Honey, I Killed The Cats

BOOK REVIEW by Willard Manus

Dorota Maslowska has been touted as "the hope of Polish literature." The young writer has just published her second novel in the USA (following up on 2005's "Snow White and Russian Red"), HONEY, I KILLED THE CATS (translated by Benjamin Paloff).

A comic novel, it had me chuckling from page one, thanks to
the author's irreverent take on modern life--and to her sharply-drawn anti-hero Farah ("call me Fah"), who is a neurotic, germophobic, sad-sack girl who lives on society's margins but manages to see right through its foibles and pretensions. Fah's best friend (at times) is the beautiful, acerbic Joanne, a hair-dresser who "gave off the appearance of a Russian girl coming home from New Year's every day of her life."

An unlikely twosome, Fah and Jo spend their time shopping, drinking and talking scathingly about men: "he was the type who doesn't wash his hands after he pees...He was the type who doesn't even unzip his fly to pee." They promise each other to stay away from "ratty old boys." Death to douchebags, they swear, only to immediately break their vow and take up with men who are all wrong for them.

Fah's guy, her first-floor neighbor, is a "pale boy, bloated and translucent like marzipan, dressed in a black T-shirt with a print of some tangle of skulls and people fleeing aflame." Just out of a month's stay in a mental clinic, he pops tranquilizers by the handful, "which makes him so sleepy he could snooze for hours on end." He and Fah begin a bizarre love affair with absurdist, pop-culture overtones that eventually turn into a discordant symphony. She finally dismisses him in a tirade denouncing his behavior, along with "the constant echoes of the elevator, social problems, corporations and PMS."

As if that were not bad enough, Fah also loses the friendship of the fickle, self-centered Joanne, who goes off with her "Hungarianist" lover. That's followed by a break-up with her only other friend, Go (short for Gosza, but "no one can pronounce it, so it just became Go. So my name is Move"). Fah is hurt but she's saved from self-destruction by her humor, her caustic view of the world.

I kept laughing at and with Fah, until the author, perhaps because she ran out of story, went off on a surrealistic and bewildering tangent involving mermaids. It spoiled things for me, but I'm still grateful for the pleasure Maslowska gave me until she reached the two-third's mark.

(Deep Vellum, #14.95 ppbk)