Being a woman of Heti's generation currently living in Toronto, this book embarrasses me. Heti thinks she is truly having a revelation about living by...moreBeing a woman of Heti's generation currently living in Toronto, this book embarrasses me. Heti thinks she is truly having a revelation about living by discovering that her life might at times be 'ugly', so much so that she feels the need to share it with everyone in a book called 'How should a person be?: A novel from life'. It reminds me of that time when Tyra Banks wore the fat suit for five minutes, had a crap experience, cried and then thought she could teach the world how it felt to be obese. Why are we suddenly incapable of understanding something unless someone from a place of privilege interprets it for us? And maybe that's the point... maybe she is providing a lens through which to see this generation and how it understands the world. But I really think that might be giving her too much credit. When she adds in the little off topic anecdotes or stories (i.e. the gravedigger), it seems like a plea for the reader to believe and feel her experience, not just see it.
And since I think she truly believes what she is saying, here are some choice quotes: "I had looked around at my life and realized that all the ugly people had been weeded out. Sholem said he couldn't enjoy a friendship with someone he wasn't attracted to. Margaux said it was impossible for her to picture an ugly person, and Misha remarked that ugly people tend to stay home." Where 'stay home' more realistically means 'stay the f out of Queen West and other related areas to avoid judgements from Heti and her quirky-named crew'.
As a lesbian, I can't help but be offended by statements like this: "A woman can't find rest or take up home in the heart of another woman – not permanently. It's just not a safe place to land." Or this (on the frequency of gay male relationships in France): "That's why there's suddenly a big increase in homosexuality... It's simpler to be with a man because I don’t have to deal with these issues." (these issues = relationships with women) (said earlier in the same breath, "the men in France are really messed up. They’re all afraid of women.")
The writing is OK. The chapter 'The White Men Go to Africa' was clever. Most intolerable was the lengthy exploration of her typing of sould instead of soul, as it is so representative of much of the book. Heti wants us to believe with her that this is some troubling subconscious behaviour related to her feeling like she's sold her soul. After bringing it up for the second time, she writes, "I shouldn't dwell on it" (me: yes) "Who gives a fuck in this fucked-up world" (me: ... we agreed to not dwell on it) "There are problems so vast and so deep that a young woman sitting alone in her room should slit her throat and die sooner than bother about the state of her soul, when so many great artists before her spent decades recalibrating a single blank canvas in their studio, fifteen, sixteen hours a day, as their marriages crumbled into the soil" (me: REALLY?). To write so much about what is likely a common typo related to keyboard muscle memory (would, should , could, soul… sould) is ridiculous. Surely no one takes themselves this seriously. It's so telling that her mom lives only a 15 minute bus ride away. Someone so deeply involved in self-analysis of every banal action seems never far from a parent. (less)
This author shows some promise as a writer, though the stories aren't overly exciting. I did enjoy the Canadian aspect of it, especially the reference...moreThis author shows some promise as a writer, though the stories aren't overly exciting. I did enjoy the Canadian aspect of it, especially the reference to Ottawa's GLBT community.(less)
Thoughts, in no particular order: -I simultaneously felt like I never heard Martel's voice and only heard Martel's voice. Reading this was like being t...moreThoughts, in no particular order: -I simultaneously felt like I never heard Martel's voice and only heard Martel's voice. Reading this was like being trapped in Martel's head, and not in a good way. The worst parts of the structure of this book were: a) the beginning, where he gave himself an opportunity to explain his motives (must be nice to decide you can do that, rather than let the book speak for itself) & b) the self-referential parts, where the character Henry would comment on a particular section of the play being well written. So it was like Martel complimenting himself. Awesome. -the writing is technically fine, but just not good -the end was ridiculous. it just didn't fit at all. He managed to blow away what little character emotion/attachment/sympathy I had with an implausible dramatic act. After that, I felt nothing but frustration. -The games at the end were interesting. Capture horror. A little too much Sophie's Choice going on, though. -if you have an interest in Martel's overly large ego, this is for you. He has little regard for his reader.(less)
Gen X alert! Whittall has a thing for constructing emotionally damaged characters that can't /possibly/ be understood by the outside world. I'm always...moreGen X alert! Whittall has a thing for constructing emotionally damaged characters that can't /possibly/ be understood by the outside world. I'm always more drawn to the 'normal' people that surround them.(less)
I liked how this was Canadian, about twenty-somethings, and had glbt characters. I would have liked to know less about Josh/Billy, who I felt were ver...moreI liked how this was Canadian, about twenty-somethings, and had glbt characters. I would have liked to know less about Josh/Billy, who I felt were very put-on, and more about Amy/Maria. Too many quirks, and I lose interest in a character.(less)
At first I thought this book was a little too post-modern for my tastes, but it ended up winning me over. Sampirisi is a talented writer and is able t...moreAt first I thought this book was a little too post-modern for my tastes, but it ended up winning me over. Sampirisi is a talented writer and is able to capture a lot of emotion with minimal words/effort. The book really draws you in.(less)