Award-winning writer Thomas Lynch to deliver Fairfield University's Catholicism and the Arts Lecture, "Language Feasts: Breaking Bread with the Dead"



"Lynch has his finger on the bloody pulse of creation."
- Los Angeles Times Book Review

Image: Thomas LynchThomas Lynch's day job as a small town funeral director has done much to inform his life as a writer, poet and essayist.

With keen observation and humor, Lynch, who will speak at Fairfield University on Tuesday, September 14 at 8 p.m., has explored God, mortality, religion, violence, among other vital matters. He does not shy away from life's big issues. He once said, "I write sonnets and I embalm, and I'm happy to take questions on any subject in between those two."

At Fairfield, Lynch will deliver the 2010 Catholicism and the Arts Lecture. The event, free and open to the public, is sponsored by Fairfield University's Center for Catholic Studies and will take place in the Charles F. Dolan School of Business Dining Room. For more information, please call (203) 254-4000 ext. 3415.

Lynch will read from his most recent books: A collection of stories, "Apparition & Late Fictions" (W.W. Norton, 2010), and a collection of poems, "Walking Papers" (W.W. Norton, 2010). "In each instance, I'll try to link them both to the life of faith and doubt under the general title, 'Language Feasts: Breaking Bread with the Dead,' " he said of the talk.

Utne Reader noted of Lynch's status in the literary world: "His prominence as an award-winning man of letters has in turn made him one of the more famous and oft-quoted undertakers in the land, a dash of celebrity in a sea of black suits."

Perhaps that is because Lynch is one to tackle the issue of death, let alone burying the dead, head on. He finds the practice of not having corpses at funerals rather immoral.

"We have them disappeared without any rubric or witnesses or anything like that," he said to Willow Springs, a literary journal. "And then we plan these 'celebrations of life,' the operative words du jour. These celebrations are notable for the fact that everybody's welcome but the dead guy. This, to me, is offensive and I think perilous for our species. There is an intellectual - an artistic and moral - case that can be made for not only fruit and flowers in a bowl on a table, but also a dead body in a box."

Lynch lives in Milford, Mich., where he has been the funeral director since 1974, and in Moveen, Co. Clare, Ireland where he keeps an ancestral cottage.

His books helped inspire the multiple Emmy Award-winning television series, "Six Feet Under." After Oscar winning writer Alan Ball read two of Lynch's collections of essays, he put pen to paper and created the late, great HBO program. "The books I found most helpful were "The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade" and "Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality," both by Thomas Lynch, a funeral director and poet, and a brilliant, soulful writer," Ball once said in an interview about the critically acclaimed show.

A National Book Award finalist for "The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade" (W.W. Norton, 1997), Lynch won the Heartland Prize for non-fiction and the American Book Award. "Bodies in Motion and at Rest" (W.W. Norton, 2001) won The Great Lakes Book Award.

He is also the author of "Booking Passage: We Irish & Americans" (W.W. Norton, 2005); and three collections of poems, "Skating with Heather Grace" (Knopf, 1986); "Grimalkin & Other Poems" (Cape Poetry, 1994); and "Still Life in Milford" (W.W. Norton, 1998).

His work has been the subject of two film documentaries. PBS Frontline's "The Undertaking," aired nationwide in 2007, won the 2008 Emmy Award for Arts and Culture Documentary. Cathal Black's film, "Learning Gravity," produced for the BBC, was featured at the 2008 Telluride Film Festival and the 6th Traverse City Film Festival in 2009 where it was awarded the Michigan Prize by Michael Moore.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on August 10, 2010

Vol. 43, No. 16