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Sam the Cat and Other Stories

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  616 ratings  ·  89 reviews
The New Yorker magazine named Matt Klam one of the twenty best young writers in America, and the seven stories that comprise Sam the Cat are all the proof we need.

Knowing, perceptive, and wickedly funny, Matt Klam loves his characters but spares them nothing: the swaggering womanizer Sam falls in love with a woman across a crowded room who, upon closer inspection, turns ou
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 29th 2001 by Vintage (first published May 16th 2000)
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Paul Bryant
Jun 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
It’s not on the scale of the moon landing hoax but there’s some kind of conspiracy going on to shut down some of America’s best short story writers. Consider these three cases:

Thom Jones (no, not the Delilah guy) - wrote three great collections, in 1993, 1995 and 1999 (The Pugilist at Rest, Cold Snap, and Sonny Liston was a Friend of Mine). He was on fire. Since then – nothing.

Wells Tower wrote a hair-raisingly brilliant collection called Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned in 2009. Since the
Aug 10, 2007 rated it liked it
Despite the fact that this is a collection of short stories that are all basically the same short story--emotional cripple of a man wounds women and doesn't know why--I still really enjoyed reading all of them. And I hope that he writes a novel, since clearly there's a character he has in mind to star. ...more
Frieda Vizel
Aug 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I felt about this work the way I feel about men whose charm, self loathing and articulation I mistake for insight and humanity. In other words, I felt disappointed. A sharp book, but soulless.

Here is how it is. At first I am delighted by the rare honesty, by the intimacy of a man willing to say all the things about women - the fucking and sweet asses and unwilling penises - that are generally unforgivable and silenced and punished. I am drawn to the funny commentary that is terrifyingly verbote
Patrick Faller
May 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Fair. The story "The Royal Palms" does something sort of risky for a guy like Klam, who seems interested in provocation as much as he's showing us the inner lives of guys most would write off as callow. But other stories seem disingenuous in terms of what they wanted. He doesn't quite go as far as Joshua Ferris does, using his characters as props in social satire; but he doesn't reach as generously toward the yearning behind the facade of masculinity, career, sex, money, as does a writer, say, l ...more
Jessica Robinson
Sep 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
Technically well-written but filled with identically unlikeable, pathetic narrators and tedious, meandering stories.
Asghar Abbas
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it

I had picked this up really expecting to hate it but ended up laughing. It was charming.

Witty would be a safe way to describe this.
John Luiz
Apr 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This much-acclaimed collection still may be one that average readers (and not book critics) will either love or hate. It's obvious why Klam has won so much critical phrase. He has a very distinct and unique voice. All of the stories are told in the 1st person except for the final story, "European Wedding," which rotates point of view among the bridge, groom, and an older man who thinks he's the bride's biological father. All of the narrators in the 1st person stories, and the groom in the final ...more
Aaron Ambrose
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A knockout. How do straight, white middle-class guys navigate a modern world that doesn’t want as many of them as there are? Matthew Klam has some ideas, and gives these guys a fair hearing - in all their sweating, aggrieved, semi-self-aware, basically decent and strikingly unfiltered glory. Frank, hilarious and devastating.
Sean Carman
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Klam writes in an original and thoroughly enjoyable voice. His loose style brilliantly captures the way people think, the way they use language, and the way they tell stories. That's the attraction of this collection, and it's enough to make it a truly enjoyable read. That and the forbidden, voyeuristic thrill of eavesdropping on the base, misogynistic observations of Klam's narrators, of course.

But as Patrick Faller suggested in his review (track down it down on this site if you can), Klam's c
Megan Jones
Oct 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Honestly, this can't even be a fair review reading it after the awesomely edgy work of Jonathan Ames. I loved Ames because of his honesty - brutal, in-your-face truth. That what I was expecting of Klam's work - an examination of real life, the honest truth behind so many typical American people. Maybe A.M. Homes style from the male perspective. Nope, what I got was a work about ordinary people, in ordinary situations, little climax, little humor - just the mundane life I live each day. And as re ...more
Feb 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
Once review I read here said that it was hard to read straight through, since the narrators sounded similar. I'd have to agree. I know better than to read most short story collections straight through, but I'm laid up right now. Many readers here commented on the misogynistic characters; I guess that is not entirely inaccurate. I saw the narrators as feeling trapped in horrible lives and hating themselves, and it just came out on women--of whom the men expected some sort of salvation. For what i ...more
Vanessa Wu
Jul 13, 2011 rated it liked it
I picked this up second-hand. It was published in 2000. It has 6 rainbow-coloured condoms on the front, still in their wrappers and 3 on the back no longer in their wrappers, possibly used.

For this reason I give it 3 stars. If all six condoms had been used it would have got 5 stars, because 5 is the max.

This gives you an idea of the kind of blokish insights and humour to expect. Is this fashionable? Maybe it was eleven years ago. Maybe not even then.

It's written in colloquial American, which mea
Ben Bush
Mar 19, 2017 added it
Shelves: read-in-2017
I went to a family reunion like this once, not mine: a TV sex therapist singing and sprawled across the piano, a racist nuclear technician, everyone falling off the wagon.

