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How Should a Person Be?: A Novel from Life [Kindle Edition]

Sheila Heti
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Macmillan
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Book Description

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?

Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

Heti truly has a startling voice all her own, and a fresh take on fiction and autobiography's overlap. Her mix of hyperreal detail, sweeping gestures from the realm of parable, and self-reflexive distortions leaves us wondering what's real and what's invented. — Johanna Fateman


"Helen Fielding made it funny and fictional in Bridget Jones's Diary; Elizabeth Gilbert did it without laughs in Eat, Pray, Love. Now in this mashup of memoir, fiction, self-help and philosophy, Sheila Heti has added a bit of a story, quite a few blow jobs and some cheeky exclamation marks, and finally made it credible" Guardian "A really amazing metafiction-meets-nonfiction novel" Lena Dunham, star and creator of HBO series 'Girls' "A beguiling "novel from life" about creativity and authenticity" Guardian Pick of 2013 "Funny, bawdy and fiercely original, this is the book everyone's talking about - and for good reason" Easy Living "A shamelessly funny read that's got all of America talking" Grazia "Part of a growing movement to explore the messiness, self-consciousness and doubt of young women who have been told the world offers them unprecedented opportunity, and who are discovering just what that means" -- Kira Cochrane G2 "It will be one of the most talked-about books of 2013" Irish Tatler, 2013 Hot List "Original...hilarious... Part confessional, part play, part novel, and more-it's one wild ride...Think HBO'S Girls in book form" Marie Claire "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

Product Details

  • File Size: 336 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0805094725
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (June 19, 2012)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0071VUO7U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,623 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another man who learned something from Sheila Heti August 2, 2012
This is not a novel for the faint of heart. It is at times crushing, hilarious, biting, and insightful. But more than anything, it is brave. Heti is genius in a way that hurts my feelings, and she risks our understanding of that brilliance by delivering a novel that is meticulously crafted to feel ugly. The complexity, the vulgarity, and the flip dialogue are no mistake, oversight, or a symptom of lazy writing. Like it or not, you connect with the protagonist--and Heti herself--because she is as scattered and insecure as we all are. That's why we love her, why we hate her, and sometimes why we can't stand her (as previous reviews can attest). It's those qualities, or lack thereof, that make the book such an arresting read.

Though I suspected at first I wasn't the target audience, I plowed through this unlikely masterwork in a weekend. It's a daring piece of literary "fiction" that you really have to let wash over you. I had never read anything like it (and I doubt many have), yet it always felt familiar. It's an important book, one I've been recommending to nearly everyone I know.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good June 8, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The main reason I chose to read this novel is that another reviewer compared it to Scarlett Thomas, one of my favorite novelists. While I do see some similarities, I think that Thomas has far more interesting ideas that she explores with her writing, at least to me. How Should A Person Be? is a (semi?) autobiographical novel, whose main character, Sheila, is working on a play and hangs out with her artist friends, pondering the question in the title: how should a person be? I found the beginning of the novel to be quite boring, especially when she talked about her failed marriage. Thankfully, soon Sheila meets Margaux, a painter, and things get interesting from there. We get transcripts of conversations recorder on Sheila's recorder, and plenty of e-mails. I love that kind of stuff in novels. She also meets Israel, an artist that she says is much better in bed than at art. There is a quite explicit chapter close to the middle of the book where Sheila rants about Israel and how everyone should get together with him, which was quite hilarious. There was a chapter in the beginning of the book where Sheila talks to her Jungian analyst about what it means to be a puer aeternus, a person who never really grows up. That section spoke to me more than anything else in the whole book.

Overall, I really liked How Should A Person Be? It was a pretty quick read. It was at turns boring, depressing, funny, touching, insightful, and even repulsive. It's a novel about what it means to be an artist, what it means to be a woman, and more importantly, what it means to be human. There is no great answer at the end of the book, but isn't that the way life is anyway?

