“His Stories...pierce and leap, are always bitingly funny, and are so, so alive....Klam is telling the truth while almost no one else is.”—Dave Eggars
“A knockout.”—The Oregonian
“Ruthlessly insightful...Klam has a major bead on women.”—Harper’s Bazaar
A finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
An Esquire Best Book of the Year
A New York Times Notable Book
A Kansas City Star Book of the Year
All raving reviews (I mean, sure, no one posts their rejections on their jacket covers, but this book has received notable praise). So why am I giving Matthew Klam’s Sam The Cat: And Other Stories a non-awesome review?
It goes like this: there are seven stories in Klam’s collection, six exclusively from the heterosexual male perspective, with the last story being a stab at the omniscient narrator. All of the stories revolve around the protagonist and their girlfriends/fiancees/wives; they’re cheating on them, ignoring them, trying to get them to have an abortion, or so emphatically in love with them they’re bringing fake guns to their girlfriend’s door just to scare them a little after they’ve had a fight. (Men of real caliber, am I right? Who else is really turned on right now?) They feel up other women on the beach. They eat their boss’ hooha on the ground of a construction site. This is the soon-to-be-married crowd. No wonder marriage doesn’t work; half the partnership consists of a straight guy and his penis.
Ok, ok, I guess that isn’t fair. But it does bring me to my biggest concern with Sam The Cat: And Other Stories—several of the men depicted in these stories take absolutely no responsibility for their dicks. It just gets hard on its own accord. It just inserts itself into places without their having any control over it. Oops; broke their marriage vows. Wasn’t their fault—their penis made them do it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Men can get sexually aroused against their will, same as women. But, just because the men in these stories get sexually aroused doesn’t mean they need to act upon those hormones and the blood surging to their crotches. They could go cool off. Frustrating, but a bit more responsible.
The flip side to this is the outdated concern these protagonists experience when their significant others get aroused:
She lay between the rows of corn on the bedspread and let me touch her and wanted more.
‘I like that,’ she said, pulling at me.
It terrified me when she acted like a slut. I said, ‘Let me get unbuckled.’
Because, as we all know, it’s fine when a man wants to screw some girl, but when a woman wants to get screwed? What a slut. And from another story:
At the end they’d done it so hard—Rich fucked Gynnie so hard he forgot he was marrying her.
According to this world view, you can’t fuck your wife really hard because you’re marrying her. Marriage is supposed to kill the sex life, and after the “I do”s you’re only supposed to make sweet, missionary style love to each other once every two weeks (optimally, on or after pay day). This is perhaps a truer reason for failed marriages; people who are sexually voracious don’t just lose their sexual drive once they enter a social-economical agreement. The woman who liked to be spanked will still want a good spanking after she’s married, just as the guy who liked to be tied up won’t drop his ropes in the trash once he’s found the one he wants to be with for the rest of his life. The people who believe that their sexual enjoyment has to stop once their enter marriage vows wonder why their relationship isn’t fulfilling them the way it did before. To stop doing the sexual activities that a couple performs before marriage would be to seriously maim the sex life thereafter, and considerably lead to a less fulfilling marriage. To promise wild and zany shower sex with the lover before the chapel would be to imply wild and zany shower sex after, simply because it’s something that they both enjoy. And if one of the pair doesn’t enjoy it, then they had better speak up, or expect soap in unwelcomed places until someone dies or files divorce papers.
And then gets themselves a divorce ring! I sort of want to get married and divorced, just so I could wear a one of these.
...*sigh* Jewelry. But yes. Where were we?
Sam The Cat: And Other Stories adheres to a certain group of men of which I wouldn’t be interested in obtaining entry to. Their ideals about women appear old-fashioned and tired (“major bead on women,” Harper’s Bazaar? Really? Did you not read the collection?).
Unless you’re the kind of guy who thinks about his dick and where he could stick it every six seconds, I probably wouldn’t recommend this book. Not so awesome.
And by the way, it took me forever to grasp the placement of the title on cover. I didn’t realize it was at that location, in that shape, for a reason. Here’s me, reading this book all over town, with people giving me off-colored sideways glances in Starbucks and Pei Wei...kind of embarrassing, really.