HOW SHOULD A PERSON BE by Sheila Heti (is my Girlfriend)Posted: January 22, 2013
WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT: I know that some of you picked up this book, saw that Miranda July and Sloane Crosley both blurbed the back, and ran screaming into the night.
All I knew when I checked out the book from the library is that it was one of the few books selected to compete in the Tournament of Books that I had not heard of (the other titles I didn’t recognize were HHhH and Ivyland). Oh, and I also saw it mentioned in Claire Miye Stanford’s post for The Millions Ten Books To Read Now That “Girls” is Back.
That’s all I had going in.
You guys, I really liked this book. Sheila Heti manages to combine novel and memoir and theatrical play in this Canadian-based tale of a frustrating friendship between young and frustrated female artists. Sheila, our narrator, works at a hair salon and has a play commission she can’t seem to finish, she’s overanalyzing it too much as she does, well, okay, everything. Margaux is a talented painter who is more fragile than glass that HAS ALREADY BEEN BROKEN. The two form a codependent friendship that feels almost romantic. They break up and make up a lot as they try to figure out how to be friends with each other and equally as important, how they should be as people.
I know people hate this book. I was just today eavesdropping on a conversation on Twitter (is it eavesdropping if it’s on Twitter? I’m still trying to figure out the 21st century.) where book bloggers I know and like very much were a.) hating it if they had read it and b.) reluctant to read it because of the hating. The novel is self-indulgent and navel-gazing and I get hating those things in a book because I HATE those things in real life, HATE, go act like a seventh grader somewhere else, I’m serious, I don’t want to be friends with you.
But I liked those things in this book. I liked these girls as much as I felt sorry for them. They take themselves so seriously and yes this is ridiculous but there is also an earnestness here, these girls are so vulnerable and are just hoping so hard that they can figure out their friendship and their lives and just get their acts together and this just broke my heart.
I’m not the Girl Who is Obsessed With Miranda July and Sloane Crosley and the HBO Show GIRLS. I’m not constantly staring down at my belly button trying to figure out what it all means. I’m not That Girl. I identified, but I didn’t liked this book because IT IS MY LIFE. I just thought it was thoughtful, inventive writing about a fascinating friendship. The characters are flawed, but I don’t think the book itself is flawed. I think it is absorbing, provocative, and pretty wonderful.
WHAT KIND OF GIRLFRIEND IS SHE: Her hair is SO PRETTY and her thoughts are SO LIBERAL-ARTS-EDUCATED and she’s CANADIAN, COOL but she is SAD GIRL CRAZY and I’m NOT okay with it BUT I’m also kind of.
MY DATE WITH “HOW SHOULD A PERSON BE”:
We stare at our navels.
What else would we do?