Robert Emmett’s book Meowing on the Answering Machine presents stories taken from the life of a writer, along with sketches to illustrate the joys and frustrations of daily life. Not every story involves cats, but they do put in an appearance from time to time, along with a talking couch and a dog that tells lies.
From self-cooking chickens to a book with nothing but blank pages, Emmett’s imagination takes you into worlds where the impossible is regarded as mundane. His sense of humor, often dark, leads sometimes to a logical but surprising conclusion and sometimes to a twist of irony.
Each story stands on its own and can be read separately, but a certain thread of continuity runs among them. Perhaps it is the desire to fly, or perhaps it is the sense that this world has been transformed into an unnatural array of disparate parts, but these stories seem to inspire rebellion against the mundane reality where most of us live, work and play.
Traveling through the Appalachians or through time, each first-person narrator finds something new and unexpected, even if it does not serve to enlighten or educate.
The book opens with “The Writer Calls in Sick”, which has two authors because it was composed on a message board. The writer complains that he cannot type with an injured finger, and the editor replies with haughty disdain. If this one does not make you laugh, then your funny bone must be broken. One of my favorite stories in this collection is “Coffee”, an obvious parody of Starbucks and the caffeine stairway to heaven or hell. I laughed and cried into my cup of home-dissolved instant coffee while reading this one.
Nearly every story and sketch communicates at least a touch, and sometimes a boatload, of the surreal. I highly recommend it, even if you happen to be a bit on the squeamish side. You might be shocked, but I see no reason to “toss your cookies”.
You can find Meowing on the Answering Machine on Amazon at