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The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade Paperback – August 1, 1998
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Top Customer Reviews
Lynch is the sole funeral director in Milford, Michigan. As such, as he states in his opening, he "buries a couple of hundred of his towns people". It is not, an occasional aside notwithstanding, the technical aspects of his job that lynch focuses on here, however. As the subtitle suggests, it is the living that concern Mr. Lynch, and, in fact, as an undertaker, it is the living, not the dead, he truly serves. For, as he is wont to point out, the dead don't care.
The living, on the other hand, care a great deal. Especially in cases of tragic, unforeseen death. The young murder victim's family, the suicide's family, and so on.
Mr. Lynch is a published poet. So his essays are not the dry stuff of technical journals, but rater elegant, philosophical expositions on the nature of death, the nature of survival, and the nature of his profession.
One would think that this would be a rather depressing read but, in fact, it is anything but.
I have recommended the book to many friends-boomers like myself with aging parents. Reading this book helped me to deal more effectively with my own parent's deaths. It helps one put some perspective on the rituals that we observe attendant to death. That it manages to inform and entertain as well is a remarkable achievement.
Beautifully, sensitively written. I'm going to buy it as a birthday present for a close friend. READ IT! It's really not morbid! :)
Lynch also exhibits the traditional Irish inclination to find humor even in the deepest throes of sorrow. Ironies abound in this work. His career as an undertaker has made him familiar with death, perhaps too familiar for his liking at times, so he can be matter-of-fact about it, but never disrespectful. The man's writing has some of the qualities of the prototypical Irish wake, at once keening for the loss of friends and neighbors and celebrating the lives of those left behind.
Those are the qualities that make this slender volume (202 4-3/4 by 7-3/4" pages) such a valuble work. For this reader, at least, it provided a new perspective on death and "the dismal trade" that Lynch practices. It well deserved its spot as Runner-up in the National Book Awards. I recommend it to you.
An interesting social issue that Lynch brings up is the question of the purpose of funerals and burials. Lynch argues that funerals are solely for the sake of the living, not the dead. He stresses that once a person is dead, he or she no longer has pride, humility, or preferences that need to be taken into account. Surviving family members, on the other hand, need the rituals of the funeral to help them say goodbye. The manner and setting of the funeral ritual also affects their social standing. For these reasons, he tells a friend that the minimalist funeral the friend wants for himself is out of the question. "What would such a funeral do to your family?" Lynch asks.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A Poet’s Take on Life, Death, And Everything in Between
The Undertaking: Life Studies From the Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch. W.W. Norton & Company 1997 $13.95. Read more
One of my favorite books.....I read it ages ago and it really stuck with me....so I ordered this book to re-read. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Happy in Maryland
Read each chapter of this book like a poem. The last one is, but for the prose-like arrangement of words on the page. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Fred H.
Was a gift for my best friend who is on her way to mortuary school and she had specifically pointed this book out of interest one day, she'll love them for Christmas.Published 8 months ago by M.Smrz
I loved the personal touch that was put in this book. All the stories were funny and witty even given the subject matter of the book.Published 8 months ago by Derek L. Traywick
I bought this because it was a National Book Award winner, but I didn't finish it because it was so boring.Published 10 months ago by elle ohallorahan
This is a very different view of the undertaking of Undertaking. I enjoyed the point of view and the gentle humanity of Lynch.Published 10 months ago by Christine Jorgensen