Apparition & Late Fictions

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‘As in showing, rather than telling’ – Apparition & Late Fictions by Thomas Lynch

As in showing, rather than telling. The overtly factual presentation of the first page removes some of the magic so integral to the short story form. How does a man who has suffered the loss of three wives and one daughter through death and divorce cope? By taunting the dogs he had previously feared?

Apparition & Late Fictions: A Novella and Stories |

The narrator struck me as the most complex of the collection so far. And the one who inspired most empathy.

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Through his flaws, and his darting recollections, the reader can piece together an image of a mosaic man. Someone whose life has been smashed and then glued together time and again. For such an American collection to embrace a French title intrigued me. Which summarises the feel of the piece rather well.

Apparition & Late Fictions by Thomas Lynch

Nonetheless, the narrator, a lecturer, poet, and a widow, demands that a reader try and understand her. I found myself pitying her, being irritated by her, and eventually becoming immersed in the food-framed vision of her lusting for a young waitress. No tears again, but with this story, tears are unnecessary. An ex-minister left by his wife to raise two children would always be a person if interest. It is his negotiation of sexual relationships, and religious pressures, which allows Adrian to escape the victim paradigm, and appear to master his own destiny, to whatever small extent that may be.

His first wife left him for another woman and the second had the marriage annulled because Harold took to the bottle and womanizing. Rather than returning to her teaching position she travels to Mackinac Island, where she becomes obsessed with and stalks a beautiful young black woman. It is the novella, Apparition , where Lynch accomplishes his most dynamic story. Adrian Littlefield, an assistant pastor, becomes a liability to his church when his wife runs off with an artist, leaving him with their two children.

Even if we didn't know that Lynch is an undertaker by profession, and even without the harbinger implicit in the phrase "late fictions", we know that this book will be, on some level, about death. Certainly, there are deaths in these stories: parents who die before their time, absent spouses, lost children. But death is not the central drama, and they are not classic tragedies.


Death here is, perhaps, death as it is to a funeral director: stripped of its taboos and woven into the fabric of life. Incredibly, this book of four short stories and a novella is Lynch's first collection of fiction. He has published three collections of poetry a fourth is due this year and three volumes of essays, one of which, The Undertaking — Life Studies in the Dismal Trade, was a finalist in the US National Book Awards.

He combines writing with running the family business in Milford, Michigan, where he has been funeral director since Perhaps this perspective contributes to the measured, unrushed quality of his prose, as if he has allowed each story to take the time it requires to mature. In "Bloodsport", the protagonist is an undertaker. In middle age, he recalls one of his first funerals, at which he helped a beautiful year-old come to terms with the death of her father.

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  • Apparition & Late Fictions: A Novella and Stories.
  • His "appropriate" words and gestures felt superficial, while he struggled to suppress his own attraction for her.

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