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Apparition & Late Fictions: A Novella and Stories Hardcover – February 8, 2010

11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Death haunts this underwhelming collection from essayist, poet (and undertaker) Lynch (The Undertaking). In Catch and Release, the shortest and best story, a fishing guide disposes of his father's ashes in an unusual way. Bloodsport is an undertaker's grim reflection on his peripheral involvement in the life of a murder victim. Hunter's Moon is a decent character sketch about a widowed former casket salesman, but as a story, it's too inward-looking and inert. Matinée de Septembre presents a portrait of professor Aisling Black that strands her in a lugubrious female version of Death in Venice set in a Michigan resort. Apparition, the centerpiece novella, is the story of Adrian Littlefield, a minister who becomes a bestselling self-help author after his wife leaves him. It's told mostly as flashbacks during Adrian's contemporary visit to the location of his ex-wife's first infidelity. Unfortunately, drawing this slight story out dilutes its promise. Overall, Lynch seems at a loss for what to do with his fictional creations; haunted as they are by deaths and burdensome back stories, his character's present lives feel contrived. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

Lynch has written celebrated essays and poetry about his life as a funeral director in a small Michigan town. He now expresses his compassion for humankind—so flawed, so full of rage and longing—and his attunement to the “heartbreaking beauty of the natural world” in fiction shaped by his intimacy with death. A tenderhearted undertaker collects the body of a young woman murdered by her husband in “Bloodsport.” In “Hunter’s Moon,” a former traveling casket salesman finds solace in the deep woods. If these somber yet vital tales are in keeping with Lynch’s earlier work, “Matinée de Septembre” is a thrilling departure. A glamorous, widowed, and acclaimed poet and academic retreats to the luxurious isolation of Mackinac Island, where she succumbs to an unforeseen form of Stendhal syndrome in a brilliant variation on Thomas Mann’s masterpiece, Death in Venice. And then there’s Lynch’s acerbic novella, “Apparition,” in which a pastor becomes a celebrity by writing a self-help book titled Good Riddance––Divorcing for Keeps. Lynch’s first fiction collection is powerful, unsettling, and full of grace. --Donna Seaman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (February 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393042073
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393042078
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,908,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thomas Lynch's stories, poems, and essays have appeared in Granta, The Atlantic, Harper's, the Times (of London, New York, Ireland, and Los Angeles), and elsewhere. "The Undertaking" was a finalist for the National Book Award; he is also the author of "Still Life in Milford," "Booking Passage," "Apparition & Late Fictions" and "Walking Papers." Lynch lives in Milford, Michigan, and West Clare, Ireland.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Lawral Wornek on February 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
There are some truly beautiful moments in each story in Apparition & Late Fictions, the kind you want to copy out and carry around with you because they are so gorgeously written, even out of context, but the stories themselves didn't quite do it for me. Even though they're not related, they all kind of run together with the same setting, same sentiment, almost the same single narrator in each one brooding on their aloneness (not that this isn't warrented, this is a book that is all about the aftermath of death). This is still a relaxing a beautiful read, but the stories will be much more appreciated if they are spaced out and not read all at once.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Sulla on February 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Thomas Lynch's deft collection of 5 stories brilliantly and simply meld death, life, and nature. Mr. Lynch has a visceral knowledge of Michigan. He knows the land and he knows the business of death. In "Catch and Release" a grieving fishing guide takes his father's ashes to scatter throughout the tangled roots of Michigan's lake system. The sentences in this story are as beautiful as any I have read since Hemingway. For example - "At the top, he began digging the dog's grave, the work quickening with anger and slowing with sadness, the variable speeds of the labor like the division of his heart." This sentence is balanced on the "and" like a fulcrum and is perfect.

"Bloodsport" is a memorable piece of writing about the love of a mortician for a lovely young woman who is murdered by her husband. The heartbroken mortician has to prepare the body and reflects on the woman's life and death.

"Hunter's Moon" is another superb road map paean to Michigan. Harold Keehn, a retired casket salesman recalls his job, the death of two marriages, and the deaths of his daughter and third wife.

