How Should a Person Be?
A Novel from Life
By Sheila Heti
(Picador, Paperback, 9781250032447, 320pp.)
Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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"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)
By turns loved and reviled upon its U.S. publication, Sheila Heti's "breakthrough novel" (Chris Kraus, Los Angeles Review of Books) is an unabashedly honest and hilarious tour through the unknowable pieces of one woman's heart and mind. Part literary novel, part self-help manual, and part vivid exploration of the artistic and sexual impulse, How Should a Person Be? earned Heti comparisons to Henry Miller, Joan Didion, Mary McCarthy, and Flaubert, while shocking and exciting readers with its raw, urgent depiction of female friendship and of the shape of our lives now. Irreverent, brilliant, and completely original, Heti challenges, questions, frustrates, and entertains in equal measure. With urgency and candor she asks: What is the most noble way to love? What kind of person should you be?
Sheila Heti is the author of several books of fiction, including The Middle Stories and Ticknor; and an essay collection written with Misha Glouberman, The Chairs Are Where the People Go. Her writing has been translated into ten languages and her work has appeared in The New York Times, Bookforum, McSweeney's, n+1, The Guardian, and other places. She works as interviews editor at The Believer magazine and lives in Toronto.
Author Sheila Heti has a fresh pulsing voice in her new novel, How Should a Person Be? More at NPR.org
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Funny...odd, original, and nearly unclassifiable...unlike any novel I can think of.
Brutally honest and stylistically inventive, cerebral, and sexy.
One of the bravest, strangest, most original novels I've read this year.
A vital and funny picture of the excitements and longueurs of trying to be a young creator in a free, late-capitalist Western city.
A book that risks everything...Complex, artfully messy, and hilarious.
A really amazing metafiction-meets-nonfiction novel.
It is easy to see why a book on the anxiety of celebrity has turned the author into one herself.
A seriously strange but funny plunge into the quest for authenticity.
Boldly original...Gorgeously rendered.
Bawdy, idiosyncratic...The title makes me quake with envy. All good books should be called just that.
A significant cultural artifact.
Original...hilarious...Part confessional, part play, part novel, and more--it's one wild ride...Think HBO'S Girls in book form.
How Should a Person Be? teeters between youthful pretension and irony in ways that are as old as Flaubert's Sentimental Education...but Ms. Heti manages to give Sheila's struggle a contemporary and particular feel...How Should a Person Be? reveals a talented young voice of a still inchoate generation.
I read this eccentric book in one sitting, amazed, disgusted, intrigued, sometimes titillated I'll admit to that, but always in awe of this new Toronto writer who seems to be channeling Henry Miller one minute and Joan Didion the next. Heti's book is pretty ugly fiction, accent on the pretty.
Heti's craft never fails…Novels are supposed to grab one's attention, and Heti's wonderfully baggy, honest and affecting book does exactly that.
Not the kind of book that comes along often. It's highly quotable, funny, shocking, anxiety-inducing and, finally, inspiring… It is undeniably of the moment, a blueprint of how to be lost in the Internet Age.
Heti knows what she's doing--much of the pleasure of How Should a Person Be? comes from watching her control the norms she's subverting.
[A] breakthrough novel...Just as Mary McCarthy's The Company She Keeps (written at the same age) was an explosive and thrilling rejoinder to the serious, male coming-of-age saga exemplified during her era by Sartre's The Age of Reason, Heti's book exuberantly appropriates the same, otherwise tired genre to encompass female experience. How Should a Person Be?'s deft, picaresque construction, which lightly-but-devastatingly parodies the mores of Toronto's art scene, has more in common with Don Quixote than with Lena Dunham's HBO series "Girls" or the fatuous blogs and social media it will, due to its use of constructed reality, inevitably be compared with…Like [Kathy] Acker, [Heti] is a brilliant, original thinker and an engaging writer.
If you're not already reading Sheila Heti's second novel How Should A Person Be?, you should be. Heti's rousing, unapologetically messy, beautifully written, insightful and provocative book explores the frustrations and rewards of female friendship, and of trying to make art as a young woman in the 21st century...Heti is doing something very exciting within the form of the novel.
Heti excels at developing a cast of engaging, colorful and flawed characters.
Enlightening, profoundly intelligent, and charming to read....It reflects life in its incredible humor--and in some of its weird bits that might be muddled or unclear...with anxiety, hilarity and lots of great conversation.
There are no convenient epiphanies in Sheila Heti's newest book How Should a Person Be? Instead there are several intertwined, grinding and brilliantly uncomfortable ones that require the reader to shed a few dozen layers in the service of self-discovery...She may depart from broad harbors, but she is an analytic zealot, never imparting trite one-liners or excusing herself. Reading her is an act of participation, discomfort and joy.
Lena Dunham loves this novel…A fresh spin on friendship, art, sex, and philosophy in five acts. And the prose, often taking the form of a numbered list, is always engaging.
[Heti creates] one of the most personable antiheroes ever...Her tone can be earnest and eager to please, flippant and crass, terribly lucid and darkly funny...Her tortured self-deprecation can read a little like Violette Leduc's, and her poetic bluntness sometimes reminds me of Eileen Myles, but these authors come to mind mostly because, like Heti, they have written about women with unusual detail and feeling. Heti truly has a startling voice all her own, and a fresh take on fiction and autobiography's overlap.
Oh crap. I don't know how to begin talking about Sheila Heti or how good she is. People will say How Should A Person Be? is reminiscent of Patti Smith's Just Kids or Ann Patchett's Truth & Beauty and both of these things will be true. But I am still reeling from the originality of this novel. There are passages here so striking, to read them is to be punched in the heart.
The book's form is fluid and unpredictable… [and] the architecture gives the prose a circular, easy feeling, even though Heti is taking a hard look at what makes life meaningful and how one doesn't end up loveless and lost. It is book peopled by twentysomethings but works easily as a manual for anyone who happens to have run into a spiritual wall.
Utterly beguiling: blunt, charming, funny, and smart. Heti subtly weaves together ideas about sex, femininity and artistic ambition. Reading this genre-defying book was pure pleasure.
[A]n unforgettable book: intellectually exacting, unsettling in its fragility, bodily as anything painted by Freud, experimental yet crafted as hell, and yes, very funny.
Sheila Heti's novel-from-life, How Should a Person Be?, was published in Canada in 2010, but won't be out in the US until next June. Watch for it - it's great.