JSA Lowe's Reviews > How Should a Person Be?

How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
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really liked it

Yeah, okay, I fell for it. Read it in a great swooping gulp. Perfect book for me to read in the anguishing throes of a girlfight which is taking up every inch of mental real estate. Chloe & Olivia, &c. Want to reread it immediately, want to post swathes of excerpt for everyone and myself and the world and preach the Gospel of Heti's style. The faux-naif flatly mannered simplicity, Hemingway by way of Lydia Davis, only even more stripped down and artless—people have said Patti Smith and they're not wrong maybe I think (only I'm personally convinced that Patti had one hell of an overworked, inexhaustible editor, and probably handed that woman a thousand pages of crap which she tore apart and reworked and put back together in order). Like y'all I liked the chapter on fucking too, which is scary and gross and pretty much perfect in its abject obsessiveness. But, I guess in the end I could see the seams of the book too clearly, and its ambition diminished. I could see exactly how the chapters were written separately and at different times and stitched together like a quilt, and this is how some books are, it does open out the form and give it a possibility to be mine, because it's that kind of narrative where I keep thinking: maybe I too can pursue a long prose form, maybe I can hang my tattery rage <—typo for rags! of beautiful post-flarf onto these kinds of story-bones.

Here's the thing: I'm simultaneously reading House of Leaves, which is just stunning, and with every page I think yes, yes, I want to do THIS, I want to write that Big Baggy Book of Me, that maximalist wonder that can contain everything, all of it—guitar, magic, science, Jesus, fundamentalism, Texas, piano, Chopin, Bach, astronomy, Plato, Aristotle, having your faith ruined by attic Greek playwrights, sex, mise en abîme, the abysmal, the degraded, women's colleges, radical feminism, lovers, betrayal, two psych units, drugs and drugs, Cambridge as academic fairyland, the semi-automated mechanics of heterosexual marriage, Paris, Florence, Venice, Boston, workshop, losing your soul, Santa Fe, Zen, sexual harassment, bewilderment, broken bones, throwing up in a motel room in Arkansas, shaving your own head, adultery,—and everything afterward, including two more psych units and a lesbian psychiatrist in a black leather jacket and no hope. And that's just the personal stuff, you want it to stretch and expand like an accordion to fit in the craziness of our culture, two Gulf Wars, the decline of the academy, the distortion and/or fruition of what Americanness meant, was meant to mean, as even the most brilliant intellectual neo-cons became stupid and stubbornly reactionary despite the social equality movements taking place right in front of all our faces, the resistance to a seemingly inevitable Hegelian process making the US into the EU, no the UAE, no the EU, no the UAE, because dammit we refuse to evolve, we will remain a theocracy; and all the while the oceans are heating up that last two degrees centigrade which has already doomed us. A darkly female Bildungsroman with its healthy latte foam of late-capitalist diagnosis.

(Never finding it, by the way. Never finding it again.)

And when I think about all this somehow Danielewski's more capacious form (form also of many female novelists as many of you and I have discussed many times) seems righter to/for me than the deliberately simplified one Heti crafts and occupies so perfectly, which fits her like a shoe. My preference for the overwritten or overwrought or just over- does not mean that I produce pages, though, so what the fuck do I know. Also, it is very funny at times. Also, I winced a lot. Also, I want my friend to read this book, and my best friend. And I think fondly, foolishly "maybe I can write a novel about our friendship someday" since my best friend also is a painter/visual artist and since I too cannot ever finish this one-act play I started in a hospital bed 2 and 1/2 years ago. Because the friends get back together at the end of the book I like to think friends can always get back together. I can't finish this review without subtweeting disgustingly because I pretty much have a one-track mind at the moment, but this is close enough. I liked it and am glad I have the hardback, I will read it probably every year for a long time.

Also, this is pretty much what being in your twenties is like: doing a lot of geographicals. Thinking you can figure stuff out by buying an expensive bus ticket and then getting to the beach and realizing: no, you still have to deal with it on its own terms, you can't go to Atlantic City and have an epiphany, not really.

Also, I had that first boyfriend too—the one who basically sat down and wrote out what a cheap, shabby failure I would inevitably become, artistically and romantically and for all my life. It casts a long shadow over your adult life, that sneering prognostication. That curse, so well articulated that you can never quite slip out from under it. Even when you turn to face it squarely and deliberately choose to reclaim its ugly labelling. Probably the title of the novel—my novel, I mean—should just be, Stupid Bitch.
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Reading Progress

July 1, 2012 – Shelved
August 21, 2012 – Started Reading
August 21, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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message 1: by Leyla (new) - added it

Leyla I dont know what you are talking about, not really, but you made me want to read this book. Badly.

message 2: by JSA (new) - rated it 4 stars

JSA Lowe Haha—I just reread this and frankly *I* don't know what I was talking about. But you should totally read it! I bet you'd like it—

Judy Let me know when your novel is done. I want to read it!

message 4: by JSA (new) - rated it 4 stars

JSA Lowe Ha, me too! :)

message 5: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Judy wrote: "Let me know when your novel is done. I want to read it!"


Lizzie Hello. I'm sorry, but I think you are my hero!

message 7: by JSA (new) - rated it 4 stars

JSA Lowe Don't be sorry,—thank you! We Are Our Own Heroes!

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