Almost Like Being in Love: A Novel

Almost Like Being in Love: A Novel

by Steve Kluger


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A high school jock and nerd fall in love senior year, only to part after an amazing summer of discovery to attend their respective colleges. They keep in touch at first, but then slowly drift apart.

Flash forward twenty years.

Travis and Craig both have great lives, careers, and loves. But something is missing .... Travis is the first to figure it out. He's still in love with Craig, and come what may, he's going after the boy who captured his heart, even if it means forsaking his job, making a fool of himself, and entering the great unknown. Told in narrative, letters, checklists, and more, this is the must-read novel for anyone who's wondered what ever happened to that first great love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060595838
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/11/2004
Series: Harper Perennial
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 360,119
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Steve Kluger has written extensively on subjects as far-ranging as World War II, rock 'n' roll, and the Titanic, and as close to the heart as baseball and the Boston Red Sox. He lives in Santa Monica, California.

Read an Excerpt

Almost Like Being in Love

By Kluger, Steve


ISBN: 0060595833

Chapter One

Travis and Craig

The Beckley Bugle


All-star quarterback and shortstop Craig McKenna has been awarded Beckley's Victory Cup as the year's most outstanding athlete, in the first unanimous vote since the Cup was instituted in 1943. Leading the Black-and-Grey to a 10–0 gridiron record in the fall, and with an unassailable eleven-game hitting streak in the spring, McKenna will be presented with the Cup at commencement exercises next month -- a fitting farewell as he departs for Harvard and law school in September. Way to go, Craigo!


Three weeks ahead of the curve, Travis Puckett is the first to submit his completed Senior Project to Mr. Naylor and the English Department. Puckett -- this year's Sheet Monitor in the dorm's laundry room -- has titled his thesis, "Put the Blame on Mame." In it, he examines the purported ties between Patrick Dennis' fictional aunt and the Marxist-Leninist dogma of the late 1940s. "Auntie Mame was a despot," he insists. "The House Un- American Activities Committee would have had her shot on sight." If you say so, Trav.


This year's spring play, produced by Beckley's boys and Mary Immaculate's girls, will be Lerner & Loewe's timeless and everpopular classic, Brigadoon. Under the capable direction of art teacher Pauline Hawkins, the musical will run for three performances during the weekend before commencement. Though the leads have already been cast (sorry, guys), Mrs. Hawkins advises this reporter that "we still need a stage crew." Those willing to volunteer should do so immediately. All others will be drafted.



English Assignment
My Obituary
by Craig McKenna

(Note to Mr. Naylor: I'm pretending it's being written for the Village Voice, so there may be some profane words in it. But not alot.)

A legend has left us -- buried beneath the epitaph he long ago chose for himself: CRAIG McKENNA, LAID AT 15. And who among us can forget the many things he was?

A world-famous Jets quarterback who threw a 98-yard pass during sudden death in Super Bowl XVI. Namath shit a brick.

A world-famous Red Sox slugger who single-handedly brought the World Series title back to Boston for the first time since 1918.

A world-famous rock and roller who packed the Garden with his bass guitar, his T-shirt off, his jeans way tight, and sweat pouring off the body that made them all horny.They called it McKennaMania.

A world-famous attorney who wasn't afraid to go after pain-in-the-ass defendants like U.S. Steel, the Mafia, and France.

And finally a world-famous gigolo who left a string of broken-hearted heiresses strewn across four continents.

He will be missed.

Yeah, right. The one time I accidentally said "hell" in front of Naylor, he threw up on Othello.

The way I've got it figured, there's three ways I can pull this off -- and one's only a maybe.

  1. Bite the bullet, see if it flies, and hope that Harvard's not allowed to take back an admissions certificate even if I flunk English at zero hour.
  2. Sweet-talk Kerry Fusaro, Tom Lee, or Mike Scherago into making changes, but don't hold your breath. Everybody knows that jocks can't handle words with more than one syllable in them. Except me.
  3. (This one's the maybe.) Ask Travis Puckett, the Hello Dolly guy. Even with the blue Van Heusen shirts he's smart, teachers like him, and he was the only one of us who volunteered for Brigadoon without getting threatened first. Come to think of it, he also hasn't said Word One to me in four years, even when we pass each other in the hall. Maybe I called him something slimy in ninth grade back in the days when I was still an asshole. Or maybe he just doesn't like me. (How is that possible?)

Stick with Number 2. You're better off with a buddy who can't spell than an enemy who can.


Excerpted from Almost Like Being in Love by Kluger, Steve Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide


A high school jock and nerd fall in love senior year, only to part after an amazing summer of discovery to attend their respective colleges. They keep in touch at first, but then slowly drift apart. Flash forward twenty years.

Travis and Craig both have great lives, careers, and loves. But something is missing ... Travis is the first to figure it out. He's still in love with Craig, and come what may, he's going after the boy who captured his heart, even if it means forsaking his job, making a fool of himself, and entering the great unknown. Told in narrative, letters, checklists, and more, this is the must-read novel for anyone who's wondered what ever happened to that first great love.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Travis and Craig meet in 1978 and forge a friendship that becomes true love. Neither of them seem to experience much angst about being gay. Was this realistic for this time and place? Why or why not? Was it believable that Gordo was accepting of Travis's sexuality?

  2. Travis had managed to make himself "invisible" to the rest of the school to avoid being bullied. When he becomes friends with Craig, he loses this defense. What other ways does Craig change Travis? How does Travis change Craig?

  3. Craig suffers no repercussions from his classmates because of his relationship with Travis, even when Craig publicly rescues Travis from the school bully by pelting him with baseballs. How does this affect their relationship? How does Travis rescue Craig?

  4. Discuss the ways in which Travis and Craig's magical summer mirrors the story of Brigadoon, where the characters come to life one day every100 years. Are there other parts of the story that remind you of Brigadoon? What about other musicals?

  5. Could an obsessive neatnik like Travis actually live with a slob such as Gordo? Aside from comic relief, how does their relationship push the narrative forward? Can straight and gay men forge strong bonds, without sexual tension, as Gordo and Travis do?

  6. After they part, Travis and Craig create their own extended families, which ultimately become intertwined. How would you define "family" as it means to the characters in this novel?

  7. Is dating in real life as dismal as Travis's dating life post-Craig? Is a checklist such as Travis's useful for finding love? What would be on your checklist? To what lengths would you go for a chance at love?

  8. During Travis's quest to find Craig, he nearly decides to stop several times. What keeps him pushing forward? Craig tried to find Travis one time after they parted. Does this mean Craig doesn't love Travis as much as Travis loves him? Why did Travis wait so long?

  9. Describe how Gordo's relationship with his father changes. Does Craig's relationship with his mother change? How do you know? Compare Gordo's relationship with his father to Craig's relationship with his mother.

  10. Eventually, all the characters find love in Almost Like Being in Love. Does the story end in the way you wanted? Why did the author choose this title?

About the Author

Steve Kluger shook hands with Lucille Ball when he was 12. He's since lived an additional 39 years, but nothing much registered after that. A card-carrying baby boomer whose entire existence was shaped by the lyrics to Abbey Road, Workingman's Dead and Annie Get Your Gun, he has written extensively on subjects as far-ranging as World War II, rock and roll, and the Titanic, and as close to the heart as baseball and the Boston Red Sox (which frequently have nothing to do with one another). He's also forged a somewhat singular path as a civil rights advocate, campaigning for a "Save Fenway Park" initiative (which qualifies as a civil right if you're a Red Sox fan), counseling gay teenagers, and -- on behalf of Japanese American internment redress -- lobbying the Department of the Interior to restore the baseball diamond at the Manzanar National Historic Site. He plans to run for public office himself, provided he can be persuaded not to propose Carol Channing's birthday as a federal holiday. Meanwhile, he donates half of his spare time to Lambda Legal Defense and gives the rest of it to his nieces and nephew: Emily and Noah, Bridgette, Audrey, Elisa and Paloma -- the six cutest kids who ever lived.

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Almost Like Being in Love 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 60 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I devoured Almost Like Being in Love and found myself getting miffed at life¿s duties that took me away from it (sleeping, driving kids, making meals, etc.) I would have read it all in one sitting had I only been able to. Steve Kluger can take baseball and flagrant, in-your-face gayness (two subjects that probably wouldn¿t jump off the bookshelf at me) and make me beg for more. Kluger¿s ability to use nonconventional ways to portray his characters is uncanny. His characters are intriguingly developed and brought to life through diary entries, faxes, memos, emails, menus, and even court documents. His ability to create a cohesive story with only a miniscule amount of narrative is wondrous. Very few authors could have made this strategy work, and Kluger was clearly successful! Kluger¿s affection for his characters is clear and contagious. He makes them all very human and he deals with their foibles with endearing warmth and humor. He also demonstrates to us that this conglomeration of varied characters is a family in the true sense of the word. The amount of caring and compassion and acceptance illustrated in this book could easily be a lesson to all of us, no matter what orientation, preference, gender, religion, or politics we follow. Although it doesn¿t initially look or sound like it, this is a book about family values, friendship, support, and loyalty.
ocgreg34 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In 1978, during their senior year of high school, all-star jock Craig McKenna and the brainy Travis Puckett somehow manage to meet and waste most of that last year of school falling in love, Travis encouraging Craig to keep up with his singing and to believe in himself and Craig putting up with Travis' idiosyncrasies like knowing the birth date and the former address of Judy Garland as well as making lists. During that summer, they trick their parents into allowing them to find an apartment together, to spend as much time together before each heads to college in a different town. But the Summer ends too soon, with promises of writing constantly to one another, which lasts for a while, slowing to a trickle until the letters stop altogether on both sides.Twenty years later, Travis -- a college history professor who somehow has managed to get the football team interested in American History -- still hasn't gotten over his feelings for Craig and compares his would-be suitors to him. He finally decides once and for all to make up for the time he lost to search for his first real love. With the help of his college roommate Gordo, Travis sets off cross country, his only lead being Craig's mother in St. Louis.Through various bits of correspondence -- news clippings, emails, answers to history test questions, letters, comments on Websites, lists -- Steve Kluger's "Almost Like Being in Love" tells a charming and humorous tale of boy-meets-boy, boy-loses-boy, boy.... (I don't want to spoil it.) At first, I thought the format would interfere with the story, but instead, it enhanced each of the characters and allowed more insight into their personalities. What better way to show just how neurotic a Travis is than to have him ask his students how he should handle the whole Craig situation in the form of an essay question on a history exam? The format also allowed the witty, sarcastic humor of each character to shine through, and I found myself laughing out loud throughout much of the book. Though I will mention that each character has the same sense of humor, which could easily have made this a one-note book, but the wit and humor is at such a constant pace that I didn't mind.For me, this turned out to be a true romantic comedy, and I enjoyed reading every single joke and twist in the tale.
BBsoQ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best romantic comedy I ever read. I love this story to pieces! The writing is snarky and delightful. The characters are all loveable and amazing. The premise is not new but the author make it so much fun to read with the wacky casts.
kayceel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
-Travis and Craig met and fell in love in high school, but drifted apart after attending college on opposite sides of the country. 20 years later, Travis realizes that Craig was the one, and embarks on a cross-country road trip to get to Craig, and help him realize that Travis is the one for him, too. Like Last Days of Summer, it¿s compiled of letters but also of journal entries. Not as fabulous as LDOS, but delightful in its own way ¿ the characters are funny and truly likable, and it made me want to fall in love again¿
dottyreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book three years ago and reread it after having read Kluger's My Most Excellent Year. The two books are both very enjoyable but share many common elements. Epistolary novel -- check; gay romance and straight romance -- check; likeable youngster in somewhat troubled circumstances -- check; multiple first-person viewpoints -- check; information about baseball, American history, and musical theater -- check. And so forth. But if you liked this book be sure and read My Most Excellent Year -- it's even better.
starlight70 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read for the second time Almost Like Being in Love. I first read it years ago. I fell in love with the book then, and I am still in love with the book. I think I know why I loved the book the first time I read it. Among the many depressing gay themed movies and novels, this book stood out. There was no gay-bashing, fearful life as a closet gay, desperate seek for parents' acceptance of sexual orientation etc. And no tragic death ending for the main gay characters.This book was written in a way that there was hope for gays to fall in love, to be in love and to stay in love like any other couples. It was a breath of fresh air, to be reading a book that dealt with the romance and humor of being in love. I am still grateful to Kluger for doing that.Yes, at times,the writing became a little complicated for me. At times, the sarcastic tones, although funny, were not helping me to digest the flow of the story fast enough. Still, this book was worth the time it took to complete reading. That 'looking up' part? Got me nearly choked up. Well, I needed that. After laughing through some plots, it was a nice turn of emotion.
allreb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is completely charming. One of the main characters is a neurotic history professor; the other is an activist lawyer. They're both endearing, and they both adore baseball (a plus in my book). It's the story of how they fall in love, lose track of each other, and find each other again years later. This is a pretty quick read, told in the form of letters, lists, and journal entries; a style that usually makes me crazy, but works well for these characters. It only loses points for me because the end feels rather rushed -- it skips from the climax to some time later and, while it's still beautiful and heart-warming, I wish there was more about how the relationships played out in the time that was skipped.
elfgirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As soon as you open it, it's immediately obvious that this is not your normal novel. The story is told through journal entries, emails, Interlibrary Loan, phone books and other pseudo-epistolary elements. The story is wonderful, and Travis is a wonderful character. (There were occassional exclamations of "Travis, you dumbass!" from both me and Girl v1.0 when we each read it. Travis is... Oh, Travis.) The story may seem a little slow at first, but it picks up quickly. I read it all in one sitting.Verdict: Buy this book, OMG. It's a road trip novel with true love and organized pimentos. READ IT.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read this book into the double digits. My first copy is an advance reader edition and i have bought it twice. So yes , i would say read it.
brokendreamboi More than 1 year ago
There might be a story in this book, if you can look past the horrible style. I wasn't exactly sure when the main characters fell in love, but suddenly there was a 20 year time jump. This book provided very few connectable scenes. I skimmed a lot of it because most of the information was so irrelevant. How does this book have more than 2 stars? Read at your own risk.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's always been difficult for me to find quality books featuring non stereotypically gay characters in lead roles, and this book does NOT disappoint. The characters are so relatable and the book is so funny and charming, it deals with big issues without being melodramatic. The book would make such a lovely romantic comedy film. Ahhhhh well, I can dream can't I? Highly recommended for any hopeless romantics out there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maybe it was a case of overhype, but I pushed myself to finish this book. I kept hoping I would find a moment when the book would click for me, but it never did.
D_MacGowan More than 1 year ago
Another great novel from the current King Of Epistolary Fiction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like it a lot but the first chapter confused me. The format was wierd and their relationship moved too quickly. I also found it strange that wheb they showered tigether annd saw each ither naked it was nbd but when they kissed it was like OMG
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed very much but the ending was predictable
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed book very much ;). I mean what it you like someone i dont talk to them and you got a good life and you have alife and after all those years you finllay remeber ? I true loved this book and i hope you do too.... Enjoy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I havent laughed this hard from a book in a long time. Wonderful.
mbphil More than 1 year ago
Hands down one of the funniest books I've read in my life. Highly recommended!
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