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From the Crown to Cat Person: What’s behind our inability to separate fact from fiction?

Our ways of reading and viewing are more complex now—and we've got a noxious modern habit of viewing art as mere vehicles for learning

By Caspar Salmon  

Photo: Des Willie

Three years ago, Kristen Roupenian’s “Cat Person” had the dubious honour—unheard of for a short story—of going viral. The story, which followed the romantic disappointments between Margot, a twenty-year-old woman and Robert, a man of thirty-four, was published in the New Yorker and shared throughout social media and acclaimed for its relatability. It was often mistaken for a “confessional” first-person essay, perhaps transposed to the third person in order to protect identities or to allow the author to distance herself from the events it described. The story was shared by many as straight-up testimony.

The web lit up with debates about the age…

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