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Lynch, Thomas 1948-

LYNCH, Thomas 1948-

PERSONAL: Born October 16, 1948, in Detroit, MI; married; wife's name Mary Tata; children: Heather, Tom, Michael, Sean. Ethnicity: "American." Education: Wayne State University, certification in mortuary science.

ADDRESSES: Office—Lynch and Sons, 404 East Liberty, Milford, MI 48381. Agent—Richard McDonough. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Writer. Lynch and Sons (funeral home), Milford, MI, funeral director.

AWARDS, HONORS: American Book Award, 1998, and nomination for National Book Award, both for The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade.

WRITINGS:

Skating with Heather Grace (poetry), Knopf (New York, NY), 1986.

Grimalkin and Other Poems, J. Cape (London, England), 1994.

The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade (essays), W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1997.

Still Life in Milford (poetry), W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1998.

Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality (essays), W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 2000.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Godhelpus: We Irish and Americans, essays; Late Fictions, short stories; Walking Papers, poetry.

SIDELIGHTS: Essayist, poet, and funeral director Thomas Lynch has written three critically acclaimed volumes of poetry and two award-winning volumes of essays. By using his own daily routine as poetic fodder, Lynch has transformed the mundane task of preparing the dead into a life-affirming event. His lyrical, elegiac poems describe the dead citizens of Milford, Michigan, his own family relationships, and scenes and myths from his Irish Catholic upbringing.

Skating with Heather Grace, Lynch's first collection, contains forty-two poems that feature scenes from his everyday life, and his wife, dog, children, and work all make appearances. Some of the poems are set in Michigan, while others use Ireland or Italy as a backdrop. The title poem is a "tender meditation" about Lynch's daughter, according to a Publishers Weekly critic. Library Journal reviewer Rosaly DeMaios Roffman found that the poems "unpretentiously rehearse the dreams of the dying as they celebrate the everchanging relationships of the living." Lynch, according to Roffman, crafts poems that weave symbolism and mythology into the human experience. Of particular merit are the poems about Argyle, the mythical Sin-Eater who tends to the souls of the dead, Roffman suggested.

Lynch's second volume, Grimalkin and Other Poems, likewise contains elements of the poet's professional and personal life mixed with his ruminations about Irish culture and history. One can hear echoes of the Catholic liturgy, the church choir, and the "voices of lament in his ancestral County Clare, and all of the sacred mysteries for him were translated early into women's flesh," according to Agenda critic Alan Wall. In a "strong" and "elegiac" poetic voice, according to Wall, Lynch buries the dead and other things, such as a marriage, old loves, and the sexual ghosts of his childhood, with equal panache.

The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade is a collection of twelve essays that reflect the author's "eloquent, meditative observations on the place of death in small-town life," according to a critic in Kirkus Reviews. Lynch's poetic vision is indelibly colored by his undertaking business, and what he sees often contrasts with what lies on the surface. While his wife admires the architectural styles of buildings they encounter on an evening stroll, he sees a couple, wonderful dancers both, dead from asphyxiation in the garage. From the embalming of his own father to the opening of the newly refurbished bridge to the Milford cemetery, Lynch writes about death "with dignity and passion," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, resulting in "a superb collection of essays." Observer reviewer Matthew Sweeney admired the "balance and clarity" of Lynch's writing, which occupies different emotional registers, "moving from the humorous to the tender to the stern." Dispelling the myths about people in his trade, Lynch wrote, "I am no more attracted to the dead than the dentist is to your bad gums, the doctor to your rotten innards, or the accountant to your sloppy expense records." His profession has provided Lynch not only with a living, but with a unique vantage point from which to observe the entire cycle of life.

Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality is a collection of essays described by New York Times Book Review contributor Sherie Posesorski as an "engaging hybrid of memoir, meditation, and comic monologue….Lynch approaches his subjects with a beautifully executed balance of irreverence with reverence, gallows humor with emotional delicacy, and no-nonsense immanence with lyrical transcendence." Lynch writes of his Roman Catholic childhood, his family, being a father, and the relationship between "mortuary and literary arts."

