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How Should a Person Be? [Kindle Edition]

Sheila Heti
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2013

Sheila's twenties were going to plan.

She got married.

She hosted parties.

A theatre asked her to write a play.

Then she realised that she didn't know how to write a play.

That her favourite part of the party was cleaning up after the party.

And that her marriage made her feel like she was banging into a brick wall.

So Sheila abandons her marriage and her play, befriends Margaux, a free and untortured painter, and begins sleeping with the dominating Israel, who's a genius at sex but not at art. She throws herself into recording them and everyone around her, investigating how they live, desperate to know, as she wanders, How Should a Person Be?

Using transcripts, real emails, plus heavy doses of fiction, Heti crafts an exciting, courageous, and mordantly funny tour through one woman's heart and mind.

Product Description


"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)

Book Description

A raw, startling, genre-defying novel of friendship, sex, and love in the new millennium. Perfect for fans of Jennifer Egan, Joan Didion, Melissa Banks, and Leanne Shapton.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 381 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0805094725
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (24 Jan. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00AC05H1A
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #63,794 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A banal book masquerading as an interesting one 4 Mar. 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I read this having heard great things about the book's human insights. But it struck me as narcissistic, shoddily written, grandiose and dull. It is marketed as a novel, but it's more on the lines of a memoir or diary reworked into something a bit like a novel.

Why two stars rather than one? Because there were a few funny, knowing moments that recalled Lena Dunham's sharper, funnier TV show Girls. Overall, though, it reminded me of listening - not by choice, but because there was no escape - to someone really self-obsessed talking to a friend on the train.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Neurotic and narcissistic but oddly engaging 4 Mar. 2013
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you're looking for a traditional `story', this will be a challenging read. Written in a self-consciously postmodern fashion - fragments, emails, recorded conversations - this is a meditation on identity, art, sex, and gender.

Sheila is a playwright who can't write her play, and her friends are artists - parts of this book are witty and smart (`how could I castrate my mind - neuter it! - and build up a resistance to know what was mine from what was everyone else's, and finally be in the world in my own way?'), parts are banal and mundane... like life itself.

This is theoretically-informed and draws on modern critical theory on art, text, psychoanalysis, and gender. In pondering why it's ok to spend time perfecting a work of art but not a sexual act (!), for example, this poses some provocative questions, and asks what is the role of the artist in a postmodern, capitalist society.

So this is one of those books which presses on the boundaries fiction, of narrative, of the novel, without providing easy definitions.

It's neurotic, self-consciously narcissistic, sometimes boring, sometimes obtuse, sometimes funny, sometimes really quite wise. I'm glad I read this but if you've hated other recent postmodern fiction (Swimming Home, Communion Town,Signs of Life) or the writing of people like Barthes, then this probably isn't for you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Slipshod 22 Nov. 2013
By digit
Before I bought this, I read pages from it using the Amazon preview and liked them. After I finished it, squeamishly unable to keep such a bad book in the house, I gave it to charity. I've now looked again at the preview, which, interestingly, still makes the book seem good. Caveat emptor. Amazing editorial care has gone into omitting everything that was turgid, pretentious, convoluted and charmless -- everything that, breaking Heti's own rule, doesn't know 'where the funny is'. There is, in the actual book, quite a lot of this.

In the good fragments, Heti has a nice simple style and talks appealingly about life for a young artistic type by turns confusing, upsetting, touching, obscene etc. But you realise reading the whole that unlike a lot of people with a nice simple style she doesn't stick to it and she's not using it to say a lot with a little; she's just not saying much. Often she's committing that mainstay sin of bad writing, 'telling, not showing'. No longer having the book, I'm forced to do this a bit too, but the preview gives me this: Heti exclaiming, apparently in horror, 'These are my f***ing contemporaries!' and stopping there. I think I might know what she means, but no concrete evidence is presented for the prosecution. Future generations, who with luck won't be privy to the horror, are left guessing.

This isn't writerly economy, it's shirking. For all the self-loathing displayed, the frequent charge of narcissism from other reviews is right. It's partly in the self-involvement itself, but also in a disregard for the reader so total that Heti doesn't bother to explain to us whatever it is she's trying to say. She seems, in fact, too arrogantly lazy as a writer to even work out what this is.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How a novel should be? 4 May 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is definitely not going to be to everyone's taste, but then Sheila Heti would be the first person to acknowledge that. For, as Heti says on page one, "you can admire anyone for being themselves", and that is really what this book is about; although more importantly it is the way that this book is concerned with this topic that makes it so monumental and has resulted in it receiving so much praise (although apparently not on Amazon).

"How Should a Person Be?" is not concerned with living up to traditional expectations of what a novel should be, it is concerned only with saying what it wants to say, and saying it in the best way the author can find to say it. It is a memoir-cum-novel-cum play about a female writer (also called Sheila) trying to write a play and failing, trying to hold together a friendship and partially failing, and trying to understand how a person should be, and finally understanding it (sort of) through her failings. By stripping away many of the pretences of traditional fiction, Heti finds a way of drawing the reader into her world, taking the reader along with her, through her failings and her despair and her sufferings and out the other side. And it is this highly personal, self-flagellating method of story-telling that helps to get across the book's message: "A life without failure, suffering or doubt [is] empty of those things that make a human life meaningful." A person should be someone who is happy to fail, who is prepared to keep on failing, to face up to their failings (as Heti is doing with this book, which is not the play she set out to write), and to learn from their failings; rather than someone who keeps running away from their failings in the hope of finding a place where they never fail, suffer or doubt themselves.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Get it from the library
This book is a mess. I read a positive review that made me excited enough to actually buy this. I love experimental literature so it seemed like it'd be a great experience. Read more
Published 1 month ago by J.P
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
it wasn't perfect, but it had many funny and well written parts and it was honest
Published 5 months ago by artemisia gentileschi
2.0 out of 5 stars I gave up
This was a tiresome piece of nonsense saved only by the reasonable characterisation. I did have to give up on the book before finishing it as I simply could not get on with the... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Eddie Falco
2.0 out of 5 stars a challenging text - clearly not for all - and in the event, not for...
Sheila wonders 'how a person should be?' and is engaged in writing a play about this. She also works part time as a trainee in a hairdressing salon; meets up with and befriends... Read more
Published 16 months ago by William Jordan
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, unique book
This is a novel describing the lives of a group of artists in the early 21st century, in particular focusing on the friendship of Sheila, a writer, and Margaux, a visual... Read more
Published 17 months ago by emma who reads a lot
3.0 out of 5 stars almost brilliant, ultimately stultifying
'How should a person be?
For years and years I asked it of everyone I met. I was always watching to see what they were going to do in any situation, so I could do it too. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Purpleheart
3.0 out of 5 stars You'll love it...or hate it!
An unusual memoir style book, Heti ruminates in a philosophical way on her life as she contemplates how it should be lived. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Louise Ward
1.0 out of 5 stars utter twaddle
I gave this appalling piece of drivel one star because there was not a zero button. It has the record for the most self indulgent, narcissistic, vapid book I've read. Read more
Published 20 months ago by J. Turner
3.0 out of 5 stars Self-narratives and selling your soul
Sheila Heti explores her fragmented search for self-realisation written through conversations, emails, and straightforward first-person in this novel, longlisted for the Women's... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Laura T
5.0 out of 5 stars Charmingly sharp
Charming, arch, camp, funny, winsome, sharp, sometimes intense, always fresh and alive and true, Sheila Heti comes across as a fey friend for highly intelligent people. Read more
Published 22 months ago by A. Travers
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