Recommended if you're in the mood for something a little different, that makes you think about the meaning (or meaninglessness) of it all, for a little while.
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30 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How should we then live? May 4, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Sheila is a divorced playwright living in Toronto. Although she has a broader social circle centered in the local art scene, she latches onto one particular artist, Margaux, after her divorce. They quickly journey from casual acquaintance and mutual admiration to close friendship, something more fulfilling but entailing more risk as well. Romantically, she becomes the lust interest of the sexy, brooding artist, Israel. The novel uses these relationships as a means for Sheila's self-exploration. Structurally, there's a loose linear narrative, but it's hardly the book's focus. Sheila is obsessed with determining how she should live. How is a young female artist supposed to be? As she reminisces about past boyfriends, finds and loses a husband, makes new friends, and struggles to write (and alternately to avoid writing) a "feminine" (if not feminist) play - while her friends compete to see who can create the ugliest painting - she reveals herself and her search to the reader.

"How Should a Person Be?" is no conventional novel, but a fictionalized (to what extent?) memoir. Sheila is the only character developed in any way. Margaux and Israel (and the other bit players) exist only as a means for Sheila's own self-exploration and expression. So if Margaux appears to be something of an artistic savant, incredibly gifted but socially awkward and aloof, and Israel appears to be sadistic and perverse, focused only on deriving sexual pleasure from Sheila's humiliation, perhaps they aren't to blame. Sheila's inner life is the novel's focus.

Sheila is an engaging, fascinating protagonist. Profoundly self-aware, she exposes her thoughts, feelings, and motivations with complete transparency.
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27 of 35 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Can't Believed This Was Published July 25, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is truly one of the strangest novels I have ever read. I like quirky and am a big fan of Miranda July (who wrote one of the book's endorsements), and July is likely the author I would most closely compared Sheila Heti with. But Heti is no Miranda July.

Overall, there is no coherent novel-worthy storyline. There are snippets of life (embellished one imagines, since the book is listed as fiction) that can best be called short stories. A few I found brilliant, insightful (for example, the Miami Beach spider tale). Overall, the rest was a lot of rambling about a life I didn't find that interesting. Sorry, Sheila.

The main storyline (if one can call it that) seems to center around her relationship with her friend Margaux. Still, this is not like any friendship I have ever had or read about. And these two women consider themselves geniuses! What?

Then, and perhaps most disheartening about the whole book, there is the author's relationship with Israel, her lover. Frankly, that could have well and truly been removed from the book.

The author complains throughout the book about men always trying to teach her something (not an invalid complaint, by the way), but her relationship with this man is far more abusive than a man simply boring her.

In the end, I did find some of the book incredibly insightful, but overall it wasn't worth reading through the rest to get there.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I love Sheila Heti's brain.
Published 3 days ago by Hanna
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 22 days ago by jenna macgillis
1.0 out of 5 stars Self-absorbed author writes about her sad life. Not in an interesting...
I would not recommend this book to anyone. In order to enjoy a book I need to like or at least empathize with the main character. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Windee R DeWald
4.0 out of 5 stars It's pretentious, irritating and unfortunately relatable.
In its essence, this book is a clever, faux-philosophical rendering on life. While I didn't gain much insight as to how exactly "a person should be," I did enjoy the book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Maggie Stanton
3.0 out of 5 stars easy read. Some good thoughts presented
An interesting, easy read. Some good thoughts presented. Enjoyed and would recommend.
Published 2 months ago by Shannon
1.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable, Waste of your time
How did this book get on the New York Times list? I'll never know. Setting aside the fact that it is 300-odd pages of truly tragic writing, I think you can consider it as what... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Maryellen
3.0 out of 5 stars a perspective
Sheila Heti's novel is one I felt as if I away standing beside each character as the story unfolded. Read more
Published 5 months ago by (I skimmed some parts)
1.0 out of 5 stars Reading this book was like grabbing drinks with that friend that just...
Reading this book was like grabbing drinks with that friend that just rambles on and on about themselves, never asking you how you've been.
Published 5 months ago by Minda
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite books. I can see why Miranda July loved ...
Raw, naked reflection of being human. I want to give it as a gift to all of my dearest female friends and women I respect. I want to give it to my mother. Read more
Published 6 months ago by 1008
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
one of my favourites!
Published 7 months ago by Danielle F. Holke
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More About the Author

Sheila Heti is the author of six books, most recently the New York Times Bestseller, Women in Clothes. Before that, she published the novel How Should a Person Be? which was nominated for The Women's Prize for Fiction and named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, Salon and other places. She lives in Toronto and has written for The London Review of Books, n+1, Harper's and more, and is a contributing editor at The Believer magazine.

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