HOW SHOULD A PERSON BE by Sheila Heti (is my Girlfriend)

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.


We stare at our navels.

Photo on 2013-01-22 at 15.31 #3

What else would we do?

Photo on 2013-01-22 at 15.32 #5

5 Comments on “HOW SHOULD A PERSON BE by Sheila Heti (is my Girlfriend)”

  1. CaroG says:

    How funny, when I first read about that book I really wanted to read it! I put in my wishlist and then sort off forgot about it until I saw your review. I also want to read The middle Stories. Guess a trip to the library is in order!

  2. Nadia says:

    I’ve only heard wonderful things about this book, so I was surprised when you mentioned people were hating on it. Hmm. Well, I have it on my shelf and do need to read it at some point. I think it sounds pretty interesting from what you wrote about it. And with regards to GIRLS – I love that show! I think it is AMAZING (reminds me of how selfish I was probably was when I was in my twenties).

  3. Nikki Steele says:

    Stare at your navels* and then hope she forgets your number to better keep the crazy away😀

  4. Natalie Ramm says:

    I didn’t love this book but I really wanted to! What a great premise. A failing female artist and her female artist friend are basically in love with each other and have thought provoking conversations about art and love and friendship and feminism! But I found this book underwhelming. I think mostly because of the emphasis on fame as a measure of success and influence. It seemed to me the whole goal of the character and of the book was recognition, but she didn’t put in the work it takes to get there. She wants to be famous without having done anything of consequence. I found the whole thing so frustrating!

    But I do love your pictures😀

  5. Judy Krueger says:

    I ended up loving this book. I think that two young women who actually realize that you have to do a little work to be a good friend deserve respect. Friendship between women is fraught with so many perils. And then especially if both are artists or creative people because that brings a whole other set of issues to bear. Your review is good, truthful, and shows a bit about you as a female and a potential friend. Brave of you, I thought.

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