It’s even more rare when a book has us on page 33 before we’ve realized that we’re standing like a moron on the subway platform and three trains have passed us by.
Enter Sam the Cat (Random House), Matthew Klam’s debut collection of short stories which hits stores today. Excerpted in The New Yorker, given raves in Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and Jane, the 243-page collection of gritty short stories is the most riveting thing we’ve picked up in some time. (The book jacket’s darn pretty, too).
You’re probably all too familiar with the men Klam writes about — you’re either dating one of them, are one of them, or are pretending NOT to be one of them. They fetishize women’s private parts, philander shamelessly, screw up a best friend’s wedding … They’re the self-admitted “original hopeless lover(s)”—complicated, sex-obsessed, and pathetic. But they’re somehow sweet (and they know love, they really do! See page 126!).
What redeems it all is Klam’s writing: a voice that is remarkably dead-on, crass yet poetic, never frilly, funny, self-mocking and profoundly human.
After all, how many writers can write “she threw her tongue down his throat like a waterlogged sneaker” and get away with it?
(But lest you get too excited, the first story has already been optioned by Cameron Crowe’s production company).
Sam the Cat
What you remember about an old girlfriend is perfect. Even the horrible parts are fine. Especially when you don’t have anything else going, the memories of her are lethal. In my office I have an ad from a magazine hanging above the desk. It’s of an old girlfriend who is a model, and I’ve been thinking about her for days. It has been a long time since our paths have crossed, and for that I humbly thank God. But I think if I had her here right now I’d marry her.
All of my girlfriends wore their hair the same way — long and straight, with bangs in the front. They all liked sex, they were all good-looking, they liked the same kind of music I listen to—Rolling Stones, Little Feat, the Who. They all kept up with me, drinkingwise. They all had their own cars.
What was wrong with any of them? Paula was small and dark and depressed and smoked a lot of cigarettes. Sarah was a ski instructor, too full of herself; she pissed in the bed when she drank. Irene had knowledge of the New Age and did aura paintings and collected herb-tea boxes. Holly’s eyes crossed when she got tired. She was chunky and slept twelve hours a night. Boots had an interest in anal sex but acted lazy and as unimportant as a secretary. I went out with a Japanese girl, Makiko, who threatened to break up with me if I didn’t carry a clothes dryer up four flights of stairs to her apartment. And I dated a fashion model named Ann — the one in the picture — was actually bald because of a rare disease. Was I asking too much? I wanted real love. Where was that loyalty and trust? Where were the laughs? Under a rock? Inside a chocolate-chip cookie?
I wanted real love. Not a replay, not the same thing over and over again, not the same dinners, that same let’s rent a video tonight. I wanted love and everything — cut flowers, her wearing a beautiful dress, lingerie, seeing an incredible band, blow jobs in a convertible. Going Africa for Christmas — you know, the finest champagne, meeting movie stars together, amazing parties with a see-through dance floor. How many times do I have to hear myself explain this?