Case Professor Lucy Biederman Explores Corporate Mythos in 'The Walmart Book of the Dead'

However you slice it, we all have some sort of connection to Walmart. The corporate retail behemoth is a lot like death itself: It looms as an inevitability. Had the ancient Egyptians been so lucky, they might have written the Book of the Dead a little differently. Thankfully, Case Western Reserve University English professor Lucy Biederman has taken up the task.

In The Walmart Book of the Dead, Biederman took her research on the Egyptian Book of the Dead (partially on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art) and transposed it across the mythos of Walmart.

She says the fixation on Walmart began with her graduate studies down south. "I used Walmart in a way that I had never used it before, living in Louisiana, and that was really new for me," the Chicago native says. "I had never gone to a Walmart before, and it was really new to see how this place worked."

As different Walmart experiences layered themselves across her life, Biederman realized how the corporation's memetic presence in America could be used to explain all sorts of things. Like life and death.

The book is structured much like its ancient Egyptian counterpart, with "spells" laying out specific methods for protection in the afterlife. In Biederman's book, you get stuff like the spell for making one not have to work in the gods' domain: "Save my settings, save my settings, Lord, or I might as well not pass through. Nothing could interest me in the Heavens like what I watched on television. My love is shallow, up against how deeply I was entertained. The way I left myself behind—that became who I was."

It's sardonic and self-aware throughout, and probably very useful in these bizarre and divisive times. 

As 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

"It'd be a good thing to ask people on a first date or something," Biederman says. "Like, 'What's your opinion about Walmart?' Because everyone has an opinion, you know? I started thinking that this is like death. It's like something that we have at the center of our world and our culture and our society that everyone has an individual relationship with. But everyone is also an expert at, like, totally ignoring it."

The book was published this week by Vine Leaves Press. It's available via Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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