Apparition and Late Fictions

"Sex and death…are the only subjects worth thinking about," a widowed poetry professor instructs her students in one of the stories filled with both in Thomas Lynch's Apparition and Late Fictions. Lynch, a Michigan funeral director and poet, cited the same Yeats assertion, clearly a touchstone for him, in his wonderful book of personal essays about "the dismal trade," The Undertaking (1997). Like his essays, Lynch's fiction also concerns love and grief, which "share the one body." His characters are embalmers, casket salesmen, poets, ministers, fishing guides, and the widowed professor whose creepy infatuation with a beautiful teenager at a fancy Mackinac Island resort evokes Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. They mourn husbands, wives, parents, and young girls who are gone but not forgotten. Less fondly, they also remember exes, for whom "A little Good Riddance goes a long way."


The small-town assistant pastor in the title novella discovers his true calling only after his wife leaves him and their two children for greater excitement. After rediscovering the balm of "sex with a generous stranger," he writes a lively manifesto to "faith in flux" called Good Riddance -- Divorcing for Keeps that proposes "that some divorces, like some marriages, are made in heaven." It's a game changer in his life, much, we suspect, as being left with four small children and later publishing The Undertaking were in Lynch's. It's interesting to see some of the same themes treated with the additional elaboration and nuance of fiction, but for sheer impact, it's hard to compete with the plainspoken directness of Lynch's morbid but moving real-life tales from the mortuary.

July 26: On this day in 1602 "A booke called the Revenge of Hamlett Prince Denmarke" was entered in the Stationers' Register by printer James Robertes.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).