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A story like John Updike’s “A&P,” in which a man watches women and thinks about how hot they are, is a literary classic that is regularly taught in high schools.
The literary canon’s attempts to delve into women’s heads, meanwhile, tend to look like C. Lewis’s “Shoddy Lands,” in which a woman’s mental landscape is devoted entirely to her own grotesque body, and the absence of the male gaze in her head is a moral affront.
Women’s short stories about their own interiority rarely make it into the literary canon at all.
The trivializing of women’s stories also plays into one of the persistent oddities surrounding “Cat Person”; namely, the frequency with which readers have called it an “article” or an “essay” or generally treated it as a piece of nonfiction rather than as a short story.
“It would require an amount of tact and gentleness that she felt was impossible to summon.” And as Roupenian explores the interior of Margot’s psyche with breathtaking thoroughness in the foreground, Robert is in the background, throwing up warning sign after warning sign: He is older; he is controlling; he has a chip on his shoulder; he seems preoccupied with the idea of Margot sleeping with someone else. You recognize both the danger in the background and the interiority in the foreground.
All of these moments are innocuous in and of themselves, but together, they acquire so much force that if you are a person who has dated men, watching Margot blithely convince herself that Robert is a good guy feels like watching a horror movie. When they come together, there’s a pleasurable jolt: And for that kind of careful, detailed attention to be applied to the practice of dating as a young woman — and for it to appear in a publication like the New Yorker — feels almost shocking.
“The point at which she receives unequivocal evidence about the kind of person he is is the point at which the story ends.” As the story began to go viral, a series of narratives began to emerge around it: It was a good story.
She’s both a figure of enormous privilege and a figure who is disempowered, and most of the discourse about the story has focused on trying to figure out exactly where she stands.In a literary establishment filled with stories about the subjectivity of straight white men, for young women, it’s validation on a huge scale: Yes, this what the world is like, and no, you’re not crazy.For some readers, the fact that “Cat Person” centers on the subjectivity of a young woman made it inherently unliterary and unworthy.But it’s worth noting that “Cat Person” is not the only short story in the world that pays careful attention to what it feels like to be a young woman dating in a world of dangerous men.Mary Gaitskill has devoted story after story to that theme since the 1980s, and so has Lorrie Moore.
I guess for me-- I liked the interiority, how eerily true it felt.