Monday, May 6, 2013

Review: How Should A Person Be? by Sheila Heti

In this semi-autobiographical/semi-fictional novel, Sheila Heti's character, Sheila, has been commissioned by a feminist theatre to write a feminist play. She studied theater in school, and she loves the stage, but when she sits down to really think about what her play is supposed to be, it opens up a whole other can of worms as she questions what it means to be a woman, and even broader, what does it mean to be a human? An artist?

I couldn't help but describe this mildly pretentious book to friends as an updated, female-written Tropic of Cancer. Sheila often falls off into stream of conscious ramblings on her musings of her failed marriage, the sex between her and a new man named Israel, her friendship with an artist named Margeaux, womanhood, and art. A lot of the book is also written in script format as she records her conversations with Margeaux and shop owners.

Despite it's slight pretentiousness and artsy quality, I devoured this book. Though some of the rambling had me skimming over the pages and getting on to what was happening next, a lot of it was really powerful. Some of it I read over and over again, especially when it came to her being with Israel. It was sexy and dirty, and she unabashedly used language that made me cringe and hold my breath at the same time. There were some parts that I couldn't bring myself to care about, and some that I raved over. One of my favorite quotes:

Most people live their entire lives with their clothes on, and even if they wanted to, couldn’t take them off. Then there are those who cannot put them on. They are the ones who live their lives not just as people but as examples of people. They are destined to expose every part of themselves, so the rest of us can know what it means to be a human.

As you can tell, it's a little hard for me to comment on the plot of this book because, like Tropic of Cancer, it covers a lot of bases at once. So while it is hard to give a linear plot play-by-play, the revelations that Sheila comes to makes this book well worth the read. 

Rating: 4 / 5

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