Barbara Brown Taylor wrote in Christian Century that "hailed as 'a cross between Garrison Keillor and William Butler Yeats,' Lynch is living proof of his thesis that familiarity with the facts of death improves one's capacity for the wonders of life….The essays in this book contain wrenching accounts of his and his son's battles with addiction as well as luminous tales of love between husband, wife, parent, and child." Taylor said readers "may expect a poet's eye for image and a poet's ear for language, as well as a poet's ability to hold open the door to meaning without shoving anyone through."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

books

Lynch, Thomas, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1997.

periodicals

Agenda, autumn, 1994, Alan Wall, review of Grimalkin and Other Poems, p. 241.

American Book Collector, July, 1982, p. 57.

Bomb, summer, 2000, Glenn Moomau, review of Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality, p. 21.

Booklist, March 15, 1988, p. 1226; August, 1998, Donna Seaman, review of Still Life in Milford, p. 1954; June 1, 2000, Donna Seaman, review of Bodies in Motion and at Rest, p. 1803.

Christian Century, November 18, 1998, review of The Undertaking, p. 1119; November 22, 2000, Barbara Brown Taylor, review of Bodies in Motion and at Rest, p. 1216.

Commonweal, September 11, 1987, p. 507; June 19, 1998, Frank McConnell, review of The Undertaking, p. 20.

Georgia Review, summer, 1987, p. 507; fall, 2002, Sanford Pinsker, review of Bodies in Motion and at Rest, pp. 854-862.

Hudson Review, autumn, 1987, p. 508; summer, 1999, Thomas M. Disch, review of Still Life in Milford, p. 315.

Inc., July, 1998, review of The Undertaking, p. 11.

Insight on the News, July 17, 2000, Stephen Goode, "Lynch Writes from Unique Background," p. 36.

Kiplinger's Personal Finance, February, 2002, Kristin Davis, "Six Feet Under: Thomas Lynch Has Buried 6,000 of His Neighbors; He Talks about the Business of Death," p. 78.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1997, review of The Undertaking, p. 699.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, June 21, 2000, Marta Salij, "Thomas Lynch: Poet in Motion," p. K2676.

Library Journal, March 1, 1987, Rosaly DeMaios Roffman, review of Skating with Heather Grace, p. 79; September 15, 1998, Barbara Hoffert, review of Still Life in Milford, p. 83.

Nation, June 9, 1997, p. 28.

New York Review of Books, September 24, 1998, A. Alvarez, review of The Undertaking, p. 24.

New York Times, July 23, 1997, p. C14; May 31, 2000, Richard Bernstein, review of Bodies in Motion and at Rest, p. E8; June 8, 2000, Dinitia Smith, "Matters of Life and Death: A Prizewinning Writer Holds onto His Day Job as a Funeral Director," p. E1.

New York Times Book Review, October 4, 1987, p. 24; September 24, 2000, Sherie Posesorski, review of Bodies in Motion and at Rest, p. 23.

Observer, October 9, 1994, p. 24; October 23, 1994, p. 17; November 20, 1994, pp. 2, 5; April 6, 1997, Matthew Sweeney, review of The Undertaking, p. 17.

Poetry, May, 1988, p. 104; December, 1998, John Taylor, review of Still Life in Milford, p. 184.

Publishers Weekly, December 26, 1986, review of Skating with Heather Grace, p. 54; May 5, 1997, review of The Undertaking, p. 184; June 29, 1998, review of Still Life in Milford, p. 53.

Quadrant, March, 1998, Iain Bamforth, review of The Undertaking, p. 81.

Spectator, July 15, 2000, Harry Mount, review of Bodies in Motion and at Rest, p. 34.

Times Educational Supplement, December 23, 1994, p. 19.

Times Literary Supplement, September 25, 1998, David Wheatley, review of Still Life in Milford, p. 24; July 14, 2000, David Wheatley, review of Bodies in Motion and at Rest, p. 27.

U.S. Catholic, November, 2002, "What Makes a Good Funeral? The Editors Interview Thomas Lynch," p. 12.

Virginia Quarterly Review, summer, 1987, p. 100.

Washington Post Book World, May 3, 1987, p. 8.

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