When Kristen Roupenian wrote “Cat Person” in the spring of 2017, she didn’t expect the premise — a young woman’s brief relationship with an older man, the uncomfortable sex they share and the vitriol he spews at her after she ends things — to hit a nerve. But when the 7,000-word story was published that December by the New Yorker, it sparked weeks of debate, becoming perhaps the first work of short fiction to go truly viral and became the New Yorker’s second most-read story of that year.
“It came out of the same mental and emotional space as a lot of the #MeToo conversations, but I didn’t write it explicitly,” the 37-year-old author explains. “I couldn’t have.”
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In a similar way, her debut collection of stories, You Know You Want This, seems to touch on conversations that the country has yet to have — often using horror and magical realism to illuminate the darker corners of our world. (See “Scarred,” in which a woman discovers a supernatural way to obtain her deepest desire, only to find it might come at the expense of her own humanity.)
“There’s a lot about romance, a lot about interpersonal relationships gone darkly wrong,” Roupenian says. “The use and abuse of power is a big theme.”