SAM THE CAT by Matthew Klam


and Other Stories
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Debut collection from a young author who specializes in the meltdown of middle-class masculinity.

All these stories concern young men around the age of marriageability: fumbling, confused guys who can’t understand why life isn't giving them what they want. The title piece, one of the best here, is a slacker rewrite of Death in Venice in which we watch Sam, an alienated advertising drone, slowly debase himself before the beautiful boy with whom (unbeknownst to himself) he’s fallen in love. The remaining stories are resolutely straight-acting, with praise of the female posterior serving as a major motif. The heroes resemble each other so closely that, although Sam the Cat confesses to having an ex- girlfriend who used to wet the bed when drunk, it is Vince, in “Not This,” who gets teased for it. “Issues I Dealt with in Therapy” traces the narrator's increasingly hollow friendship with a hard-driving young politico, culminating in a mean-spirited, drunken wedding toast that is one of this often wry collection's few laugh-out-loud moments. Klam excels at reproducing the voices of entitled, self-loathing jerks, but when he strays from boy-at-the crossroads territory, the results are mixed. “European Wedding,` the only story written in the third person and the only one attempting multiple points of view, is by far the least successful. As Klam chronicles the misadventures of a hapless groom-to-be stranded in a French chateau with a near-exclusively feminine wedding party (the bride's name is Gynnie: get it?), the book's general tone of good-natured horniness shades into misogyny.

Compulsively readable, if limited in scope: stories that bode well for a young O. Henry–winner with talent to burn.

Pub Date: May 19th, 2000
ISBN: 0-679-45745-3
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2000


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