You've probably already heard about the U.S. release of Sheila Heti's excellent novel, How Should A Person Be? — maybe you read the author's g-chat Paris Review interview, or noticed Lena Dunham name-check the book in Entertainment Weekly, or, oh yeah, the book got the full James Wood treatment this week in the New Yorker. But if you are looking for a point of entry to Heti's latest, you could do a lot worse than Chris Kraus's take, offered in the Los Angeles Review of Books. "How Should a Person Be?'s deft, picaresque construction, which lightly-but-devastatingly parodies the mores of Toronto's art scene, has more in common with Don Quixote than with Lena Dunham's HBO series Girls or the fatuous blogs and social media it will, due to its use of constructed reality, inevitably be compared with," writes Kraus, who compares Heti to Kathy Acker. "What is an epic quest for a girl?" Well:
CANADIAN WRITER SHEILA HETI'S breakthrough novel How Should a Person Be? recounts the author's faux-epic quest for a personal life; or more specifically, a life that will support and engender a kind of writing she can believe in. How Should a Person Be? was written from 2005 — when Heti was 28 — through 2012. Her beautifully crafted short-story collection, The Middle Stories, had been published four years prior. Ticknor, her first novel (a historical fiction revolving around the relation of a 19th-century biographer towards his subject) had just been published in the United States by Farrar, Straus and Giroux under then-editor Lorin Stein. As a young, married woman writing intelligently and poetically about "serious" subjects that had little to do with her own experience, Heti was poised for a distinguished career as a writer of "difficult" high literary fiction.
But then things broke down.