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Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality Paperback – June 17, 2001


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Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality + The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

All poets who take their jobs seriously spend a good deal of their time pondering death. Few, though, have logged as many hours as Thomas Lynch, who for 25 years has been a funeral director in Milford, Michigan. As might be expected from a writer who performs "daily stations with the local lately dead," Lynch's second essay collection, Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality, has a lot to say about both the current state of his industry (with its "Walmartized" funerals) and the attitude Americans have toward death, which is more or less to pretend it doesn't exist and to hope it never happens to us or anyone we know. Of course, this leads to our inability to properly understand life. And we become one of those stunned mumblers whom the author has spent a lifetime consoling and selling caskets to at Lynch & Sons.

As in his previous collection, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, Lynch muses on contemporary American life with an appealing mix of light and dark. The effect can be striking, especially in his essays on the death of a crafty old gravedigger; the alcoholism he inherited from his father and, devastatingly, watches develop in his son; his divorce and the wicked poem he later writes about his ex-wife. His prose is always lively, though in several essays he relies on the same cultural touchstones--Bill Gates, the Internet, his Catholic-school upbringing and the "wonderful breasts" of the nuns, and (oddly) the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song "Love the One You're With." More unfortunately, he can lapse into familiar generalizations of the "we boomers" or "as an Irish Catholic" variety. Then again, funeral directors must keep an eye on the habits and statistics of generations and groups (as Lynch puts it, "our favorite parlor game is Demographics and Expectancies"), so perhaps a few familiar generalities are excusable--an occupational hazard of the poet-essayist-mortician. In Lynch's case (and there probably isn't another), they seem a fair exchange for his entertaining and often surprisingly humble wisdom. --John Ponyicsanyi --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Lynch engages the reader with a mixture of poetic and funerary elements....his voice is rich and generous. -- Richard Bernstein, New York Times

[W]hat makes him such a fine essayist is that it's just the business of everyday life and death to him. -- Los Angeles Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (June 17, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393321649
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393321647
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #310,822 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

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Harry W. Forbes on March 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
If you have read and enjoyed Lynch's "The Undertaking", you will not be disappointed in this book. If not, I suggest reading "Undertaking" first. This collection of essays covers a variety of topics. Lynch is delightfully unafraid to follow his own logic, even if that makes his conclusions far outside of what passes today for mainstream opinion.
The only negative I can give is that the book does not surprise you as much as his first book did. How could it? To me, that simply shows Lynch's unique contribution. These essays are a bit longer and more varied. Some of them are based on talks Lynch has given on the lecture circuit for morticians. One such is my favorite. Lynch notes that he is viewed with some suspicion by both poets and funeral directors, and insightfully compares the poem and the funeral. Very well done!
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Reading Thomas Lynch's essays brings you closer to knowing the importance of living. His poetic observances and proximity to death as an undertaker make for a rare sensibility and we, the readers, are lucky he has been thoughtful enough to share them with us.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Carol Boston on November 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book by Thomas Lynch is superb....at least the first several chapters are. The introduction is wonderful with many statements that I saved in my "favorite quotation" folder. The first several essays leave you with a lot to think about, but the last couple are about the importance of poetry, and this is clearly Lynch's "hobbyhorse." On the whole, the book is powerful and well worth reading.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Colleen T. on October 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
As a peer in the profession, I have heard him speak at conventions, spoken to him myself, and read his works. A gentleman and a true funeral professional, he is ever mindful that his reading audience will encompass a great diversity of people from all walks of life. Mr. Lynch never gets technically entrenched or cavalier with the topic of death or the trust placed in him to care for the deceased. Rather, he focuses on the human substance behind our so-called dismal trade. There are many essays, each special in its telling. He is gifted at telling a day-in-the-life story in entertaining and at times, downright humorous fashion. My absolute favorite tale begins at the chapter or essay titled "Y2Kat", I found myself engulfed in rib-aching laughter! I laughed until I cried! I am a cat-lover but had to admit that I could understand the frustration and angst of the author as the story unfurled. The humor would truly hit a home-run with those anti-cat people annoyed with felines generally, or worse, those hating felines with nine never-ending, seemingly eternal lives and vexing habits. Bad enough, the former wife's pet was a reminder of her and the bitter end to the marriage. Lynch gets over most bitter resentments, eventually. Years and years pass, the kids grow up and move on etc. BUT this long-lived fur-ball of a nemesis appears hell-bent on living to torment the poor man until the last shred of his sanity is gone, or maybe through to the end of time? The beast becomes the devil incarnate as an almost maniacal Mr. Lynch shamelessly confesses diabolical thoughts and indulges in fantasies of the cat's hopeful demise; Lynch creates oddly cathartic poetry about it, in his obsession with the final event. It MUST play out as the close of 1999 approaches.Read more ›
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12 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Kathryn on December 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
So, here I was, suspended between the wonderous and terrifying Christmas holy day, and the equally awesome coming of the New Year, wholly of our own making, mind you--trying to eke out a few moments of quiet peace, reading a library book. At the dining room table. In the twinkling magic blue and yellow and red and green lights of the Tree, glowing in post Christ-be-born blush. Sipping a wine. Or two.
The book I'd chosen for the title, and the fact that its author wore a bow tie and hat in the photo on the back cover. When do you see that anymore? And ... "Bodies in Motion and At Rest." Who could resist?
I'm now at the last essay. Thomas Lynch has an easy way of writing that belies the intricacy, the layer, the pull of century and legacy enriching each word. He has embroidered this pillow with care, and a true needle, and stuffed it full--though it is not always comfortable, it satisfies the soul. Recline, and enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By susu on March 6, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Author/Undertaker Lynch has a gift for word play in addressing many areas of life, but mostly death & dying. A book you will lend and recommend.
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