How Should a Person Be?
A Novel from Life
Chosen as one of fifteen remarkable books by women that are shaping the way we read and write in the 21st century by the book critics of The New York Times
"Funny...odd, original, and nearly unclassifiable...unlike any novel I can think of."—David Haglund, The New York Times Book Review
"Brutally honest and stylistically inventive, cerebral, and sexy."—San Francisco Chronicle
Named a Book of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, Flavorpill, The New Republic, The New York Observer, The Huffington Post
A raw, startling, genre-defying novel of friendship, sex, and love in the new millennium—a compulsive read that's like "spending a day with your new best friend" (Bookforum)
Reeling from a failed marriage, Sheila, a twentysomething playwright, finds herself unsure of how to live and create. When Margaux, a talented painter and free spirit, and Israel, a sexy and depraved artist, enter her life, Sheila hopes that through close—sometimes too close—observation of her new friend, her new lover, and herself, she might regain her footing in art and life.
Using transcribed conversations, real emails, plus heavy doses of fiction, the brilliant and always innovative Sheila Heti crafts a work that is part literary novel, part self-help manual, and part bawdy confessional. It's a totally shameless and dynamic exploration into the way we live now, which breathes fresh wisdom into the eternal questions: What is the sincerest way to love? What kind of person should you be?
With a quirky mixture of e-mails, transcribed conversations, and prose, frequent Believer contributor Heti (2004's The Middle Stories) examines her titular question by emphasizing that, like life itself, the story of protagonist Sheila; her degenerate artist boyfriend, Israel; and her best friend, Margaux, doesn't always make perfect sense. After she leaves her husband, Sheila an aspiring Toronto playwright by night and hair salon employee by day looks to her friends and the world at large to determine how to be. Acts divided into chapters interspersed with conversations transcribed to read like plays follow Sheila from home to New York to Atlantic City in her search for clarity. Autobiographical elements abound: like Heti's metafictional protagonist, the author studied playwriting and lives in Toronto. Heti has an artist friend named Margaux with whom she has collaborated and to whom she dedicates this novel. Original, contemplative, and often tangential, this is an unorthodox compilation of colorful characters, friendship, and sex that provides an unusual answer to Heti's question.
How should a person be?
The author's description of studying others to find her identity resonated with me. However, I was disappointed with the explicit sexual descriptions and stream of thought paragraphs. I found them uninteresting and cliche. Overall, it had potential, but never reached the fullness of character I was expecting.
Confused on these reviews. It was spell binding and magical
Memoir of a Self Absorbed Vapid Hipster
A bored book written about a self-proclaimed "artist" who is so shipwrecked that they've lost sight of dignity, personal accountability, or excellence. A boring monologue about absolutely nothing special but self-absorbed existential angst.