The Walmart Book of the Dead: A Selected Bibliography

December 7th, 2017

Lucy Biederman is a lecturer in English at Case Western Reserve University. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University. Her first book, The Walmart Book of the Dead, won the 2017 Vine Leaves Press Vignette Award. She has written four chapbooks of poetry, and her short stories, essays, and poems have appeared recently in Bat City ReviewThe CollagistAGNIPloughsharesConjunctions, and Pleiades. Her scholarship, which has been published in The Henry James ReviewWomen’s Studies, and Studies in the Literary Imagination, focuses on how contemporary American women writers interpret their literary forebears. Lucy Biederman will discuss The Walmart Book of the Dead Thursday 12/14, 6pm at the Co-op.

The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day: The Complete Papyrus of Ani, by Faulker, Goelet, and Andrews - This is one of my favorite book of the dead books because the illustrations are so well-reproduced. You can see how the spells work with and off one another. It's beautiful.

Evicted, by Matthew Desmond - In Ancient Egypt, papyrus was expensive, and so only the wealthy got books of the dead--the poor had to wander around the afterlife without a map. Maybe centuries from now, someone will use Desmond's excellent book to explain the way the poor had to live and what they had to live without in 21st century America.

The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt, ed. by Betsy Bryan and Eric Hornung - This edited collection, published on the occasion of a traveling Book of the Dead exhibit, looks at what death meant in Ancient Egypt from a variety of angles.

Ruby Ridge, by Jess Walter - Before Jess Walter wrote novels like Beautiful Ruins and The Financial Lives of Poets, he was a reporter at the Spokane, WA newspaper for which the Ruby Ridge standoff and eventual tragedy was the local news. This book is based on his reporting during that time.

The Egyptian Book of the Dead: Documents in the Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago, by T.G. Allen - Text-wise, this was the book about the book of the dead I relied on most.

Random Family, by Adrien Nicole LeBlanc - There is no authorial "I" in this entire book; it is meticulously researched, beautifully written and has a million mysteries and lessons inside it.

About The Walmart Book of the DeadAs for who reads this book

And who follows its spells

I know your name

You will not die after your death

In Walmart

You will not perish forever

For I know your name

So begins this darkly comic incantation on the gods and scourges of the 21st century. The Walmart Book of the Dead was inspired by the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, funerary texts with accompanying illustrations containing spells to preserve the spirit of the deceased in the afterlife. In Lucy Biederman’s version, shoplifters, grifters, drifters, and hustlers, desirous children, greeters, would-be Marxists, wolves, and circuit court judges wander Walmart unknowingly consigned to their afterlives.

“This BOOK is for the dark hours, the seam that ties the end of the evening to sunrise, when the bad, wrong things people do in and around Walmart are a hospital infection, red Rit dye in a load of whites, a gun in a classroom: by the time the problem is identified, it’s already ruined everything.”

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