Archives For the haunted life

Leo Writes

Leo is known as a bigot but, as Jack Kerouac writes in the last pages of The Haunted Life i, when his father was deathly ill in the hospital, “all the racial nonsense is gone, he sees all men how they are, one by one . . . and all women, of course.” So Pop in his last days has grown. Leo’s letters and Jack’s response to his father’s illness and death, is quite a memorable part of the book.
Leo writes about films and books, and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. He writes to Jack that he may not have his “ability to rhapsodize in words,” but maybe Leo isn’t giving himself enough credit. His words have a bounce, and he seems to be a naturally good writer.
Pop expresses fatherly concern for the upcoming war, doles out practical advice (save some money), encourages his son and creatively compliments him on his intelligence, by noting Jack’s “thatch-covered cerebellum.” He speaks of love of family, the joy of a family reunion, “full of the goodness of life, a moment to be cherished, never to be forgotten.”
In a throwback to another time and place Leo can’t resist, “If you have too many skirts send me one willya!” Like father, like son, braggadocio, swagger, but the reader might not be able to stifle a laugh. Even in his volatile nature, there’s something funny about the angry man, “a man with opinions” who “voices them good and loud” and gets “worse and worse, year by year.”
Leo mentions Upton Sinclair, Hitler, Ronnie Reagan, and Guy de Maupassant, and more, all in the same short letter.
He writes of French thought in literature and opines about Saroyan, and records his sorrow about his dead little boy, Gerard. Perhaps some see it as sentimental, but the man wrote about the death of his beloved nine-year-old son. He’s had his share of hard times, ups and downs, and relates another interesting bit of his life in “A Sketch of Nashua and Lowell.”
In “Reflections on Leo” Jack writes of the “mess of messes called life.” And calls Leo “the only honest man I ever knew and the only completely honest expresser of what he thought about the world and the people in it.” Jack continues “the last months of his life on his deathbed he told me things in the middle of the night that would make you hair stand on end.” All in all, a chance to gain some insight into what was an imperfect but loving father-son relationship.
i Kerouac, Jack. The Haunted Life and Other Writings. Ed. Todd Tietchen. (Boston: DeCapo Press, 2014).

Celebrate Jack Kerouac’s Birthday with The Haunted Life

Today is 12th March, and that means it’s Jack Kerouac’s birthday. Every year, people celebrate by embarking upon road trips, holding readings, or just sitting down with a dog-eared copy of On the Road or Big Sur.

In recent years, interest in Kerouac and his work (as well as that of his contemporaries) is strong as ever. We’ve had movies and books continuing his legacy, and in time for his birthday we also have the release of a long-though lost novella, The Haunted Life.

Set in Kerouac’s hometown of Lowell, The Haunted Life was written in 1944, following the murder of David Kammerer. As such, this piece of writing comes from an important period in Kerouac’s life. It is also a fascinating insight into the author’s development, as the book is very different to his later works, but not entirely dissimilar to his first novel, The Town and the City.

To read an except, please visit The Guardian’s website. To purchase the book, which also contains notes, letters, and sketches from during its composition, please click the link below…

 

 


Another Unpublished Kerouac Book Coming 2014

THE HAUNTED LIFE by Jack Kerouac, due March 2014:
Jack Kerouac wrote THE HAUNTED LIFE in 1944 when he was 22 years old and attending Columbia University. It was originally meant to be a three-part novel, but only the first part was ever polished (it runs roughly 19,000 words). Upon its completion, Kerouac promptly lost his only hand-written final draft in a New York taxi cab, remaining unknown to the public until its appearance at Christies about ten years ago. Kerouac’s family has now decided to share this manuscript with the world.
While the entirety of the novel remained unfinished, the surviving manuscript successfully works alone as a novella with a satisfying, if open-ended, conclusion. It features a scaled-down version of the Martin family and is set in Lowell, Massachusetts, as was Kerouac’s first novel The Town and The City. Kerouac had planned on writing a cycle of novels tentatively titled An American Passed Here, which was to be set primarily in the fictional town of Galloway (based on Lowell). That cycle was to contain The Haunted Life and The Sea is My Brother, tracing the story of the Martin family throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Eventually Kerouac’s plans for his Martin cycle materialized into his first novel, The Town and the City, shortly before he moved on to compose his iconic On the Road.
Todd Tietchen, the editor of the project and the Jack Kerouac/Beat Scholar in residence at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, has assembled a number of archival documents to thicken out the context of this lost novella, documents that attest to the level of intention and care that went into Kerouac’s writing projects.
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