Sonnets, embalming, Irish funeral traditions, Methodist pastors and the Pope.
These were just a few of the wide range of subjects covered by poet, essayist and fiction writer Thomas Lynch Monday night at a reading for "Writers in the Library." The program is a monthly event held in Hodges Library that brings a variety of writers to UT to speak.
With a vaguely Irish accent, though having been born in Michigan, Lynch read from his novella "Apparitions and Late Fictions," as well as from an assortment of poetry.
Marilyn Kallet, director of creative writing, emphasized Lynch's storytelling ability and the way he communicates to the audience.
"He's a multi-talented writer, an entertainer," Kallet said. "He knows the music of language, even as he uses more traditional forms of writing."
Lynch is known for his day job as a funeral director, where a lot of his inspiration comes from. However, he brings in other aspects of his life in his writing as well.
"Initially, I thought (the reading) would be only about death and undertaking," Shiloh Jines, senior in English, said. "But he brought in a lot of other experiences. It was cool."
The variety in Lynch's writing seems to be due largely to the variety of people and situations in his life. He writes of his time spent in Ireland, his Catholic roots and his argumentative grandmothers.
"Readings like this are like going to the shrink and not getting a bill," Lynch joked.
This sense of humor is evident in most of his writings, even as he covers difficult topics like religion, fear and death. One of the most poignant examples of this was his reading from "Apparitions."
In the story he read, a Methodist minister named Adrian Littlefield gets divorced and has to deal with the aftermath. He receives help from a Catholic friend that includes giving him large amounts of alcohol, leaving him hungover for the Sunday service he leads the next day.
Lynch describes, complete with his own off-key rendition, how Adrian begins to lead the congregation in an enthusiastic version of The Beatles' "Let it Be," stunning the conservative churchgoers.In the end Littlefield recounts this experience and says, "For the first time I looked out over that sea of faces and saw them as fellow pilgrims. Not fellow United Methodists or fellow Christians or fellow sinners. I just saw them all as people like me. Humans in search of the way home."
Lynch uses humor to bring a new perspective and convey his version of truth. His undertaking experience enables him to write from the point of view of someone who has dealt with death and who can peel away the mask of fear people project onto it in order to produce art.
Margaret Lazarus Dean, an assistant professor of English, introduced the speaker and discussed the importance of Lynch's writings in the way they open up hard topics.
"The only cure for cognitive dissonance is art," Dean said. "People who can tell us what it's like to do something or be something we might not understand. Showing us glimpses of what it's like to be a funeral director is not the only purpose of Lynch's smart, funny and moving writing, or even the main one. But it's an important one.
"And maybe even a culture-changing one."