Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Klam Bake

I'm way, way behind the curve on this, since the book was published in 2000, but I wanted to put in one more plug for Matthew Klam's Sam the Cat and other stories.

I wrote earlier that Klam wrote like a dark, male Lorrie Moore. Let me amend that to say that he writes like the evil love child of Lorrie Moore and Steve Almond. But that's not meant to imply that his stories are derivative. No, Klam has staked out his own territory. He is the king of the love-hate relationship.

Most of the stories in Sam the Cat, as well as "Adina, Astrid, Chipewee, Jasmine," his recent story in The New Yorker, are about men oscillating between adoration of their partners and a desire to see them dead at the bottom of a river. This contrast can be almost schizophrenic, but it works to keep the reader off balance and surprised (and laughing). Klam executes the surprises at the sentence level, over and over, giving the stories a very organic feel.

The title story, "Sam the Cat" (generously made available, in its entirety, at Klam's website), stands apart from the other stories, however. It's the tale of a guy who sees a sexy girl from across the room and approaches her, only to realize, after working himself into a state of arousal, that the sexy girl is just a long-haired guy. Every guy has had a similar experience, and it's more than slightly disorienting and weird. What happens afterwards to Klam's narrator is the one of the funniest things I've read in a long time.