“Have you read ‘Cat Person?’”
At the end of 2017, this question was unavoidable for anyone who was under 30 and online. This isn’t the demographic one usually suspects to hotly debate a work of short fiction published in The New Yorker, but the all-too-realistic story of uncomfortable romance was a smash.
Soon, author Kristen Roupenian, who says every other editor she pitched rejected the idea, was writing about the sudden success.
In brief, “Cat Person” is a story about two characters—Margot, a twenty-year-old college student, and Robert, a man in his mid-thirties—who go on a single bad date. The story is told in the close third person, and much of it is spent describing Margot’s thought process as she realizes that she does not want to have sex with Robert but then decides, for a variety of reasons, to go through with it anyway. When the story appeared online, young women began sharing it among themselves; they said it captured something that they had also experienced: the sense that there is a point at which it is “too late” to say no to a sexual encounter. They also talked, more broadly, about the phenomenon of unwanted sex that came about not through the use of physical force but because of a poisoned cocktail of emotions and cultural expectations—embarrassment, pride, self-consciousness, and fear.
The success of ‘Cat Person’ landed Roupenian a contract for a new collection of short stories. Guest host Indira Lakshmanan talked to Roupenian about ‘Cat Person,’ viral success, and her new book, called You Know You Want This.
Kristen Roupenian Author, "You Know You Want This: 'Cat Person' and Other Stories'"; @KRoupenian