Brought back into the world as a single-volume reprint, Little Cat offers “substantially revised” versions of Tamara Faith Berger’s first two novels: 1999’s Lie with Me and 2001’s The Way of the Whore.
For all of the unbridled sensuality in the former, there is also violence, insensitivity, and emotional disconnection – a combination that results in cringe-inducing scenes throughout. One instance involves Berger’s anonymous female narrator bringing the heel of her shoe down on a man’s sensitive body cavity, the effects of which Berger relates in brutal detail.
“The Way of the Whore” is narrated by Mira, a young woman who parcels out her story in small revelations and short bursts. Her narrative is at times hallucinatory, at times startlingly realistic. “Deep in my head I heard something snapping, one tiny wishbone broke in each ear,” Mira says on learning of a friend’s death. Then, a few pages later: “Shame explored my shit-flung face.”
Little Cat will draw immediate comparison to postmodern experimentalist Kathy Acker, but where Acker’s work often felt repetitive, Berger’s writing proceeds with frightening momentum and beautifully executed inventiveness. Both of the stories opt out of traditional narrative structure and rely instead on stream-of-consciousness.
Treading a line between sublime experimentation and unsettling honesty, Little Cat rides a wave of female sexual energy. There are no simple conclusions or justifications for why the book’s narrators do what they do, nor should there be. This ambiguity will undoubtedly create discomfort, but that uneasiness will vary for each reader. “Please, I want you to stay with me till it’s over,” the narrator of “Lie with Me” begs. With writing this good, it’s hard not to.