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Sam the Cat: and Other Stories Paperback – May 29, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; First Edition edition (May 29, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375726616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375726613
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,016,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Matthew Klam's male narrators in Sam the Cat hate and need women in equal measure. By and large they're not physically violent men, but they do possess a certain free-floating aggression--the byproduct of sad childhoods, dads who treated them like losers, and moms who weren't quite all there. Indeed, throughout this troubling, masterfully written collection of stories, women never seem truly present, however central they may be. As the typically indiscriminate narrator of "Not This" explains, his girlfriend "fit my idea of the supreme woman. Why? Who gives a shit. We fell in love."

In the title story, which catapulted the author into the spotlight when it ran in The New Yorker, a guy goes out looking to get laid, then finds himself hitting on a man in drag. Other potential mates turn out to be only nominally less ersatz, with eyes "like a plastic doll's." Klam's men know that they're supposed to locate love somewhere among these zombies, but they can't find it, and this fills them with irritation and angry longing. Cumulatively, his stories paint a grim picture indeed: one of a bitter, stifled heterosexuality, leading straight to violence or to varying degrees of lifelessness. His taut, spooky prose recalls another connoisseur of erotic disappointment, Lorrie Moore. But where Moore is partial to neurotic women, Klam's subject is the guy who wishes he could transcend himself and be redeemed from the small and angry America in which he's stuck. --Emily White --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Prosperous, morally addled young Americans wallow and flail in a glossy, unsettling consumer wonderland in Klam's unnervingly dead-on debut collection of seven long stories. Capturing contemporary speech and thought patterns as few writers can, Klam practically channels his protagonists, allowing them to inhabit him rather than the other way around. In the hilarious title story, a testosterone-crazed advertising executive is forced to reconsider his sexuality when he is unexpectedly attracted to another man. Klam's choppy, declarative sentences perfectly capture the comedy of a dissolute serial monogamist raging against self-discovery and the poignant confusion that such discovery brings. In "Linda's Daddy's Loaded," a wealthy father spoils his daughter and her husband so much that the couple is nearly driven apart, longing for the days when they struggled together in relative poverty. Deftly manipulating symbols and disjunctive prose, Klam explores the existential vacuum that threatens when the American Dream is obediently followed. "The Royal Palms," an O. Henry Award-winning story, is an elegantly composed tale in which the mutely explosive disappointments of a failed marriage are silhouetted against the backdrop of a Caribbean paradise. Other psychologically penetrating entries include "Not This," about a man who relishes the possibility of donating sperm to his pompous older brother's wife, and "Issues I Dealt With in Therapy," about the reunion of two college friends at a wedding and the collision of past idealism with recent imperatives of success. Throughout the collection, Klam demonstrates his mastery of the fine art of irony, exposing the nerve endings of his complex, often tormented, sometimes funny, characters, while allowing the reader to make his or her own judgments. (May) FYI: In 1999, Klam was named one of the 20 best young fiction writers in America by the New Yorker.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Matt Klam's stories will make you laugh and then they will make you think. He turns modern urban romance inside out with the precision of a laser surgeon. Klam's often irreverent and profane narrators provide an acerbic commentary on the romantic lives of the young and the rich as they struggle to deal with the spiritual and personal void they find themselves in as they pursue success.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Volkswagen Blues on February 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
When I read "Issues I Dealt With in Therapy" in the New Yorker, I thought it was one of the funniest short stories I'd ever read, and I still think that. However, Klam's New Yorker version of the story benefited immensely from an editor out to make it briefer and punchier, more focused. The version in "Sam the Cat and Other Stories" is about five pages longer, but it feels about twenty. And the only reason I'm telling this anecdote here is that, for me, this lack of punch and focus hurts a lot of the stories in the collection.
The funny moments in "Sam the Cat and Other Stories" are way too numerous to list in even the most abbreviated form, but, as one reviewer has pointed out already, some of them repeat themselves, so you'd probably have to list them twice. More troublesome is the repetition of mindset, as one narrator after another gets smelted into one mass of undelineated young white male insecurity and aggression. Part of why I read fiction is the way it's able to take me places; Klam only really ever takes you to one place, and not matter how much you like it and how funny it is, you will begin asking yourself where it all ends. I can't help but compare "Sam the Cat" to another young white male collection of stories, but one that really reaches a good degree of breadth and humanity, Paul Rawlins' Flannery O'Connor Award-winning "No Lie Like Love." Rawlins shows you a spectrum of experiences, while Klam seems overly enamored of the same one. Over. And over.
I still like the collection, and will probably read it again. (Hell, I'm teaching "Issues I Dealt With in Therapy" in a Short Fiction class next semester--the short version.) But I want to see its author stretch on his next effort. He's got way too much talent and style to be retreading the same tires for 200 pages.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mark Miller on August 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
My wife and I have been discussing this book for weeks since we both read it. I enjoyed the writing on EVERY PAGE -- how often can you say that about a book? My wife, on the other hand, was uncomfortable with some of the coarse language, graphic descriptions, and uninhibited reality of what many men feel in relationships and in other parts of their life. Relationships can be confusing, especially when you think about what you're supposed to feel, to do, etc. This book is an uncensored look at what many men feel, even though most (unlike the author, I guess) are careful not to reveal these thoughts. Some women (and men) may mistakenly find the book sexist or even misogynist, but the truth is, this book is very true -- and did I mention it's a great read? Take it to the beach, or take it to bed. But don't take it -- or yourself -- too seriously. If you can't appreciate anything else, enjoy the wonderful prose.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By JR Otto on May 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I recently re-read There Should Be A Name For It (in the New Yorker) and I was KNOCKED OUT AGAIN!I don't write online reviews for books -- but I have been waiting for this one for so long I figured I owed it to somebody. I have been following Matthew Klam's fiction in the New Yorker for a long time and what I have to say is these stories stay with me and make me think and argue with my boyfriend (in a good way) and keep coming back to me. He's one of my favorite writers -- I only wish he'd been writing longer so there would be more of his stuff for me to read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kevin M Burns on September 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
[[[[[From The Battalion]]]]]]
Sam the Cat is an original and feisty piece of American fiction. Klam takes a big torch and burns away pretense and facade. This collection of seven short stories disregards everybody's concerns and emotions but the teller's. In many ways, this novel is naked, but does not shy away from its nakedness - it runs into crowds.
The title story, "Sam the Cat," is about a guy who constantly attempts to find comfort in his life. He constantly dates women and enjoys sex in a vain attempt to settle into society.
At a bar, Sam's eyes follow a pair of legs from the ground up - along the calves, thighs, midsection, up the back, the neck, and finds himself convinced that this is what he is looking for. The head turns quickly and he is staring eye-to-eye with another man. This does not align with his world view, but he somehow finally feels comfortable.
This is the type of story Klam is going to tell. He deals with the emotions that people feel. He is bold and uncut and tells the whole truth. The truth is not that Sam is gay or straight, but that he is thinking, feeling and discovering.
In "There Should be a Name for It," Klam details a beautiful relationship of love and happiness that is interrupted by an unplanned pregnancy. Jack treats his wife Lynn disrespectfully and leaves her and her mother to deal with the pregnancy. The mother's only advice comes in a foreign language: aborto, that is, abortion. Jack's tragic abandonment, both emotionally and physically of Lynn is Klam's social commentary of the harsh reality women face.
Klam has a voice that is shamelessly honest. His article on romancing the drug ecstasy in the New York Times Magazine is a perfect example. He is relentless in his pursuit of accuracy.
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