I read Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be? on the bus to Vancouver, B.C. Somewhere around Olympia I realized that if I couldn’t pace myself I’d finish it before the border. Fuck it, I yelled at the Tacoma Dome, and opened the book back up. It turned me on, it turned me off, it challenged everything I thought I knew about women and nonfiction.
—Michael Heald, author of Goodbye to the Nervous Apprehension
Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be? is certainly one of the more original books I’ve read, though not in the way I at first expected. It is cast as a nonfiction novel: it is narrated by a writer named Sheila, and it’s about her friends, who all have the same names as several real-life friends of hers. It is, in her words, a “novel from life.” But it turns out that there are pretty obvious artistic licenses taken—for example, a rough, brooding sex partner is named “Israel,” which gives rise to some too-good-to-be true scenarios and sentences, suggesting at least some degree of fabrication. But Heti’s novel instructs its readers to assume documentary truth. The result of this fact-fiction tension was that How Should a Person Be?—which would more accurately have been titled How Should an Artist Be?—made me think about the sacrifices that go into making art.
– Marc Tracy, Staff Writer