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How Should a Person Be?: A Novel from Lifeby Sheila Heti
Synopses & Reviews
Fresh from a failed marriage and unable to complete a feminist play she's been commissioned to write, Sheila, a twentysomething artist, is floundering. How can she write a play about women when everything she's learned about herself is from the men in her life who "wanted to teach her something"? How can she even live in the world without knowing how to be? So when Margaux, a talented painter, and Israel, a sexy and depraved artist, come into her life, Sheila plunges into a life experiment, treating them as specimens in an investigation about how to live and create. Perhaps in borrowing their best qualities, she can regain her footing in art and in life.
Previously published in Canada to terrific acclaim, How Should a Person Be? brilliantly fuses highbrow with lowbrow into a compulsive read that's like "spending a day with your new best friend" (Bookforum). What begins as curiosity about how to live well, in Sheila Heti's hands becomes an irresistible torn-from-life novel, crafted with transcribed dialogues, along with fiction, nonfiction, e-mails, and more, exploring the eternal questions of why we connect, whom we desire, and how a person should 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. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A new kind of book and new kind of person. A book that risks everything — shatters every rule we women try to follow in order to be taken seriously — and thus is nothing less than groundbreaking: in form, sexually, relationally and as a major literary work. With this complex, artfully messy and hilarious novel, Heti has done the rare and generous thing of creating more room for the rest of us. This is how a person should be." Miranda July, author of No One Belongs Here More Than You and It Chooses You
"Oh crap. I dont 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 and 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." Sloane Crosley, author of How Did You Get This Number
"A seriously strange but funny plunge into the quest for authenticity." Margaret Atwood
"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." David Shields, author of Reality Hunger
"The books 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 doesnt end up loveless and lost. It is book peopled by twenty-somethings but works easily as a manual for anyone who happens to have run into a spiritual wall." Sasha Frere-Jones, The Paris Review
"Sheila Hetis 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 — its great." Chad Harbach, author of The Art of Fielding
"Original, contemplative, and often tangential, this is an unorthodox compilation of colorful characters, friendship, and sex that provides an unusual answer to Hetis [titular] question." Publishers Weekly
An "unforgettable," bawdy, genre-busting novel of friendship, sex, and love in the new millennium: a portrait of the artist as a young woman and a delicious combination of pop and art.
About the Author
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.
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