News & Politics

Sam the Cat and Other Stories

“For all their raunchiness, the stories are surprisingly moving.”

The protagonists of DC writer Klam’s debut collection are young, male, WASPy, and bordering on neurotic. They want status, beautiful women, and brand names—Cole Haan shoes, for example. They e-mail wedding plans and eat sushi. They stay in relationships because “it was easy—and at the same time it sucked shit.”

If Klam’s book were a drinking game, you’d be sloshed awfully fast if you drained the cup every time he used the f-word or described a woman’s anatomy. His descriptions of sex lives are so pungent that the title story sparked a debate at the New Yorker as to whether the magazine could publish it.

Yet for all their raunchiness, the stories are surprisingly moving. His characters yearn for love, meaning, and success, and Klam’s perception and humor cut to their hearts. One narrator attends a party even though he doesn’t want to. “Things happen at parties that your friends talk about for weeks, sometimes for years,” he explains. “You can’t miss them. You can’t get in on a great joke after the fact.”

Another attends an East Coast power wedding. A lifetime of competition and insecurity explode at story’s end as he offers the groom a toast: “How come you never call me back anymore, you fat, pusillanimous, popcorn-eating, obsequious, spermy, whoring, curry-barfing ass-licker?”

It’s hard to say which are more shocking: Klam’s endings or his word choices.

Matthew Klam

Random House