Giving Up the Ghost NPR coverage of Giving Up the Ghost: A Story About Friendship, 80s Rock, a Lost Scrap of Paper, and What It Means to Be Haunted by Eric Nuzum. News, author interviews, critics' picks and more.
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Giving Up the Ghost

A Story About Friendship, 80s Rock, a Lost Scrap of Paper, and What It Means to Be Haunted

by Eric Nuzum

Paperback, 305 pages, Random House Inc, List Price: $15 |


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Giving Up the Ghost
A Story About Friendship, 80s Rock, a Lost Scrap of Paper, and What It Means to Be Haunted
Eric Nuzum

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Book Summary

An award-winning NPR producer recounts how as a misfit youngster, he became convinced he was haunted by the ghost of a little girl, a belief that resulted in his commitment in a psychiatric hospital before a bittersweet relationship compelled him to confront his phobias by visiting reputedly haunted sites throughout America. Original. 40,000 first printing.

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'Giving Up The Ghost': Letting Go Of A Haunted Past

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Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: Giving Up The Ghost

There are many ghost stories. Here's one:

One night in June, 1984, I took a girl from my high school named Laura Patterson to meet my friend Jimmy at a local miniature golf course, the Putt-O-Links.

Putt-O-Links was located at the end of a long strip of abandoned industrial buildings outside of Canton, Ohio. Canton was once a blue collar Mecca devoted to making vacuum cleaners, ball bearings, and steel. During the 1980s, Canton — like the entire Midwest Rust Belt — was in absolute denial that its way of life was dying right before its eyes. I don't even think globalization was a word then, but places like Canton were already experiencing it firsthand.

Each spring the world around Putt-O-Links got smaller and smaller. One by one the nearby factories closed. Shortly after, the car dealerships down the street moved. The following year the diner closed. Eventually, the Putt-O-Links and the ice cream stand next door were the only signs of life for half a mile in any direction. Then, that spring, the Putt-O-Links didn't open either. Neither had the ice cream stand. There were no "going out of business" or "thanks for 30 great years" signs, just tall weeds and a fallen rusty chain that had once closed off the parking lot. It almost looked as if the owners had just forgotten it was summertime and time to open again.

My friend Jimmy didn't let Putt-O-Links's change of fortune slow him down; he still went golfing there at least three times every week just like he had every summer. Every time I was with him, highlights of his mini-golf exploits were always part of the conversation. He shared his secrets for getting his little pink ball exactly up the middle of the big clowns tongue and how the now stationary windmill blades always screwed up his hitting par on the 12th hole. So when I told him I wanted us to hang out with Laura, a girl I'd only recently started spending time with. He immediately suggested meeting up at Putt-O-Links.

Jimmy had been designated as the drummer in my budding quasi-fictional rock band, Ritzo Forte, a group that largely existed in order to impress girls with the claim that I was in a rock band. I'd seen Jimmy sit behind his drum kit and play for about three and a half seconds one time when we were doing bong hits in his basement. That was good enough for me. I was to be Ritzo Forte's singer, songwriter, and principle stylist. I owned a Radio Shack microphone and a mic stand on which to put said microphone. Ritzo Forte had a name, a list of influences, even some song lyrics and titles. The only things missing were band mates, equipment, complete songs, rehearsals, and actual performances.

However, I had put a great deal of thought into this band and its potential awesomeness. It was just a matter of time until everything fell into place. I was trying to impress Laura with my seriousness and determination, so I thought it would be good for us to go out with Jimmy.

It was almost dark by the time we got to Putt-O-Links. Introductions weren't necessary. They weren't that kind of people. Laura knew who Jimmy was; he knew her. Jimmy had been pre-briefed for the occasion. I reminded him of all the cool bands he was supposed to like, drilled him on the titles and lyrics to the songs we hadn't written yet, and confirmed our plan to buy matching knee-length leather coats for all Ritzo Forte members.

Jimmy and I had gone to school together for six years, but were never really tight until our senior year, when it became increasingly apparent that we were both going to be "Left Behinds." Left Behinds were those kids who didn't put in a lot of time visiting campuses or filling out admission applications. It just seemed like a waste of time. It was obvious that we weren't going anywhere. Jimmy and I bonded because we both knew that when all our other friends left for school that fall, we'd be pretty much all we had left.

From Giving Up The Ghost by Eric Nuzum. Copyright 2012 by Eric Nuzum. Excerpted by permission of Dial Press, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.