Saturday, March 20, 2010

Book Review: Apparition and Late Fictions

Thomas Lynch has published non-fiction and poetry, and now he adds fiction to that list. Lynch is a Midwestern undertaker and a very good writer. He can talk about his profession with clinical precision but he balances that accuracy with understatement, mystery and what is best called humility. Nothing about his writing is overtly religious, but I can't help reflecting on the religious implications of it. I never regret reading anything by him.

That said, this collection is a bit uneven. I have a clear favorite (the short story "Bloodsport") and a second favorite (the novella "Apparition") that was almost my absolute favorite until the story took a few turns toward the end that I think subverted the main point. But understatement almost requires that the main point be submerged somehow. It definitely is something worth discussing with friends, if only because Lynch is so good at leaving any kind of judgment out of the picture in all his stories except "Bloodsport," actually. Perhaps that makes it the best in my eyes, that he comes closest to "saying something" in that story?

And every story does involve death; that's probably the main reason I follow Lynch's writing, because no one else talks about death quite like he does. (After all, the guy's an undertaker, don't be surprised if so are many of his characters!) He has a truly unique voice.


Carter said...

I read Bloodsport, and was stricken with the harrowing resolution 'over time Martin learned to live with the helplessness and the sadness and the shame. He quite trying to figure the right thing to say. He listened. He stayed.' This is a type of humility sure, but this is sad, or at least frightening.

BenMc said...

I should mention that it's the sadness of "Bloodsport" that makes it stand out -- that and the way the narrator stood between the clinical/physical aspects of undertaking (the "scientific", even!) and the human aspects of dealing with grief and the story of the mother. The novella is even more ambiguous ...