Acclaimed Author Thomas Lynch to Read his Latest at Local Commemoration

Thomas Lynch*

Elaine Morse was a long-time Birmingham resident and much-loved member of the community until her death in April 2012.  She had the knack of inspiring joy and respect in those around her.

Among her many contributions to the Birmingham area was her service on the boards of the Baldwin Public Library and the Friends of the Birmingham Historical Museum & Park. “Everyone associated with Baldwin is pleased and honored to be offering this event in memory of Elaine, who accomplished so much for the Library and the rest of Birmingham,” said Doug Koschik, Library Director.

On Sunday, October 28 at 2 p.m., the Baldwin Public Library will commemorate Elaine by hosting a poetry reading in her honor.  At this program, the critically-acclaimed author, Thomas Lynch will read from his two most recent books of poems, Walking Papers and The Sin-Eater: A Breviary.

Thomas Lynch is a writer and funeral director from Milford, Michigan. His first book of nonfiction, The Undertaking, won the American Book Award and the Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, and was a finalist for the National Book Award.  Another of his books, Bodies in Motion and at Rest, won the Great Lakes Book Award.  Two more, Booking Passage and Apparition and Late Fictions, were named Notable Books by the Library of Michigan.

Naturally, copies of Mr. Lynch’s books will be available for purchase and signing at the reading courtesy of Book Beat Bookstore. The Baldwin Public Library is located in downtown Birmingham at 300 W. Merrill Street and can be reached at 248-647-1700 or through the Library’s website at

*Photo taken from McLean & Eakin

– Event information provided in conjunction with the Baldwin Public Library

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Post by Megan Shaffer

Heffernan Offers Humor, Allusions, and Exotic Locales ‘At the Bureau of Divine Music’

Cover ImagePoets Michael Heffernan and Thomas Lynch are teaming up for a few appearances in northern Michigan this week. The dynamic literary duo will kick off their Notable Books Tour on Monday, May 16th, 2011, at Petosky’s McLean & Eakin as part of their Yellow Chair Series, followed by several other stops dotting the northern part of the state.

While I happen to love poetry, honesty forces me to admit that I’m not the most able when it comes to its interpretation. Therefore, I have happily turned to fellow blogger Maggie Lane (Poem Elf)* to share her views on Michael Heffernan’s latest work, At the Bureau of Divine Music. Heffernan’s book was published in March and is part of the Wayne State University Press’ stunning Made in Michigan Writers Series.

At the Bureau of Divine Music by Michael Heffernan

– review by Maggie Lane

If one morning travel guru Rick Steves woke up bitten, in spite of the mosquito netting on his hammock, by the poetry bug, and upon finding himself unable to write a single sentence of his usual clear and cheerful prose, decided to give over to his new muse, what he’d write might sound like this:

Never fail to go as far from home

as you can find the means to get

or even

. . . I had to move,

at least to put new things in front of me

if not to make another kind of home

if home was what I wanted in the first place

The lines are from Michael Heffernan’s new collection At the Bureau of Divine Music. Heffernan, like Steves, is a world traveler, a restless spirit for whom “home” is not a refuge but a place which must be left behind.  The urge to inhabit new spots on the ever-alluring space-time continuum is too great for Heffernan to stick in one locale or even one gender for long in this entrancing new collection of poems.

And move around he does, from a café in postwar Paris to boyhood days in Detroit to Russia to Macedonia to Shreveport to a place, perhaps imaginary, with the lovely name of Kittythorpe.  Always his imagination is flitting back to the past and jumping ahead to the future. Restlessness is a trait he shares with many of his characters, some of who appear in masterful dramatic monologues:  travelers, dreamers, unfaithful lovers, embezzlers, and a man who aspires to be the neighborhood Gaughin.

His travels, real or imaginary, pack his poems with references and asides that had me chasing to keep up.  The allusions in the poems can be challenging, but well worth every Google search. If you’re the type of person who thrills at a conversation with someone smarter and wittier than you, you’ll get charged up reading Heffernan.  And if you are also the type of person who’s fantasized about being married to a smarter, wittier person, here’s a little scenario for you from “Consecration of the House”:  Heffernan sits upstairs in his bubble bath, quite the Diogenes, thinking about big questions and quoting Yeats, and calls down answers to his wife’s crossword puzzle.  He calls down more information than she asks for, just because he knows it:

’It’s also the word for being as in L’Etre et le Neant by Jean-Paul Sartre.’

