being an undertaker, he is also a poet. His poetic tendency leads him, ironically, to say more when it would do to say less. I enjoyed some parts of some of his stories, but I knew I would have enjoyed them more if many of his descriptions, asides, and opinions had been trimmed away. This is a matter of taste, I suppose, but I was less able to enjoy the stories, because I was rarely allowed to forget that it was Thomas Lynch telling them. He seemed very concerned that his voice be prominent, and I guess I just don't like that voice.

    (I don't mean to suggest that contemporary nonfiction be devoid of personality and idiosyncrasy, but writers who are enamored of their own voices can often in the reader's way, of being too intrusive a mediator of the message.)

    Third, there are too many single-sentence paragraphs.

    Fourth: puns.

    And, finally, fifth, I honestly never got what I came for. The conceit of the book, at least in part, is that Lynch will conduct us through a world that he is well-prepared to share with us: that of the funeral business. But far too often he drifts far afield, and the straightforward details I would expect from such a book are imparted only partially, and often in passing. Clearly he has a viewpoint that he would like to share, and that viewpoint sometimes stands in opposition to earlier books published about his trade. But he does not marshal the facts as often as necessary, and he sometimes falls back on generalizations and wry opinion when the truly convincing evidence one needs is old-fashioned example.

  5. Claire Claire says:

    Uch. Starts out charmingly enough, but Lynch quickly becomes abrasive. The lack of feeling here, of emotion, of individualization is what really got to me. Lynch is interesting enough when talking about the specific, but his rampant generalizations about death are tiresome and irritating.

  6. Ben Ben says:

    A former therapist of mine recommended this book when my dad died. Lynch can really write. But reading it didn't make me feel any better. Leaving that therapist did though.

  7. Loren Loren says:

    Thomas Lynch is an undertaker and a poet. Unsurprisingly, one occupation interests me more than the other. When he tells the tales of things he has seen -- the late night “removals” he's performed, the children he buried while his own kids grew up, the bedrooms he painted so the surviving spouse wouldn’t sleep beneath the shotgun’s evidence -- those stories are riveting.

    Some of what he has to say comes perilously close to testifying: he has seen our futures and it’s later than we think. One essay considers the past in which babies were born in a room near the kitchen, young people were married in the parlor, and the dead were laid out and waked in their own homes. In those days, people were familiar with the physical realities of life. Once shitting moved from the out-house to the porcelain throne, and the dead were shifted from the place where they lived to the funeral “home,” society began to fall apart. Every now and then, Lynch likes to shit in his garden, just to reconnect with nature. I’m not making this up. He doesn’t go so far as to recommend everyone try it, but the implication is that the undertaker knows what’s good for us.

    Unfortunately, Lynch crosses the line between testifying and preaching when he writes about suicide. He likens assisted suicide to abortion. Just because he has the “ability to piss on his neighbor’s day lilies,” that doesn’t mean he has the right. (Do you see a theme developing here?) He stops short of saying that suicide is a sin, but points out that as a Catholic boy, he was raised to believe in offering up one’s pain for the good of the suffering souls. One wonders how differently he will feel about the matter when his agony lingers for months on end as he’s eaten by the cancer that killed his mother. Of course, he expects to die quickly and relatively painlessly from the bad heart his father left him…

    Still, Lynch is more than half a businessman. He relates the story of his brother, who owned a business created to clean up after suicides. The brother sold the business after Kevorkian began his crusade (Lynch works in Michigan, after all). It wasn’t that people were no longer going to kill themselves, they just weren’t going to make such a mess. The brother saw no profit in continuing to serve the grieving public. Lynch, however, foresees that if he can’t prevent assisted suicides, he may as well open “obitoria” where people can come to die in a building beside the funeral home. One-shop stopping.

    This was a frustrating book, but full of food for thought. Most of the essays were structured like poems: a stanza on one topic, a stanza on another, quick interplay between the two as if in a chorus, several more stanzas, a final chorus. I found the lack of linear thought dizzying. Yet the poet has a gift for phrasing. I find myself wanting to adopt some of Lynch’s bon mots, like “Are you out of your kevorking mind?”

  8. Mere Mere says:

    Wow...I mean wow. A poet & an undertaker - a sensible combination, Thomas Lynch writes with such grace and clarity I often found myself rereading passages or laughing out loud. I didn't always agree with the Lynch's religious or political views, nor the way in which he expressed them, but accept my lens is a little thicker. It never ceases to amaze me how our culture deals - or doesn't - with death...a subject that has, does or will affect and effect us all. wow.

    OOO - also, if you are/were a fan of Six Feet Under: apparently Allan Ball got the sense of how he wanted the show to feel based on this & another Lynch book. When reading, you can clearly see why/how.

  9. Richard Newton Richard Newton says:

    This is a book that seems to improve with age. I first read it about 20 years ago when it was published in the UK - I enjoyed it, but did not think it was anything special. Twenty years later and I really liked it.

    For those who don't know Lynch it worth knowing he is probably unique in combining the work of being an undertaker and a published poet. The book weaves themes around his work - around the meaning of life and death, with references to poets and poetry. The book is made up of a dozen sections - I suppose essays or even musings would be the best title for them. I do not think they are uniformly excellent, but all good - and a few were wonderful in that best of ways of reflecting on life that makes you both laugh and cry. Occasionally the American slang and cultural references irritated, but this is my problem and not the books. Given Lynch is American they were perfectly reasonable. For me the best were Gladstone, Crapper, Sweeney, The Right Hand of the Father and Words Made Flesh.

    Something a little different.

  10. Nilchance Nilchance says:

    I got as far as the second to last chapter, convinced that the book might eventually be about funeral homes. Then the author made a slippery slope argument about how reproductive choice leads to the children of baby boomers euthanizing their parents for convenience. Hahaha nooope.

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