"Matinee de Septembre" is not as strong as the first three. The story is a not very clever rip off of "Death in Venice". Mr. Lynch was somewhat lackadaisical in his approach to this story unless he was being ironic which went over my head. The unrequited love is between two uninteresting women. The female scholar Ainsling follows around the teenage object of love, Bintalou, who is often the company of her father just as the the scholar von Aschenbach follows Tadzio who is in the company of his mother. The backdrop of the typhoid epidemic is replaced by the economic recession. There were no surprises with the ending.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sergio on January 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
[This review applies to the advance reading copy (ARC)]
The first two stories in this collection, "Catch and Release" and "Bloodsport", are themselves worth buying the book, and there are no duds in this collection of five stories. All are about someone who is a loner, by choice or by chance, the situation which prompts them to look at the path that has led them to this point in time, and how they now cope with what life has handed them. There is a uniformity in tone in this collection, and a similarity in the emotional places where the characters find themselves.

All are enjoyable reads; none so complex as to make the reading a chore; and some moments (if not entire stories) will stay with you quite awhile after you've put this work back on the shelf.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jon M. Sweeney on March 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Thomas Lynch is one of those writers who have always had another career besides writing. Most of us do, but often, the successful ones, like Lynch, don't. There are a few famous exceptions. T. S. Eliot, for instance, was a book publisher. That's interesting, but it also relates to his work as a writer. More intriguing are those like the poet Wallace Stevens, who was a lawyer for an insurance company. Or William Carlos Williams, another of America's great modernist poets, who was also a pediatrician.

Lynch, 58, is an undertaker. This wouldn't seem to be an occupation that draws the same sort of person as does the work of writing poetry and fiction, but Lynch has found his way in all of these things and with tremendous results. It turns out that the funeral home business, which he's run in a small town in Michigan for decades, has provided a wealth of insight into death - and that's what he writes best about.

Death is the primary subject of this new collection of stories, just as it was of his 1997 book of essays, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, which won Lynch a bunch of awards and recognition, including the American Book Award.

Apparition and Late Fictions is not only about death, but about missing children, former spouses, dogs (lots of dogs), AA meetings, loss, and redemption. One story tells of a widower who has survived three marriages and made a bundle of mistakes in each of them. The man is a salesman for a casket company. In another, the first story in the collection called "Catch and Release," Danny, a fly-fishing guide in western Michigan, takes a thermos bottle with his father's ashes out on his drift boat one afternoon.
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As with his earlier work, a sort of memoir titled "The Undertaking," Thomas Lynch sets his stories, with one exception, the novella "Apparition" in his familiar Michigan. "Catch and Release" is particularly poignant. The ashes of of Presbyterian minister--and we learn he was a wonderful father to his children--have been divided into quarters so each adult child can do as he/she wishes with them. In this story, this son, a man who has been a somewhat prodigal son, chooses to take the ashes in a thermos on a fishing trip because he recalls those childhood trips with his father. And there is a dog involved. And the story is so tender and so full of symbolism. I think maybe it is the best of the five pieces.
However, having said that, I liked all of the stories a lot. "Bloodsport" is very different. It too deals with death, but as the title suggests, not exactly the most beautiful of dying. The reader has to content with the callousness of the pathologist who is a total cynic, giving the reader a glimpse at the ugly side of the funeral business, something the author knows well. He is a mortician.
"Hunter's Moon" is about the three wives of Harold Keehn. The entire story is wrapped around Harold, now old, out for a walk. The symbolism of direction and its relationship to his relationships is really well done.
I teach writing at a local college. And I treated my students to the opening of "Matinee de Septembre." Aisling--I love that name--has boarded a plane, not just any plane, of course, but the preferred one: British Air. After all, it does offer more than the lesser airlines, the American sort. Right? Although it is a third-person narrative, it essentially viewing the world through this woman's eyes. And those first pages are so humorous--or should I spell it "humourous"?
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