Op-Ed

Three memoir picks for April

The deadpan title of Bruce Eric Kaplan’s memoir, I Was a Child(Blue Rider, $25.95), would suit pretty much every memoir ever written. Of course, Kaplan, best known for his New Yorker cartoons, had a childhood like no one else’s, and his droll book demonstrates exactly how unusual it was. In a word: quite. Kaplan, who grew up in New Jersey in the late ’60s and early ’70s, had the kind of upbringing you might associate with a character on “Seinfeld” — and that makes sense since he wrote for the show. There’s a lot of that program’s brand of comic neurosis here. “I am always excited for the next thing, whatever that next thing is — sadly, this can happen after starting what had just been the next thing moments earlier,” Kaplan writes. “I often start thinking about what I will have for dinner as soon as I take my first bite of lunch.” The book builds slowly, as Kaplan strings together short, seemingly disconnected memories — of holidays (“My mother gave out pencils for Halloween”), trips to the shoe store (“I never understood who Buster Brown and his dog were, or what Buster was winking about”) and so on — accompanied by his signature minimalist drawings. The emotional impact of these vignettes accrues as the book approaches its denouement: the decline and death of Kaplan’s parents. (Kaplan has also written for “Six Feet Under.”) His slender book is a deceptively tender homage to his family, flaws and all. As he writes in the dedication, “This book is for my parents, who tried.” Read full article >>






The deadpan title of Bruce Eric Kaplan’s memoir, I Was a Child(Blue Rider, $25.95), would suit pretty much every memoir ever written. Of course, Kaplan, best known for his New Yorker cartoons, had a childhood like no one else’s, and his droll book demonstrates exactly how unusual it was. In a word: quite. Kaplan, who grew up in New Jersey in the late ’60s and early ’70s, had the kind of upbringing you might associate with a character on “Seinfeld” — and that makes sense since he wrote for the show. There’s a lot of that program’s brand of comic neurosis here. “I am always excited for the next thing, whatever that next thing is — sadly, this can happen after starting what had just been the next thing moments earlier,” Kaplan writes. “I often start thinking about what I will have for dinner as soon as I take my first bite of lunch.” The book builds slowly, as Kaplan strings together short, seemingly disconnected memories — of holidays (“My mother gave out pencils for Halloween”), trips to the shoe store (“I never understood who Buster Brown and his dog were, or what Buster was winking about”) and so on — accompanied by his signature minimalist drawings. The emotional impact of these vignettes accrues as the book approaches its denouement: the decline and death of Kaplan’s parents. (Kaplan has also written for “Six Feet Under.”) His slender book is a deceptively tender homage to his family, flaws and all. As he writes in the dedication, “This book is for my parents, who tried.” Read full article >>



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Three memoir picks for April