Picks and Pans Review: The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade

updated 09/22/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/22/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Thomas Lynch

What is it with Michigan and death? First came Dr. Kevorkian; now there's Thomas Lynch, a Milford, Mich., funeral director and (in his words) "internationally unknown" poet who has filled this small book with big thoughts on the duties of those other men in black everyone is dying to see. A sort of mortuary Mort Sahl, Lynch keeps this memoir lively with passing fancies, alternately sad and sadly funny, on his encounters with death—such as the embalming of his own undertaker dad (who, Lynch writes, suffered several heart attacks and "survived all but one") and a wake cut short by the postmortem flatulence of its guest of honor. All of the tales are as morbidly fascinating as the sheet-covered form lying next to the wreck on the highway; The Undertaking is to die for. (Norton, $23)

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