I am not writing about the meaning of the short story Cat Person by Kristen Roupenian published in The New Yorker. Nor will I discuss its quality of story or writing.
I haven't read it yet. I will tonight and then probably write something tomorrow.
So, why write something now?
Because for the first time in a long while a short story has demonstrated what for too long has been the dormant power of the short story. Go to just about any writers retreat or conference and invariably some grizzled elder or a young, soon-to-be-something writer will attempt to answer the question: Is the novel dead?
Rarely, does anyone seem to want to ask about the short story.
This is why I call its power dormant. There are many good short stories out there. And some great ones, too. But the power to spark debate, thought, conversation, argument as well as to touch on the truth of what it means to be alive at this time is often missed. There is a problem of relevancy, not always, but often, and so the chance that a story can affect the world beyond the smallish subset of short story readers is diminished.
And by relevancy, I mean that the writer is not able to authentically hit the nail on the head. Too much MFA influence. Too much floating, not enough struggling to reach the surface for air in the life of the writer.
And so, the power of short stories to move people and create a reflection of their lives--fears to joys--that helps all of us understand not just ourselves, but each other, remains dormant.
So, we now have the Cat Person moment, which comes to us during a reckoning of male elites and their abuse of power and leverage for sex (or dominance) of one form or another. It is a reckoning that is long overdue, and into it comes this story that hits a nerve because through the experience of two characters, the protagonist in particular, there is something to learn. And with that, to dislike or appreciate.
No matter what your opinion of this story, it is relevant and because of that it has a life in the culture, well beyond the pages of The New Yorker.
Literary journal editors should take note.
Last, I do note a bit of incongruity in the above. After reading a brief interview of Roupenian and a bit of her bio, she is someone who I'm sure has worked hard, but has lived a life without much struggling to reach the surface for air. However, she has written a hotly relevant story and it's touched a serious nerve, because she writes about a personal experience (the story is based on that experience) that many women can relate to as well as many men.