Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Friday, October 27, 2017

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

Posted By on Fri, Oct 27, 2017 at 12:12 PM

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.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 5, 2022

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2022 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation