Cover image for Why I'm like this : true stories
Why I'm like this : true stories
Kaplan, Cynthia.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Morrow, [2002]

Physical Description:
viii, 212 pages ; 22 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN2287.K23 A3 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PN2287.K23 A3 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PN2287.K23 A3 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PN2287.K23 A3 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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I wonder if there is any way I can tell this story and have it seem like I did it in the name of those dolphins that get caught in the tuna nets. Meet Cynthia Kaplan, whose debut collection of personal stories is so much fun to read because of her complete and utter willingness to tell the God's honest truth.

And it isn't pretty.

Kaplan takes us on a hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking journey through her unique, uncensored world, from her first bungled romantic encounters (No, really, what was I supposed to do?) to her terrifying tropical honeymoon. From her first, unsung theatrical experiences at summer camp (I opened the script and saw that I had only one line for the entire first half of the play, and that line consisted of one word, wawa) to a starring role in an independent film (Two months after the film screens in New York, my father-in-law passes away...and it is intimated to me more than once that seeing me locked in an erotic embrace with a black woman hastened his decline.).

We also meet Kaplan's family, almost lovingly rendered in her razor-sharp prose: Her gadget-obsessed father; her mother, who, if you should want to know, is Fine; her eccentric Florida grandmother (I want you to have this. And this. One day. When I'm dead.); her New York grandmother, with whom she discovers she shares an innate sense of spite (Seething is something one can reasonably do for a lifetime, if one is so inclined); her fearless husband, whom she engages in an ongoing battle over which of them is the most popular person in their apartment; and finally, her vengeful, power-hungry, one-year-old son.

Kaplan has a wonderfully original voice, almost painfully precise, and yet, it's a lot like the one in our heads, the one that most of us are only willing to listen to late at night, in the dark, maybe locked in a closet. So what a relief it is that someone finally admits that she is afraid of nearly everything under the sun, including moths; that she is jealous even of people whose lives are on the verge of collapse; and that she has, at times, tried to pass for a gentile (I didn't like carrying the burden of two thousand years of persecution around while everyone else looked so fancy free.)

After reading Why I'm Like This, you might just take a good look at your life, (or at the life of a truffle pig, as Kaplan does), and realize that even though it's not perfect, it's yours, and that's something.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

From her opener--«There was always one girl at camp whom everyone hated»--to her conclusion about the inner lives of truffle pigs, actress-monologist Kaplan consistently amuses while cutting surprisingly deep. Never content to be merely clever, she probes, in these professed «true stories,» the reasons why we manage to attach so much importance to self-justification without ever questioning it. Each story presents another element that in one way or another has shifted or reinforced Kaplan's view of people and their relationships. Whether observing the suffering of Alzheimer's, waiting tables, or trying a new therapist, Kaplan usually finds herself in the same place, wondering whether contentment with what one has or the aspiration for something more is the nobler state of mind. In the end, it seems, we are all truffle pigs, lauded for our keen senses of smell but never allowed to keep the ultimate prize for ourselves. Whether that is good or bad remains to be seen. Will Hickman.



Why I'm Like This True Stories Chapter One Queechy Girls There was always one girl at camp whom everyone hated. It had nothing to do with cliques or teams or personal dislikes, and it was not even that everyone had discussed it and a consensus had been raised based upon certain irrefutable evidence. It was just like everyone hated lima beans and the color brown. It was obvious and it was universal, so it didn't require organization. Everyone at Queechy Lake Camp hated Lisa Hope Mermen. There were no reasons why and there were a million reasons why. Her breasts were too large and her hair was limp. She had probably had her period since she was ten. She was a very mediocre athlete. She was not nor ever would be considered coltish. She was nice to everyone and some people hate that. She had no friends and some people took that as a sign. She had two first names and insisted on using both. At best, she was ignored. At worst, she was teased and bullied and shoved into the lake. Tricks were played on her, food stolen from her. Intimate articles of her clothing, particularly her brassiere and large to-the-waist panties, were raised on the flagpole in the morning just before assembly. There they were buffeted unkindly by the Maine breeze, these colors of the enemy territory, to be saluted by smirking, suntanned cuties. Why was she still here, Lisa Hope Mermen? Why did she return summer after summer to a camp where a philosophy of equality symbolized by a de rigueur camp uniform of simple white midi blouses and navy shorts still failed to work in her favor because her midi blouse required darts? Why didn't her parents switch her to music camp or send her to Europe where everyone had limp hair? Queechy Lake Camp was certainly the most beautiful girls' camp in Maine. It was situated on a tree-topped hill which gracefully sloped down to the edge of the lake, clear, blue-black, and serene. At the high end of the camp the bunks formed a large circle around a perfectly manicured blanket of grass, unlike the bunks at Pine Forrest and Bluebird Lake, which were dotted willy-nilly throughout the woods. At the center of the circle was the aforementioned flagpole. As night fell, this happy configuration of lodgings, their lights winking in the dusk, resembled nothing so much as a shoreline of exclusive summer cottages; the darkening courtyard, a navy lake. Paradise. Then, a little lower down, there was Queechy House, an enormous green Adirondack affair standing exactly as it had for almost one hundred years, its plaque-covered walls a testament to the overachievements of past Queechy girls: Best Field Hockey, Best Basketball, Best Waterskiing. The Archery Award. The Craft Award. The Queechy Spirit Prize. On one side of Queechy House there were the living room and the commissary and the mail room, and on the other side were the dining room and the kitchen (which no one ever saw except on Cinnamon Toast Nights, when everyone in your bunk got to go in and eat as much cinnamon toast as they could. The record, set by Rose Bunnswanger in 1957, was something like forty-nine pieces). Behind Queechy House was a gathering of humongous old pine trees and beneath the trees were twenty or so Adirondack chairs, painted dark green. This spot was called Beneath the Pines, without sarcasm. Team rallies happened here, and Friday night services. if you were friends, one of you sat in the seat and one of you perched on the wide armrest, so you were connected, so there was no mistaking it. Every building had a name. Please Come Inn and Nellie's Nest and The Barn and Hill House and Mildred, just Mildred, after an English lacrosse counselor who perished in the bombing of Dresden. She had gone there with false papers to search for two elderly cousins who were believed to have been in hiding. There was a field hockey field and a lacrosse field and two softball fields and there were tennis courts and volleyball courts and basketball courts and sailing and canoeing and waterskiing. And there was kickball and newcomb for the younger girls. The field hockey and lacrosse counselors came from England, like Mildred, because the English know those sports best. There were no socials or dances with boys' camps because Queechy girls were renowned for their winning combination of athletic ability, teamwork, and pep, and pitting them against each other for the attentions of pimply-faced, perpetually engorged (that's Deb Edeistein's word, not mine) boys from, say, Camp Tonkahanni, might undermine the confidence of even the most spirited, talented Queechy girl, not to mention threaten many deep friendships. I, for one, was perfectly happy not to have to deal with some dopey tennis nerd trying to guess my bra size. There were male counselors, of course, but it was not the same because they were all over eighteen. There was Bill Ski and Mark Ski and Jamie Canoe and Jack Tennis and Bill Tennis and Chris Swim and Mike Softball. There was Somebody Riding whose name I never remembered because I hated riding. And there was Corey Silver Shop whom everyone assumed was gay even though most of us had no idea what we were talking about. There was a theater called Marion's Tent, though no one remembered Marion and there was no tent. My theatrical career at Queechy Lake Camp was distinguished by many memorable performances as the second lead; a girl named Wanda Massey always got the starring role. For seven summers, I was the male half of nearly every romantic coupling written for the musical theater. I was Oscar to her Charity, Captain Von Trapp to her Maria, Tony to her Maria. She was, metaphorically speaking, always Maria. The very moment parts were posted and scripts handed out, each of us would rush to the edge of some grassy slope to count our lines. The more . . . Why I'm Like This True Stories . Copyright © by Cynthia Kaplan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Why I'm Like This: True Stories by Cynthia Kaplan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.