Pretentious, oh yes, but he’s playing a part and doesn’t take himself too seriously.  Clearly he knows that no man sitting in a bathtub can be judged as anything but silly.  The poem, through Heffernan’s deft maneuvering, becomes a meditation on the soul (on being, the crossword clue), and ends with an unforgettable image of Kennedy moments before his assassination.

Just how seamlessly Heffernan travels through time and moves from drollery to tragedy and from matters mundane to the metaphysical, is evident in a favorite poem of mine from the collection, “Morning Mail.”

The poet in his bathrobe, aimless and alone in the house on a Monday morning, gets a letter from a friend in Boston.  The friend asks for reasons to keep on living from those of his friends who took the time to soothe him where it hurt/in the exhausted tissues of the soul.  The poet, as he considers his friend’s pleading for reasons to be vertical, reclines on the couch, which is funny but also dark, as if his friend’s despair entices him to try on death himself.

Lying there he remembers an old lover, a woman in a café in France who would just as soon be back in Worcester.  They both seem to wonder why we were doing this, a phrase that connects the vignettes in the poem, but the couple continues the doomed relationship in long travels through the Balkans on ships and uncomfortable trains.  In Greece they watch three women in black dresses step into the sea.  Two of them are daughters bathing their blind mother, who is crying. The image is indelible to him and to the reader.

From the pain of this reverie he comes back to the present as the letter drops behind the couch.  The time had come to rise up and occur, he says.  (I’m going to store this line as a useful antidote to indolence.)   In typical fashion for writers, this resolve to action leads him to stare out the window.  There he watches three blackbirds on a neighbor’s roof.  The blackbirds become the three Greek women and then transform into black angels come to make him face uncomfortable truths.  Why are we doing this? they seem to ask as they tumble from the roof and swoop up again.  His friend’s existential question has reverberated through his past and through the past of the two women who forced their mother unseeing into the sea and now into his present.  Why are we doing this?  And once we realize the futility, how do we stay vertical, how do we stay aloft?

Heffernan’s humor, allusions, and exotic locales form a viewing platform from which he hopes to catch sight of the unseen.  His restless spirit seems always in search of permanence, which some would call, especially those with Heffernan’s Jesuit education, the divine.

Heffernan, a Detroit native, teaches poetry at the University of Arkansas and is the two-time recipient of the Pushcart Prize, among other awards.  At the Bureau of Divine Music is Heffernan’s ninth book and, as noted, part of the Made in Michigan Writers Series by Wayne State University Press.

– If you can’t make it to those readings, click here to listen to Garrison Keillor read “The Art of Self-Defense,” a poem from this volume set in Detroit.

*Maggie Lane lives and writes in Beverly Hills, Michigan where she hosts the blog site Poem Elf. You can find her at

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‘Night for Notables’ to Honor Michigan’s Finest

Michigan’s finest authors will be stepping out Saturday night for a few hors d’oeuvres, some fine Michigan wines, and a swell of well-deserved recognition for their award-winning contributions to the 2011 Michigan Notable Books.

The Library of Michigan’s annual Night for Notables is an event designed to pay tribute to those authors who have written works that offer “high-quality titles with wide public appeal” and “are reflective of Michigan’s diverse ethnic, historical, literary, and cultural experience.”*

The event’s featured speaker this year is none other than Traverse City’s National Writers Series founder Doug Stanton, a New York Times best-selling author. Saturday’s Night for Notables will honor this year’s title contributors and also provide a forum for the authors to sign and discuss copies of their award-winning books.

What are the Michigan Notable Books? Each year, the Library of Michigan selects up to 20 published titles over the last year that celebrate Michigan people, places, or events. Stretching back to 1991, the Michigan Notable Books began as the “Read Michigan” program but switched its name in 2004.

Anywhere between 250 to 400 Michigan-related titles are reviewed each year. Book selections are highly competitive and are reviewed by a board of 10-16 members who come from various literary backgrounds. The program is supported by sponsors and grants handled by the Library of Michigan Foundation.

