Apparition & Late Fiction is a collection of four longish stories and a novella. The first story begins in a situation we can recognize from Lynch's work--"The thermos bottle with his father's ashes in it rested on the front seat of the drift boat." A fishing guide in northern Michigan prepares to scatter his father's ashes, although elemental concerns end up changing the easy solutions. The next story has an undertaker as protagonist and movingly recapitulates subjects readers will recognize from Lynch's essays. The one after that follows a retired casket salesman who walks the trails around Mullett Lake while remembering a spiritual journey. And Lynch has a fascinating story modeled on Thomas Mann's Death in Venice, where a vacationing U-M professor becomes obsessed about the beauty of a young employee of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. That story has an unfashionably slow-moving interior voice, reflecting on the nature of beauty and how it can dominate our lives until, at the end, "the heart bears its unspeakable cargo to lay it down at the feet of beauty."
Most of the last half of the book is devoted to Apparition, a novella about a wildly successful self-help writer whose own divorce provided the occasion for his book Good Riddance--Divorcing for Keeps. Despite the fame and fortune the book provides, Adrian Littlefield seems to have nurtured his own kind of obsession for the woman who left him, a woman he never should have married. He moves through the world looking for images of her in the moments of her infidelities. She becomes a ghost, an apparition he can never quite see or understand.
Thomas Lynch reads from his new book at Nicola's on Thursday, March 25.