Warning: Rated R Material. Do you know Tosh from Comedy Central? The first 13 pages of Wally Klam’s Sam the Cat and Other Stories had me feeling as if maybe Klam had channeled the comedian (or vice versa) for the narrator’s voice. Yes, very funny, and yes, sometimes appalling.
I get that some people are addicted (or some other word) to having sex with as many people as possible, and I get that it’s eventually a very lonely lifestyle, but like a lot of other unhealthy habits (snorting lines of cocaine comes to mind) I don’t need to read hundreds of pages for this feature of a character to be established. Even if that’s all Matthew Klam’s book, Sam the Cat and Other Stories, was going to be (it is a lot more) it might have been worth reading anyway.
Klam can be irreverent in the voice of his characters. He’ll give it to you straight, right from the mouth of some of the most sluttish (and what else?) men you’ve ever met. Here’s the commentary of one character who suddenly finds himself sexually attracted to his girlfriend’s male friend: “I made myself fuck Louise. I didn’t want to—and she was the very picture of unconscious—but I had to…. Was I all of a sudden gay? I went to sleep one night and woke up a homo?” The voice of this particular character is the one who gives the collection its name. “Sam the cat,” he tells us, “he bad and naughty.”
Beginning the second story, I was thinking maybe I was hearing from the same character. Seeing as how I’d just read Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad, and that I’m in the middle of the publication of my own collection of overlapping stories, my mind has been stuck on looking hard for connections and making sense of them. The narrators are different in each story. This one’s in a slightly more serious relationship, and here he listens to his brother who speculates as to why he might be sterile:
“I smoked pot.”
“Pot doesn’t do anything.”
“Think about all those gay guys out there with good sperm who don’t even use it.”
“They use it.”
“How do you know?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Each story in the collection seems to contain a male narrator (except for the last one) who is in a more “serious” relationship with a woman. We are taken from “Sam the Cat” on the prowl doing as many women as he can—perhaps as a way of proving to himself that he is NOT gay—all the way to a marriages and couples attending marriages. The pages of this collection provide an uncensored peek into several male characters’ psyche, especially as pertaining to sexuality and emotional intimacy. There’s also quite a bit about men not being able to perform sexually. After all—as my wife had to point out to me (duh!)—there is a guy’s crotch front and center on the cover.