Night Light Revue has covered several of this year’s Notable authors and their works. If you are interested in a few of NLR’s book reviews or author event coverage, please feel free to click on the links below. If you are interested in reading any of this year’s titles, our undervalued yet oh-so-amazing local libraries carry copies of the Michigan Notable Books both past and present and offer author events throughout the year. For free. For everyone.

Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

Heather Sellers – “You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know”

Writers Live! Features author Heather Sellers

Heather Sellers Delights at Writers Live! Event

Bryan Gruley – “The Hanging Tree: A Starvation Lake Mystery”

‘Starvation Lake’ is a Trip Worth Taking

Laura Kasischke – “Eden Springs”

Kasischke Shines in Eden Springs

Thomas Lynch – “Apparition & Late Fictions”

Life With Death – One Good Thing Leads to Another

-Post by Megan Shaffer

*As stated on the Michigan Notable Books site.

Life With Death – One Good Thing Leads to Another

Cover ImageIf you missed the NYT Book Review this past Sunday, then you missed William Giraldi’s lovely feature highlighting Michigan author Thomas Lynch. Life With Death is certainly a review worth linking to, as William Giraldi’s elegant prose rests in kind compliment to that of the mastery of Mr. Lynch himself.

I recently finished Lynch’s book The Undertaking, and each and every page brought me to my knees. Breathless, I devoured Lynch’s words and marveled at his magical ability to turn the deep, raw sentiments of death into palatable wisps of humor; that he could so artfully craft a work on the death of Death itself. Though I finished The Undertaking weeks ago, I’m still bereft of deserving words for an author I have come to so admire.

It was with great fortune, then, that I fell upon William Giraldi’s review of Apparition & Late Fictions, which not only highlights Lynch’s first work of fiction but also his unique style and life perspective. “Lynch does not recoil from the gruesome facts of his trade or the insights they have allowed him,” notes Giraldi, “but he commands the light as well as the darkness. Nihilism is nowhere in these stories, and love is everywhere embraced.”

As Giraldi praises Lynch for adding “another chapter to one of the most memorable records in American letters,” I found myself thinking much the same of Giraldi. While it’s plain, midwestern truth that I’m far from the caliber of a New York Times reviewer, I can say that crafting even a simple review is not a breezy affair. So, as I endlessly groped in the dark for the ripple of words that might convey Lynch’s spirit, I swooned at Giraldi’s easy capture and fluidity;  “…the stories and novella here are gifts of precision, narratives with the poise to depict entire lives unstrung by the end of things.”

If you fear the talk of endangered book reviews, Giraldi’s review won’t soothe your soul. For those of us who are purists to the book and its circling words, we ultimately rely on the grace of one good work leading to another. Therefore, not only in Thomas Lynch have I found a new literary hero, but I can now pursue the pleasure of seeking out the works of William Giraldi as well.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer


Busy Monsters: A Novel by William Giraldi

Friends Don’t Let Friends Read ‘The Undertaking’ Alone

Cover ImageThe Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Alone book club is meeting this Tuesday night at Zuma Coffee House in Birmingham. Open to all, the group will be discussing The Undertaking; a beautiful body of work by local poet, author, and undertaker Thomas Lynch. Please join in for what is sure to be a “lively” discussion of Lynch’s Life Studies From the Dismal Trade.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Alone is sponsored by the Baldwin Public Library and makes copies of the chosen titles available to any affiliated library card holder. Keep in mind that anyone can attend – library member or not – and enjoy the company of fellow book lovers. Books on tap for the group include Alexander McCall Smith’s No.1 Ladies Detective Agency and the oh so mysterious (and yet unannounced) Everyone’s Reading selection for this year.

If you are interested in attending, the group will meet at 7:00pm on Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at the Zuma Coffee House which is located at 207 S. Old Woodward in Birmingham. For more information contact Kathryn Bergeron (

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Birmingham Borders Welcomes Lynch’s ‘Apparition & Late Fictions’

Cover ImageThomas Lynch has been very busy lately with his recently released book Apparition & Late Fictions. A former Birmingham Brother Rice grad, Lynch and his family are well-known in the area for their family’s funeral services rather than their literary output. However, Thomas Lynch’s mortuary skills have definitely become secondary in note of interest for avid readers.

