Saturday 1 January 2022

Short Story Review: Cat Person by Kristen Roupenian

I read this and listened to the author's own narration in The New Yorker

First, I'm cautious of an author reading their own works as when they are bad they are awful. Not so here, Roupenian 's voice has clarity of articulation and she reads at what for me is a good speed. 

Second, I came across this after seeing an article somewhere about how this story caused such a rumpus and went 'viral' on the internet. "Roupenian’s portrayal of an encounter between a young woman called Margot and an older man called Robert rode the wave of the #MeToo movement, and as a result readers often seem to use the work as a vessel for their own projections. The story provoked widespread anger among some men for its negative depiction of Robert, the man who shows his true colours at the end of the story, and whose wounded reaction to Margot’s rejection resonated with many women" ( The Cat Person debate shows how fiction writers use real life does matter by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, The Guardian 9 Jul 2021
I think we can all relate to the everydayness of the girl meets boy storyline, the stumbling and fumbling of first dates. But SPOILER ALERT as anyone who has read the interent discussion about this story or the story itself will know the innocence of the first part of the story slowly becomes diffused with seeds of revulsion, a meancing undercurrent which then wells up into Margot thinking "This is the worse decision I have ever made". Then Margot has to go through the whole 'breakup text' thing. Her friends do rally round her when he appears in the bar and usher her away. But then his texts take on a new, cruder, abusive, direction. 

This is where Roupenian chooses to end her short story. For me the ending worked, because to continue on would have necessitated the story becoming a different story, one where the abusive had to have a result, an ending, perhaps even the murder joked at in the story. Instead this reader at least is optimistic that Margot can 'escape' Robert by blocking him, having good friends, and by doing what the author did at the end of her story by not continuing the text exchange.

That is me the optimist talking, because as we all know things do not always work out that way. Moreover what this story should be reminding us is that everyone has the right to change their mind, even when they had previous said 'yes' and both men and women, girls and boys need to learn how to handle that situation and how to conduct themselves in a respectful manner.

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