The Depositions: New and Selected Essays on Being and Ceasing to Be

The Depositions: New and Selected Essays on Being and Ceasing to Be


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A wry and compassionate selection of essays reflecting on mortals and mortality, from the acclaimed author of The Undertaking.

For nearly four decades, poet, essayist, and small-town funeral director Thomas Lynch has probed relations between the literary and mortuary arts. His life’s work with the dead and the bereaved has informed four previous collections of nonfiction, each exploring identity and humanity with Lynch’s signature blend of memoir, meditation, gallows humor, and poetic precision.

The Depositions provides an essential selection from these masterful collections—essays on fatherhood, Irish heritage, funeral rites, and the perils of bodiless obsequies—as well as new essays in which the space between Lynch’s hyphenated identities—as an Irish American, undertaker-poet—is narrowed by the deaths of poets, the funerals of friends, the loss of neighbors, intimate estrangements, and the slow demise of a beloved dog.

In “Gladstone,” from The Undertaking, Lynch reflects on his then twenty-five years as an undertaker at the Midwinter Conference for Michigan funeral directors, which incongruously takes place on an island in the Caribbean. With brutal, generous honesty, “The Way We Are,” from Bodies in Motion and at Rest, grapples with Lynch’s time as a single parent coming to terms with generations of his family inheritance of alcoholism and recovery. The press of the author’s own mortality animates the new essays, sharpening a curiosity about where we come from, where we go, and what it means.

As Alan Ball writes in a penetrating foreword, Lynch’s work allows us “to see both the absurdity and the beauty of death, sometimes simultaneously.” With this landmark collection, he continues to illuminate not only how we die, but also how we live.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781324003977
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 11/26/2019
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 457,554
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Thomas Lynch’s stories, poems, and essays have appeared in Granta, the Atlantic, Harper’s, the New York Times, and elsewhere. His first collection of essays, The Undertaking, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Lynch lives in Milford, Michigan.

Table of Contents

Foreword Alan Ball vii

from The Undertaking

The Undertaking 3

Gladstone 14

Crapper 24

The Right Hand of the Father 36

The Golfatorium 49

Tract 71

from Bodies in Motion and at Rest

Introduction 79

Bodies in Motion and at Rest 87

Fish Stories 92

Y2Kat 98

The Way We Are 124

Reno 142

from Booking Passage

Introduction-The Ethnography of Everyday Life 159

The Brother 180

The Same But Different 199

The Sisters Godhelpus 228

from The Good Funeral

How We Come to Be the Ones We Are 245

The Theory and Practice of Cremation 270

New Essays

Introit 285

Miracles 292

Moveable and Steadfast Feasts 305

Whence & Whither 321

The Done Thing 327

Acknowledgments 339

Permissions Credits 341

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