But aside from that—America circa 2000, as described here, is utterly unrecognizable, a foreign country. (It's hard to put my finger on it but these are the most pre-9/11 short stories I've ever read. For a sense of what happens to characters and short stories like these at that moment, check out Deborah Eisenberg's excellent T
Sharon Huether
In Sam the Cat; he describes his girlfriends as mostly skiers. In Not This: when visiting his brother. he had quite a surprise. In The Royal Palms; two couples befriend each other at a singles resort, having fun at the casino and the beach. In Linda's Daddy's loaded, a family visit get ugly. There Should be a Name for it. Understanding a woman in her kitchen. In Issues I Dealt with in Therapy. Attending a friends wedding and giving a rotten Toast. In European Wedding. Getting there was not all t ...more
Jul 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
Oddly enough, I picked up this book after listening to an old reading by Sarah Vowell. In her Q&A session, someone asked her favorite writers, and she mentioned Matthew Klam. So, admittedly, I had rather high expectations. I was not prepared for the misogynistic fluff of Sam the Cat, and other stories. From the perspective from a womanizing, possibly gay guy, it was a curious blend. And I kept hoping the stories would improve. Yet, the didn't. Klam must have other redeeming qualities I've yet to ...more
Hank Stuever
Jul 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Such a knack for awkwardness. Also, Matt Klam was the subject of a Style profile that I wrote back when this book came out; it was one of my favorite early assignments for The Washington Post. He's a very funny and pleasantly twisted kind of guy and not afraid to write about jerks, even if that meant running the risk that he himself would be perceived as a jerk. ...more
Dec 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: boys who like girls
Matthew Klam, write more books.
Sep 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
I recall Matthew Klam being hyped as the next big thing when these stories first appeared in magazines, but for whatever reason I ignored him until I heard him read a John Updike story and discuss it on a New Yorker podcast. I'm (admittedly) an Updike fan, and I thought Klam's comments were funny and self-deprecating, so I bought "Sam the Cat." The stories are smooth and easily digestible, like a light beer. Klam writes in a WASPy patois, not as inventive as Updike or Cheever, not as lyrical, mo ...more
Roberto Musa Giuliano
"The short story is a dying art form," says Stephen King (I'm paraphrasing liberally) in his introduction to 'Everything's Eventual', "and we need to save it. Go read a short story collection. 'Sam the Cat' by Matthew Klam, for instance."

Sure thing, Stevie, anything you ask for. I knew I had a copy of 'Sam the Cat' lying around, bought who knows when, who knows why (but I do know why: that's what a good cover design is for). So? All seven stories feature ostensibly different first person narrat
Vel Veeter
Apr 09, 2020 rated it liked it
I told my wife I might have a little Matthew Klam narrator in me and she was horrified because she had read this book years ago and it helped her to put name and face to the phenomenon of white American men of a certain bent.

These are several (fairly long) stories written clearly by a man in his 30s, looking back and thinking about men in their 20s. These men are so deeply in their 20s it’s painful and hurtful to see them acting. There is a lot of self-congratulating affirmation of personal choi
Stacy Helton
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was ok
I do not remember purchasing this 2000 collection of short stories by author Matthew Klam, entitled Sam the Cat, which consists of seven middling stories about the life of the middle class in the late 1990s. These stories, all of which appeared in The New Yorker (maybe that is why I bought the book), highlight minor disagreements between couples, usually with a creepy sexual component, and a tad of dated misogyny. Klam seems too tentative to address the incidents from a more sociological or psyc ...more
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
The last story, "European Wedding," moved this from three stars to four on its own. I haven't read a short story collection in years, so in a way this was a lot of fun.

I was unimpressed, though, with the repetitive nature of the male protagonist in each of the first five stories- and even a bit in the last one too. How many different ways can you write from the perspective of a man in a relationship who regularly- literally, from page to page, in fact- convinces himself that he's terrible, but h
Josh Luft
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know that Matthew Klam intended for these stories to be political when writing them in the 1990s, but in 2017, with the narrator of each a white heterosexual male, often angry, bitter, chauvinistic, frustrated, insecure, and vulnerable in their thoughts—if not actions, as well—it's a perfect time for white heterosexual men (which includes myself) to pick up a copy of this book and, in addition to delighting in the veracious voice and caustic humor, maybe use it as a spur for a bit of sel ...more
Sep 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
...and your point is?

That's what almost every story had me saying at the end. There are laugh-out-loud lines interspersed in so much pointless drivel, that this book could be condensed into one paragraph of golden comedy.

The point that did hit me on the head once I finished the book was, that it seems like the one thing modern love is most lacking is, sleep. Forget love, forget sex, sleep (or lack of it) features prominently in at least half the stories. It is, perhaps, the most universally rela
Pat Pujolas
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another re-read for 2017. I enjoyed this collection far more as a younger man. Now it seems emotionally immature. I can look past some slight misogyny, especially in a well-rounded character, but the descriptions of women's bodies and the acts of sexual intercourse are amateur at best. My favorite story is "Royal Palms" which alone is worth the cost of admission here. Just be forewarned: the content doesn't quite live up to the hype on the jacket. ...more
Matthew Tett
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great set of short fiction, mostly told through the first-person narrative voice of male characters. Most of the stories focus on relationships and their complexities - but Matthew Klam is particularly adept at observing the other side of a relationship, the side that isn’t seen but is thought about.
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book of short stories that i’ve read where it feels natural and i’m satisfied where each one ends. While I intensely dislike most of these male pro(?)tagonists, I’m certain that similar thoughts have crossed the mind of men i’ve dated.
Hannah Farrow
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great collection, disappointed with the last story.
Jul 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
You have to really like white guys who are rich and unhappy. In this environment, I'm tired or them ...more
Kat Stromquist
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Like an angrier, more sexually depraved Raymond Carver.
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Matthew Klam was named one of the twenty best fiction writers in America under 40 by The New Yorker. He’s a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Robert Bingham/PEN Award, a Whiting Writer’s Award, and a National Endowment of the Arts. His first book, Sam The Cat and Other Stories, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book of the Year in the category of first fiction, was selected as a Notable B ...more

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