Published March 9, 2019
They gave her a million dollars for this. Two book deals. There’s also a screenplay she sold to A24, the La Croix of film financiers. They call it Bodies Bodies Bodies which is what a Lesbian with advanced degrees calls a horror movie. This story collection is already being developed into an HBO show. Not Netflix, which uses dumb money loans to buy every horseshit hack passion project networks pass on. HBO. She has a Harvard PhD and her agent got “Cat Person” in The New Yorker, the Terror House of NPR donors.
“Cat Person-“ people actually read it. Showed their friends. A million people read literary fiction. It connected with women who’d had sex with men they hate to seem cool. Tapped into a “cultural moment” of women speaking their hatred for men, which only just began in the last ten thousand years. Served as the sole focus for only 75% of all cultural artifacts by women I’ve ever seen. It seemed new to people who hadn’t read a short story since high school. And why would they. They’re boring. “Cat Person” is not.
This is why other reviews trash it. Emily Gould’s cunty review and the snotty New York Times review et cetera. Jealous writers. Hard to give You Know You Want This: “Cat Person” and Other Stories a clean read when, for example, she writes middle to highbrow horror about the nuances of modern dating exactly like me, but better, and for a million more dollars.
Helpfully she grew up a hothouse flower* in the town where I cleaned toilets after school and worked third shift in a fucking candle factory. She went to the Peace Corps. Africa. Then to Harvard to become expert in “postcolonial and transnational literatures.” Literatures. Kristen Roupenian quaffs baby blood in the secret tea room where high society parlays about literatures. The duke and duchess laughed at you behind your back for years every time you’ve said “literature” with no “s.” Like saying “nukyular weapons.”
Anyway how’s the book? Kristen Roupenian is a wizard with magic and life in her words, sometimes. The two best stories are online free. “Cat Person” has a core of genius in it. “The Good Guy” slightly less so. Both about the inner life of a person thinking about sex. Both hit and sustain notes about workings of the mind that I’ve never seen in print, but recognize. To capture this once, enough to justify a writer’s life. She captures it 1.5 times.
The rest—mostly good. But it’s a woman’s book. I say this because you’re a man, reading a site that says “Autistic.” It’s kinky. Everything about sex but the fucking. The social hierarchies around it, the power dynamics, the emotional labor. Actual desire- horniness- the place she dare not look.
Kink is imitating desire without understanding it. She gets off on what she thinks about him thinking about her needing a cigarette burn to the twat lips to cum. Chases what she thinks desire must be like. Getting whipped with a coat hanger and called a cunt.
When she’s good she’s magic. “Cat Person” was a phenomenon because it lit up a blind spot about women that everyone suspected was there, but no one had hit. Elsewhere there are failed experiments. She’s not a great prose stylist. Rushes punchlines. Stories culminate in horrors she doesn’t feel. She makes twists for the sake of twists. This is what happens with a million dollar deadline.
Stories that could use a little lived realism don’t have it. What happens when you don’t have to work. When she writes about an office in “The Biter” it’s Michelle from HR and Susan from accounting. Like a fake office from a sex harassment training video. Although, in context, maybe apropos.
“The Mirror, The Bucket and the Old Thigh Bone”, a stylized fable, is what happens when you read Anne Sexton’s Transformations and think: I should do this. This is natural. Sexton read Ovid’s Metamorphoses and thought: I should do this. But to pull it off you have to be a poet.
Against the brute realism of the “Cat Person” interior sections, all the dancing around actual horniness in the men sticks out. If this keen-eyed woman can’t see what men are like, is there some core of women’s lives we’re missing? Do they too have some primal driving urge we don’t know?
No. There’s nothing.
“The Night Runner” is about a male Peace Corps volunteer. A teacher. He has to whip a teen girl’s tender exposed legs with a switch, to dominate her. There’s half a phrase about the shine on her calves that’s obliquely, grudgingly horny. Then back to his inner monologue about the social hierarchy. The real story of an adult man teaching teenage girls in the jungle is: he impregnates them all. Or literally breaks his penis off jerking it to them ten times a night. Women just have no concept. She writes around a thing she can’t feel, or even infer.
In “Cat Person” a woman thinks about how she doesn’t want to fuck a man, then does. I immediately know every woman has lived this. “The Good Guy” opens with a man picturing his dick as a knife to get off. No man ever thought this. Or there’s half a truth to it, but she doesn’t understand the reason. All men must think of increasingly horrible shit to cum, if they keep fucking the same woman.
More entertaining to trash her than praise her. But Kristen Roupenian is a deeply interesting, talented writer. Even her blind spots tell you something. I’ll buy her novel the day of release. Copies for friends. As the author of similar stuff no one gives a fuck about, I hope she breaks so big it’s The Beatles. Makes a publishing British Invasion I can be part of. Once I pick my fake name as a Pacific Islander woman.
Will this be a hit? She’s the chosen one. Maximum Institutional Support. On Amazon it debuted at #39 in Short Stories. Behind Three Irish Brothers: A Contemporary Reverse-Harem Romance (Quick & Dirty Book 1). Just ahead of Possessive Italian Neighbor: An Older Man Younger Woman Romance (A Man Who Knows What He Wants Book 85). Tack on all the fancy tricks you want, people just want to jack off.
* Unfounded speculation