“I was squirreling stories away for a long time,” said Finn Murphy. “I had an audio-cassette recorder, and at the end of the day I would just talk into it.” Those stories form the backbone of Murphy’s “The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road,” published this month — around four decades after he first caught a glimpse of what would become his life’s work.
Growing up in an upwardly-mobile, Irish-Catholic family in Connecticut, Murphy wasn’t expected to follow a blue-collar path. But after three years at Colby College, Murphy chose not to return to school and instead began working as a long-haul mover. “First thing we need to remember is, I was a very young idiot at the time,” he said of that choice. “I brought with me all the accumulated wisdom that a 21-year-old has.”
Still, he doesn’t regret it. “I really actually did like work, and I do like work,” Murphy said. “There is an intellectual facet to manual work that I don’t think is properly valued. It’s a richer experience than somebody might think. And I thought it was worth trying to explain.”
Packing and moving households provides intimate glimpses into how people live — there are fewer books these days — but Murphy tries to withhold judgment. Seeing the excessive amount of possessions most people hold onto has influenced him in the other direction, though. “I’ve got a little house in Colorado; I’ve got some clothes there. It’s where I send my tax returns from,” he said. “And then I’ve got the truck, which I’m in for months at a time. And I don’t have anything. I like it that way. And I really wouldn’t switch places with anybody.”
Murphy will read 7 p.m. Wednesday at Papercuts J.P. and 7 p.m. Thursday at Harvard Book Store.Kate Tuttle, president of the National Book Critics Circle, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.