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The Haunted Life: and Other Writings Hardcover – March 11, 2014

3.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


12 Spring Books Not To Miss, Library Journal

Hudson Valley News, 3/5/14
“This one brought back a slew of memories.”

Below the Fold, 3/4/14
“A surprisingly readable, tightly traditional narrative built around the dialogue of the main characters.”

Los Angeles Review of Books, 3/25/14
“Tietchen’s informed detailing of the novella’s history provides an exciting look into Kerouac’s formative years…The Haunted Life and Other Writings can best be understood as part of a whole, addressing this crucial period of his personal and creative development, that ultimately shifted the direction of American literature in the 1950s.”

Providence Sunday Journal, 6/15/14
“A very satisfying introduction to Kerouac’s attempts at finding his voice and vision as a writer…The prose is remarkably clear-eyed, romantic, cynical and full of adolescent angst… we see a great writer shaping, trying out his various tools and techniques…and we glimpse the young writer desperate to hit the open road, readying himself for a new world full of existential doubt, lyrical epiphanies and the longings of a younger soul.”

About the Author

Jack Kerouac was born in 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts. The best-known of his many works, On the Road, published in 1957, was an international bestseller. He died in St. Petersburg, Florida, at the age of forty-seven.

Todd F. Tietchen is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, where he teaches courses in Beat writing and contemporary American literature. He is the author of The Cubalogues: Beat Writers in Revolutionary Havana, along with numerous articles on American art, literature, and intellectual history.  

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st edition (March 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306823047
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306823046
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #226,933 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are some great lost manuscripts in American literature and some are truly lost. Ernest Hemingway famously lost the only draft of the first short stories he ever wrote on a French train. Most writers have ‘lost’ manuscripts, conspicuously placed in quotes because those stories for whatever reason the writer has are socked away until after their deaths (interestingly Hemingway also falls into this category). Kerouac’s “The Haunted Life” falls into the category of the truly lost. He didn’t know where it had gotten off to, he thought he might have left it in the backseat of a NY taxi-cab, or maybe that was just a nod to Hemingway’s lost manuscript and Kerouac’s own self-mythologization. What happened was the manuscript of “The Haunted Life” was left in a Columbia College closet, perhaps Allen Ginsberg’s. Luckily, whomever found it held onto it, and has now made it’s way to publication.

“The Haunted Life” as Kerouac had it planned was going to be a three part novel chronicling the effects of war on society. The individual sections were to be called ‘Home,’ ‘War,’ and ‘Changes.’ It is the ‘Home’ fragment that has survived. It is a “day in the life” of college student Peter Martin home for the summer, he visits friends, walks around the town, meets a girl he’s interested in, and meets his father at a bar. There is not much overt action, but a lot going on in Kerouac’s portrayal of the characters. Just as the last chapter of the first section is hitting a crescendo, and you’re ready to read what comes after that…it ends. Kerouac does display some virtuoso skill for a neophyte work. One section that stands out is the dramatization of the passage of time through life illustrated in the span of morning until noon.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The year 1944 was the supposed year Jack Kerouac began writing The Haunted Life. The Haunted Life is a classic bildungsroman in the sense that the protagonist, Peter Martin, has to make the choice as to whether or not he wants to stay in Lowell now that he is of age to make such decisions. By his side, his two friends, the poet, Garabed Tourian, and the adventurer, Dick Sheffield pull him in opposite directions. While Dick wants Peter to join the army with him and see the sights of the world, Garabed is content with lazing around, learning and writing poetry. Now even though The Haunted Life sounds like it could be an interesting read, it most certainly is not. Despite the fact that it has a big name author behind it, The Haunted Life is an unpolished conflagration, lacking depth that reads as though it were written by a student in Middle School with a thesaurus rather than a writer who is considered one of the greatest authors of all time.

Quite early on in the novella, Kerouac throws around many terms with little to no reason to do so. This is especially prevalent while Garabed and Peter are talking. “Poor Garabed […] you don’t dare read Freud for fear of upsetting your emotional habits. Dostoevsky terrifies you with his Slavic portraits that remind you too much of yourself […] ugliness when it storms you, will destroy your sapphire and leave you a hollow shell!” (Kerouac 52-53) What makes this ridiculous, is that the two characters are talking about the moon and its beauty, and Freud and Dostoevsky are getting thrown around, when they have no reason to be used in the first place.

Of course, superfluous fluff and poor writing aren’t only seen in dialogue, they can also be seen in thoughts and descriptions too.
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Format: Hardcover
The Haunted Life is an unfinished early work. It is the story of Peter, home for the summer after his first year at Boston College. He smokes cigarettes and a pipe in bedroom full of artifacts from his childhood. His father never talks unless he’s in a bar, otherwise he only shouts about an America long gone and far better, ruined by Roosevelt and immigrants. Peter’s aunt lives with them. She is the motherly voice of reason, cooks good meals, and calls the men away from the radio when it’s time for dinner.

Peter feels that the freedom of his youth will soon give way to mortgages and responsibilities and a job that will snuff his dreams. He’s determined to enjoy his summer. The story describes his life that summer. For example, one evening his childhood friend Garabed knocks on the window of his room, luring him out after sunset to walk the neighborhood and discuss poetry, travel, and the limitless nature of mankind. At a café, Garabed eats four hamburgers. The sun comes up and Garabed goes home, but Peter walks into town alone with a plan. Intoxicated by exhaustion, he explores the stores and talks giddily to acquaintances. The simple small town is a wonder to him. At nine o’clock in the morning he goes into a bar, drinks shots of liquor and glasses of beer. While drinking his sixth beer, his father happens to come in, slaps him on the back, and sits next to him at the bar. They talk about horse races. His father drinks a few beers then walks to his job selling insurance. The last of Peter’s energy is spent. He takes the bus home and dreams in a drowse.

For admirers of Kerouac’s work, The Haunted Life is an interesting exhibit of the writer’s talents before they were in full bloom. It lacks the dynamism and edge of his later work.
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