by Tricia, May 25, 2005 12:38 PM
Thomas Lynch has two occupations: poet and undertaker. Wedding the two in this book of personal essays, he shatters our conception of an undertaker as wan, reserved, and staid, replacing it with one who is colorful, brazen, and whimsical. This is not a dry, dismal book about death. It's a book about life and those who attend to the grieving. It meditates on marriage, parenthood, Ireland, and medically-controlled passings. There's an absorbing essay on a poem about an artichoke, the mysteries of art, and the delicate conference between men and women, as well as a ribald essay, "Crapper," about our inability to deal with an actual dead body, let alone the mere thought of dying. Undertaking, as the title implies, stretches beyond mere caskets and morticians to encompass small tasks and larger struggles. At times a homage to grieving families, an indictment of the funeral business, and a meditation on death (and therefore life), this is a spellbinding collection.