Almost Like Being in Love - Steve Kluger
Ten years ago, I was just finding my feet. I knew exactly one gay person and I was struggling through every stigma to find a place for myself in this world. There was no thought of equal rights, or legal marriages, or job security. It all just seemed so hopeless. With the recent developments in civil rights, though not near the level they should be, I think it is time to celebrate what, a decade ago, I never thought was possible. And since we are all book junkies, what better way to celebrate than reaching back through the archives to trace literature that, had I known existed at the time, may have helped this floundering homosexual feel some solace about the person he was.

I started reviewing books last year, for a small blog site known as Insight Out! It was merely for my own pleasure, to chronicle the books I loved that contained strong messages about gay people who we could look up to. On my travels through the world of literature, I came across a book that changed the way I looked, not only at life, but at gay fiction as a whole. This book inspired me in more ways than I can comment on, and I want to pass that forward to any avid readers searching for something that might hold true, even today. To celebrate the ten year anniversary of Steve Kluger’s Almost Like Being In Love, I would like to post the review I wrote for this book, mere minutes after closing its final, beautifully worded page. This book is an all time favorite, and if you need a good read, then check out the review, and find yourself a copy from any retailer out there. It was a mainstream release, and still, ten years later, packs as much of a wallop as it did at the time.

First love…it’s something you never forget, no matter how hard you try. I was 20 when I met my first love. When I look back on it I remember everything, the inside jokes, his love for Bette Davis movies, Vodka and Cherryade, the fact it took us six months to finally quit each other because we were both scared we’d never be the same, his psychotically jealous cat, the fact I looked better in his clothes than he did. I’ll never forget how he always smelled too strongly of detergent but the fact he also smelled like my cigarettes made it ok. I’ll never forgive him for falling out of love before I was ready, and I don’t think he’ll ever forgive me for not being enough. I know this seems awfully personal to share in what should be a book review, but Kluger’s Almost Like Being In Love does this to you. It takes you back to a time when your heart was whole and you had a partner in crime that nothing in the world could steal from you.

Travis and Craig, the stories protagonists, meet in High School and fall deeply and irrevocably in love, but being the tender age of 17 and faced with being divided by over 2000 miles, are torn from each other. All this in only the first few chapters. The rest of the story jets forward 20 years to see Craig settled happily with the loveable giant, Clayton, and to see Travis having a somewhat comical affair with a theory involving The Bill of Rights and the Red Sox. I know nothing of American History or of Baseball, but even I could tell the ramblings of Travis were nothing if not hilarious and borderline psychotic.

The second Act finds us on a road trip with Travis to find the one that got away those 20 years previously. But to make things complicated, it also settles comfortably into the beautiful and complete relationship between Clay and Craig. The whole time I was reading, I could feel the un-happy ending coming (not saying it actually came!), and by the time I was done, my eyes were swollen red in my face like Kluger had personally grabbed my eyelids and attached them by cables to a rusty car battery.

The themes are plentiful: it covers love and life and distance, and it takes on sport and theatre and politics. It’s like Kluger opened his chest, ripped out a rib and crafted these characters from a part of his own being, and to read it was truly spectacular (again, I’m not a crier, it was just a lot of awesome in one small book). The format was interesting too, it wasn’t just written in prose, it was court transcripts and diary entries and notes and emails. It had the peripheral characters bringing up the rear to drive the story towards the 20 year reunion, and from first to last page, it was all heart.

Written in 2004, and published by HarperCollins, this book is a must read for anyone who wants to take the beautiful, painful and wonderful trip down memory lane, and back to the door of their first love. It comes highly recommended by me, and as I sit here listening to a seven year old break up CD, I am truly inspired by everything I just read. I won’t be revealing the ending to you. That, you have to find out for yourselves. But I will tell you this. This book is pivotal reading, and me? I’m sitting here wondering what my first love thinks of me right now. Somewhere in time, Steve Kluger has me wondering if the one that got away will ever truly be gone. The resonance of this is never lost on a true romantic.