Friday, August 24, 2012

Eric Nuzum Is Giving Up The Ghost

Eric Nuzum’s teen years were filled with drugs, depression, hopelessness, and a stint in an institution. He was an outcast, growing up in a normal family in a nondescript place where nothing ever happened.

In Canton, Ohio, he didn't feel connected to anyone or anything. And he relates this sad — sometimes funny and sometimes poignant — time in Giving Up the Ghost: A Story About Friendship, ‘80s Rock, A Lost Scrap of Paper, and What It Means to Be Haunted.

A reoccurring dream that literally haunted Nuzum for years.

He would dream of people sitting around a picnic table with one man wearing a wolf costume. There also a very distinctive little blond girl in a blue dress. Her hair and face were wet; her clothes were not.

As Nuzum would reach out to her in his dream, she would begin shrieking at him in gibberish or maybe a language he couldn’t understand. He would wake up terrified, believing that the girl was a "harbinger of my own self-destruction."

Was she trying to warn him about something? Maybe.

Nuzum always heard thumping sounds in his parents’ attic, which he attributed to the same ghostly girl. He was convinced she was there, waiting on the other side of the door for him. It was only later on that he realized the ghost symbolized much deeper issues.

In his late teens, Nuzum avoided thinking about going to college and focused instead on just existing. He worked as a janitor for TJ Maxx, which suited him just fine because it involved minimal interaction with people. And while he did have friends only one really mattered, a mysterious girl named Laura.

They would hang out regularly, but she never talked about her life, her family, and what she did when they weren’t together. Nuzum recounts how he acquired and began carrying around a vial filled with enough sleeping pills to end his life. Each time he’d reach into his pocket and think about taking them, he’d remember that he and Laura had plans to get together (maybe a concert or driving around).

He’d postpone taking the pills because he looked forward to seeing her. But eventually it doesn't work for him anymore. He goes over the edge (but doesn’t take pills). He wrecks his car instead.

His family encouraged him to check into a mental hospital.

It’s perhaps his description of his stint in the hospital and the strange people he encounters there that comprises the funniest part of the book. Nuzum knows he’s messed up, but can clearly see that others are far more messed up in comparison.

While in the hospital, Laura sticks by him, never giving up hope that he will turn things around. He eventually does, just in time for her to drop a bombshell. She’s going away to college.

The news nearly sends Nuzum spinning into a new depression, but this time he fights back and makes out-of-town college plans of his own. He wants to prove to Laura that he can do it.

Before she leaves, he returns a book she’d loaned to him and he tucks a letter inside. The letter tells, for the first time, just how much he loves her. But in a very tragically ironic twist, Laura becomes a ghost.

Nuzum never learned whether she read his letter or not. And while the ghost of the little girl rarely haunts him any longer, he sets out to rid himself of his fear of ghosts, visiting the most haunted places in the United States to do it. Eventually, he discovers that the “ghosts” he fears so were within himself, perhaps.

Today Nuzum is a vice president of programming at NPR in Washington, DC. He has also written The Dead Travel Fast: Stalking Vampires from Nosferatu to Count Chocula and Parental Advisory: Music Censorship in America. He is happily married with children, but still can’t stand to have inside doors closed.

Giving Up The Ghost By Eric Nuzum Hits A 6.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Nuzum does a nice job tackling an intensely personal time in his life with honesty, candor, and humor. It’s clear that he doesn’t take himself too seriously and that’s what makes the book so enjoyable. He could look at portions of his life in any other way, but he doesn't. You'll be glad to find him.

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 is available from Amazon. Barnes & Noble also carries the book. You can find Giving Up The Ghost on iBooks.
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