It’s rare these days that anyone has the patience to read anything over 250 words, let alone discuss its artistic merits on a public platform. But that’s exactly what happened this weekend when Twitter got uncharacteristically excited over a new short story published in The New Yorker. “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian tells the story of 20-year-old Margot who goes on a particularly bad date after meeting and corresponding with 34-year-old Robert. But, more than that, it’s a story about the disparity between who we imagine a person to be after only talking to them via text and who that person actually is in real life. That aspect, in addition to the vividly accurate description of bad first date sex, seems to be what resonates with readers most.
As many people have pointed out, the story’s popularity also highlights Twitter’s failings as a place to have meaningful discussions about a piece of art. Many readers are quick to judge the story as either “amazing” or “actually bad” as if it were some run-of-the-mill hot take.
Very few seem to have taken the time to read Roupenian’s interview with New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman, in which she explains her own thoughts on the story, the characters, and what inspired her to write it in the first place. But, regardless of anyone’s personal take on the story’s quality or the impact it might have on a wider discussion about modern relationships, it’s nice to see everyone talking about a good, old-fashioned piece of short fiction. Though, next time The New Yorker plans on dropping a viral hit like this, they may want to pick a more appealing cover image.