Posted inEditor's Pick

My Undertaker, My Pimp

Jay Kirk | Harper’s Magazine | March 1, 2002 | 7,333 words

Jay Kirk examines the intersection of grief and lust in this profile of a disgraced undertaker-turned-brothel-owner.

Posted inNonfiction, Story

My Undertaker, My Pimp

Looking for grace in a desert brothel.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons (edited)

Jay Kirk | Harper’s | March 2002 | 29 minutes (7,333 words)

This essay by Jay Kirk first appeared in the March 2002 issue of Harper’s, where it was edited by John Jeremiah Sullivan. Our thanks to Kirk for allowing us to reprint it here.


For a year I worked in an office where I spoke to dying people on the telephone every day. The office was that of a funeral-consumer watchdog, which meant that we kept an eye on the funeral industry and helped the imminently bereaved and imminently deceased to make affordable funeral plans. Above my desk I kept an index card with a Faulkner quotation, “Between grief and nothing I will take grief.” On a particularly bad day I scratched out the last word and changed it to “nothing.”

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