Fraina, Blake. “King of Cats: A Life in Five Novellas”. iUniverse, 2004.
Have you ever thought about what makes a person interesting or fascinating? After reading “King of Cats”, you will probably change the way you evaluate people. Too often we don’t know what it is that draws us to someone. Is it what they say or don’t say? Is it who they are as they appear or i it what we want them to be?
Blake Fraina has written a thought provoking novel that deals with attraction and the struggle for dominance in a relationship. The book is subtitled “a life in five novellas” and contains three separate stories that all weave in and out of each other. Two band members of a rock band—Jim and Adam—and a younger “groupie” are our main characters. Jim is that kind of guy we all dream about—beautiful and elusive; the kind of guy that everyone wants. However he suffers from his own inner demons. Adam was raised in a different type of environment. His parents never bothered to take any interest in him. And Elliot is an enigma—we know little about him and he is totally unpredictable. This well-written book is a story which is related in five different versions each in a different period in the life of Jimmy. What is at the core of all five stories is the idea that we are defined by the aura of secrecy that we give off. The five stories are set primarily in New York but they do not appear in chronological order. We learn about Jimmy from the people that he comes into contact with and we have a glimpse of the drugs, alcohol and sex as they are part of the lives of the characters. As we learn about relationships, we also learn about loss and self-discovery and self-acceptance.
The book begins in 2002 where there is little about Jimmy. We instead meet Elliot with his boyish charm and his elfin characteristics. We learn that Elliot s not exactly what he claims. But then the second novella goes back to 2001 and Jimmy enters and becomes the central character. He is a member of a band called “the Mogs”. We read about his first meeting with Elliot and their early sexual tryst but Jimmy becomes involved with a woman and leaves his boy toy. Book three takes us back to 1995 and we see how Jimmy met Adam and Adam asks
him to join his band. It is here that Jimmy and Adam become sexually involved but Adam’s nature hinders the chance of a relationship succeeding. Book four moves us forward to 2003 when the band becomes successful and after a tour when the band returns to New York and Elliot returns to the story. Finally in part five we go backwards again in 1987 and to London to read about how Jimmy grew up. He had been abused by a cousin and was physically abused by his father. Through this we get insight into his character.
Fraina’s character development is simply amazing. Each character has his own special charm. Jimmy, with all of his problems, comes across as irresistible, regardless of all of his faults.
I must say that I am not a rock and roll fan but I absolutely loved this book. It read so smoothly that I did not want to stop reading once I began. I particularly like the episodic construction of the book and was amazed how fluid it was. The honesty of the book, while at times quite explicit and brutal is what made it so real to me, I am still wondering about Elliot and what is the bond that both draws him to and repels him from Jim and I wonder what Adam really wants of both of them. Where does the attraction come from? Does the attraction for each other they all share ever become fulfilled? These are questions that the reader is left to deal with. How can we, as people, deal with our desires? The resolution is left up to us and I think that is makes the book endearing.
This is not the average gay novel by any means. The real characters, the wonderful plot and the way the story is told is what makes this book such a good read. Have a look at it—and then sit back, relax and have a wonderful read.