I’m not quite sure how I came across this, but I’m sick and just randomly following internet bread crumbs when I land on this short story published in “The New Yorker” magazine called “Cat Person.” I couldn’t stop reading once I started, which is of course the definition of good writing.
After reading it, I then read a short essay also printed in the same magazine by the author discussing what it was like to have your story go viral. She beautifully expresses the truth (at least I feel it’s the truth) that it’s the artist’s job to create, and everyone else’s job to form their own opinions about it.
Let me also be clear: beyond the compulsion to express themselves, the best any artist can hope for is for anyone to be drawn into their creation enough to actually let it seep in and think about it. That alone is success of the highest order.
This is all as it should be – criticism and opinions have nothing to do with the artist and everything to do with the observer. The artist doesn’t really need to take part in this dialogue – their job is done and they should be on to their next creation.
Here’s the catch: when you read a story I’ve written, you’re not thinking about me—you’re thinking as me. I’ve wormed my way inside your head (hi!) and briefly taken over your mind. You’re forced to reckon with my full complexity—or, at least, whatever fraction of that complexity I’ve managed to get down on the page. When the story is over—or if you put it down midway—you’re free to think whatever you want. You can think, Dumb, or Boring, or Great, or, She looks like a bitch in her author photo, or, What the fuck did I just read? But I don’t need to be there to absorb your reaction. In fact, I shouldn’t be. My role in the process is over. The interpretation, the criticism, the analysis telling you that you’re right or that you’re wrong or that you’re an asshole—that’s someone else’s job. I can’t, and won’t, take part.Kristen Roupenian