Apparition is Lynch’s first work of fiction. His book The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade was selected by the The National Book Foundation as a finalist in the non-fiction category a few years back. In addition to numerous awards, Lynch has also penned three collections of poems and three books of essays. Definitely make the trip to Mr. Lynch’s site and check out his Utne interview Thomas Lynch on Sex, Death, and Poetry among others. You might also take a look at the New York Times review piece, Life With Death.

The next stop on Mr. Lynch’s calendar of Michigan appearances will take place at Borders in Birmingham. This discussion and signing of his debut work of fiction is scheduled for Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 7:00 PM.

Other Events of Note

Also on Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 7:00 pm, author Jill Wilkinson will be at the Troy Public Library for her presentation on creative writing and to share her first novel Downsized:  A Contemporary Novel on Not Giving Up.

Book Beat’s reading group will also meet on April 28th at 7:00 pm at the Goldfish Teahouse in Royal Oak. The title to be discussed is There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales (no, I’m not kidding) by Russian author and playwright Petrushevskaya. For more, link to Book Beat’s site here.

As always, call ahead of time to confirm all event information before stepping out the door.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Lynch to Share ‘Apparition’ at Nicola’s Books

Thomas Lynch has been very busy lately with his recently released book Apparition & Late Fictions. A former Birmingham Brother Rice grad, Lynch and his family are well-known in the area for their funeral services rather than their literary output. However, Thomas Lynch’s mortuary skills have definitely become secondary in note of interest for avid readers.

Though Apparition is Lynch’s first crack at fiction, it’s noteworthy to mention his previous works have garnered high praise and recognition from literary circles. The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade was selected by the The National Book Foundation as a finalist in the non-fiction category just a few years back. In addition to his latest work, Lynch has penned three collections of poems, three books of essays, and will release Walking Papers later this year. It’s definitely worth the trip to Mr. Lynch’s site where you can check out his Utne interview (Thomas Lynch on Sex, Death, and Poetry ) among several interesting others.

The next stop on Mr. Lynch’s calendar of Michigan appearances will take place at Nicolas Books in Ann Arbor on Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 7:00 PM. As always, call ahead of time to confirm all event information before stepping out the door.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

Related Links

-For more on Thomas Lynch and his Nicola’s appearance, try this article by Leah DuMouchel  on Ann

-New York Times Book Review: Life With Death

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Lynch’s ‘Undertaking’ Exhumed by National Book Foundation

Thomas Lynch has been making book news lately for his recently released Apparitions & Late Fictions, but The National Book Foundation is going retro with his other works.  Beginning this month, The Foundation will “reintroduce readers to the wonderful literary works honored by the National Book Awards in the past.” As part of this eNewsletter feature, information links will be provided for past winners and finalists in categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young Peope’s Literature.

The Foundation’s February, 2010 eNews edition features Mr. Lynch’s nonfiction work The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, which was a 1997 finalist in the Nonfiction category. Other showcased authors this month include finalist Diane Johnson in the Fiction category for Lying Low in 1979 and Le Divorce in 1997. Kim Addonizio was a Poetry finalist in 2000 for Tell Me and Sara Zarr was a 2007 finalist for Story of a Girl in the Young People’s Literature category.

Thomas Lynch will be making a number of Michigan appearances in the upcoming months and will present his latest book at Borders in Birmingham in late April. For a full events schedule, click here. To subscribe to the National Book Foundation’s newsletter, click here and look for the light blue Sign Up on the right.

*Support your local bookstores and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Thomas Lynch Undertakes First Foray Into Fiction

Apparition & Late Fictions by Thomas Lynch: Book CoverForgive the short posts this week, but due to winter break my time is being severely tugged in other directions. Regardless, I will try to offer a little literary something to get through…

Specials writer Christopher Walton of the Free Press offered up another great author piece yesterday titled Lynch Explores the Human Condition covering both Thomas Lynch’s past titles and his latest work Apparition & Late Fictions. A former Brother Rice grad, Lynch and his family are well-known in the area more for their funeral services than their literary output. However, for avid readers Thomas Lynch’s  primary occupation is most definitely secondary in note of interest.

Thomas Lynch will appear at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at the Milford Public Library for a reading and signing. As always, it is always a good idea to call ahead to confirm particularly because this event requires registration. The Milford Public Library can be reached at 248-684-0845.

*Support your local bookstores and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer