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The Haunted Life: and Other Writings

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  593 ratings  ·  68 reviews
1944 was a troubled and momentous year for Jack Kerouac. In March, his close friend and literary confidant, Sebastian Sampas, lost his life on the Anzio beachhead while serving as a US Army medic. That spring—still reeling with grief over Sebastian—Kerouac solidified his friendships with Lucien Carr, William Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg, offsetting the loss of Sampas by i ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published March 11th 2014 by Da Capo Press (first published March 4th 2014)
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Jim Cherry
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 kn ...more
Nov 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Oh Jack - how I miss thee.

First of all, the story behind how this manuscript disappeared is fascinating. It seems like it was left in a dormitory closet, probably Allen Ginsberg's old room but I prefer the more 'romantic' story of how it was left and lost in a downtown taxi by Kerouac, doing laps of the city in the back seat of a cab. This is one of the earliest books Kerouac wrote. In the past 20 years, there have been a string of new publications by JK, including Some of the Dharma, Orpheus Em
Jan 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book. Mostly centered around The Haunted Life and Peter Martin’s coming of age in the town of Galloway. The book also includes letters from his father Leo to him and other excerpts. The themes in the book would later be reflected in Kerouac’s books. This lost manuscript is well worth a read to see how the authors work evolved over time.
Edmund Davis-Quinn
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
An odd collection of writings.

And a really terrible choice to make an audio book.

The main snippet of a story is more fascinating as an artifact than as a section of an unfinished book. It feels very much like a 2nd draft of a developing author.

The essay at the beginning is insufferable and boring. I have no idea why essays that speak about the book are in the introduction, they belong as epilogues.

And the rest is just random. Some notes, some discussions of "The Town and The City." And even
Kevin Kizer
May 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
When it comes to new releases from the Kerouac estate, I'm sorry to say I believe we've reached the Bukowski Point.* Right now, as I glance at my bookshelves, I count over 50 books either by or about Kerouac and I have a hard time believing anything new or interesting has yet to come to light. While Kerouac was a prolific writer, how much more can be mined from this vein? Well, as it turns out there still some more good stuff out there.

"The Haunted Life and Other Writings" is a manuscript that
Elliott Robert
Oct 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Derivative is a criticism thrown about far too often and quite often I find myself at disagreing with its usage, this novella is a case in point. People quite frequently ignore pre "on the road" Kerouac as a pale imitation of Thomas Wolfe and the other authors Kerouac greatly admired, but to do so does the work no justice.

The Haunted Life is a work so truthful it is bitter sweet. When reading the novella you immediately identify each character as someone you know in your own life and their acti
Jun 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Any new Kerouac is cause for celebration. Reading this unfinished novella from 1944, one meets again the young Jack, trying to determine the kind of writer he will be. In a diary entry from 09/03/45, indicating that someone had asked him what he was looking for in his writing, he records his reply as being "...a new method...the vision I do have, it's the method I want...the vision cannot be expressed without the method."
There are some beautiful, lyrical passages in this book, foreshadowings of
Got this at the library, but I'd like to own it and read it again sometime, mostly for his "sketches and reflections" - which give further insight and explanations of his ideas for The Town and the City (of which The Haunted Life is pretty much a lost early unfinished rendition) and ideas for his future projects - and also for the several letters from his father, Leo, which are great to read. They show similar interests and themes as Jack's, and reveal what had to be, earlier, a fairly formative ...more
Apr 22, 2014 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings. The prose is fantastic and I loved the main character but I wish Kerouac wasn't so dismissive of the female characters in the novel. I realize it was the early 1940s so what can you expect, but it still bothered me. In some of the non-fiction writings at the end of the book he expressed some philosophies that I am opposed to, including some borderline racist sympathizing. It's almost like I wish I hadn't read it. Now I plan to go back and read some of my Kerouac favorites ...more
David Rullo
Mar 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Mostly notes and unfinished ideas. A great way to peer into the early thoughts, styles and writings of Kerouac. His relationship with his father is the focal point, even though it isn't central in the Martin Family story presented.
Melissa D'andrea
Apr 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
It was a good introspective on Jack's beginning as a writer, and I was glad to learn more about Leo Kerouac, Jack's Father. Like the title suggests, the stories in this book have a darkness to them, but I enjoyed it, as any Kerouac fan will.
Benjamin Stahl
Sep 04, 2017 rated it liked it
For what this was - the unfinished first part of an unfinished novel, I believe - it was very good. Too good, actually ... in the sense that I could not help but feel disappointed when it came to an end just as it seemed to be starting. It's such a shame, reading through Kerouac's included notes, that his Galloway or Haunted Life - (an intended American classic) - never saw the light of day. The tranquil suburban setting of Lowell was wonderful. The complexity of the characters, even in the firs ...more
Robert Connah
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: anglo
First time reading any Kerouac but it certainly won't be my last. As the same age as the protagonist there was no better time to read this coming of age story. Parallels can certainly be made between the political situation then and now; with FDR certainly appearing to have split opinion as Trump does now.
Kerouac's novel The Town and the City is continually referenced throughout and I will be checking this out very soon!
The edition I read contained some of Kerouac's diary entry's including let
Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-lit
The reason I liked this book is not so much because of the novella-length manuscript itself, but for what it conveys about young Kerouac. And in addition to that, the Sketches (in Part II) are planning documents that elaborates on the themes and structure of the novel of which this manuscript was to be only the first part. And finally, the last section focuses on his father Leo and Jack's relationship with him, and includes several letters written by Leo. Contrary to what is often believed, Jack ...more
May 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I was super excited when I found this in the library--it's not every day you come across "new" work by Kerouac. The book is a collection of sketches, novellas, journal entries and letters. The first part of the book is what I would classify a novella--it is a literally "lost" work --meaning Kerouac thought he left it in a cab and it was missing for many years. It was eventually found in what was Ginsberg's dorm room at Columbia by an incoming student. This piece is early Kerouac--more linear, mo ...more
McGrouchpants, Ltd.
Dec 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This lost-and-now-found novella by Jack Kerouac performs a small miracle: somehow, in a space of a few day's time, basking with the characters, you get a vivid, fixed in space-and-time sense of a "middle-of-the-pendulum-swing" position.

Through backstories relayed through offhand conversation, daily rituals making you feel at home amongst the clutter, and a high literary pedigree for the high-falutin' college-age protagonists, Kerouac provides a literary feast — deftly handled in a just-over-70-p
Jun 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short novella was just the second book Kerouac wrote, but was lost for many years and only recently published. Although the prose is a bit generic in style, and features little of the dissonant prose that made Kerouac famous, the story itself is actually fantastic. It suffers from some elementary undertones, especially in the ways that Kerouac tries to demonstrate his own learned and cultured perspectives through his characters, as though he were using them to brag about himself, but even t ...more
James Holloway
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
Given this is his first attempt at a novel, Kerouac's prose is unsurprisingly immature and uninspiring. He clearly has a lot of great ideas, but tends to tell us them all through over-written monologues rather than showing them to us via the actions of his characters - as he would so aptly come to master in his later novels. The writing does pick up in the final third, particularly with the introduction of Dick who is pleasantly reminiscent of Dean Moriarty, and it is around this point that Kero ...more
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recently finished The Haunted Life and enjoyed it quite a bit.

A section from The Haunted Life Part 1 ...the cool swishing song of the trees: a music sweeter than anything else in the world, a music that can be seen-profusely green, leaf on leaf, atremble-and a music that can be smelled, clover fresh, somehow sharp, and supremely rich.

I found this book very interesting because it provides Kerouac fans with the missing novella that preceded Town and City and I really enjoyed the letters from Jack'
George K. Ilsley
Just couldn't get into this. Really might be for hardcore Kerouac completists. There were however strong parallels to the "fictional" Mr Martin's anti immigrant racism and the world of today in the USA. I guess we are still in the 1940s and post-war period.
Martyn Coppack
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
full review here at ...more
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Kerouac has always been my #1 dude. He's the guy that inspired me to be a writer, and he proves to be that rare gem of a writer that's able to connect to me with virtually anything that he throws down onto the page.

As a college sophomore, soon-to-be junior and frequent worrier of what the fuck I'm going to do with my life, that can seem both dismal and boundless at the same time, I could not only MASSIVELY relate to the protagonist, Peter, in "The Haunted Life", but it almost seemed as if this b
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm not finished. I only read through page 99, where The Haunted Life ends. But I wanted to get some thoughts out while they were still fresh in my mind.

The Haunted Life (pgs. 1-99)

What is it about Jack Kerouac that makes me feel so untamed? So primitive? Whenever I pick up a book of his, I want to free myself from everything and just go somewhere with no real plan and no real intention of doing anything except living. It doesn't even matter if the story is really about that concept; Kerouac ha
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: "The Haunted Life" - is the first work by Jack Kerouac that I've ever read - much less reviewed.

Galloway is Lowell, Ma.
A simple, yet rich and complex story about "growing up (and out)" from Lowell, Ma - right before WWII.

The characters each represent different life and political philosophies. The father represents the very Conservative voices of the times represented by Father Charles Coughlin. In the Father's introductory speech - many of the ideas mentioned would resonat
Gabby Rodowicz
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: beatnik
Fascinating story behind the story. What jack wanted out of this was something that he could grow with and write with as he changed but he planned it so far ahead of its time...beck it was supposed to be a 4 or 5 book series and here we have just a handful I dunno if this book even PASSES as short stories...but so is the way of ever allusive mr Jack Kerouac. What a lovely man, he will forever be a man that I admire for his charm and for his ambition and for his fearlessness at least on the pages ...more
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am Peter Martin. I found it uncanny how many similarities he and I shared, at the characters age and even now; the deep feeling of wanderlust, not truly knowing what to do in life (or how many things to do) & collecting relics from past adventures - I am Peter Martin. Kerouac's prose was detailed, yet not overly so (like Thoreau in Walden) and made the story very enjoyable to read. It was also very strange and a bit enlightening to read the first few pages of the story when Peter's father, Joe ...more
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The Haunted Life: And Other Writings” is more than just Jack Kerouac’s lost novella. It also contains some of Kerouac’s personal correspondences and other writings. Lastly, it also contains insight from the editor, Todd Tietchen, to help fill in what was going on in Kerouac’s life and how some of the characters came to life.
Overall, I enjoyed all three parts. This was my first encounter with Kerouac’s writing and the extra parts helped me to get more out of the story and a better understanding
Lauren Read
Mar 19, 2019 rated it liked it
This posthumous release of a long-lost manuscript was satisfying to this reader who's read plenty of Beat writing. The story is sweet and allegorical to Jack's own life. I was disappointed to learn of some of his conclusions as written in his notes, such as his disdain for cities, for Burroughs, and for those who take direct action, indeed! (I think that the latter is noble when enacted out of compassion, not seeking self-punishment, as Kerouac suggests.) Anyway, it's a slice of life in America ...more
Aug 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Well what can I say that hasn't already been said about Kerouac? Maybe I'll just say exactly what I feel!

His ever so frequent racial overtones [something he captured of his time and generation, better than anyone else] and straight-to-your-jaw opinions through proxy are on full display in this book, as always.
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the better collections of Kerouac ephemera, organized around an incomplete Wolfeian novella from 1944. Thoughtfully arranged, with all supplemental material relating directly to the work at hand.
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Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac on March 12, 1922, in Lowell, Massachusetts. Jack Kerouac's writing career began in the 1940s, but didn't meet with commercial success until 1957, when On the Road was published. The book became an American classic that defined the Beat Generation. Kerouac died on October 21, 1969, from an abdominal hemorrhage, at age 47.

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