Torea Frey

Editor, writer, photographer, observer on the street.

How Should a Person Be?, Sheila Heti

This book seems pretty polarizing; I fall into the "love it!" camp. (OK, there are some flaws, but on the whole, I was into it.)

The prologue is particularly strong, and if I had only read that, I would still be pretty happy. "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. ... in everyone, there was something to envy. You can admire anyone for being themselves. ... [But how] could I know which [choice] would look best on me?"

It's been a year for questioning, and Heti's "novel from life" is a satisfying coda. What do I want? What's the one right thing I should do? How should I be?

At the end of the book, she tells the story of a gravedigger: a ditchdigger questions a gravedigger about where the man has chosen to dig:

'Right here is fine,' the gravedigger said. 'It's not the plot, it's the grave.'
The man shook his head and laughed. 'If I had your job, I'd always be asking myself which plot was best. I'd keep on switching! You'd have this whole land covered in small holes, two feet deep.'
The gravedigger nodded and smiled gently, imagining the scene---all those bodies piling up by the gates. He might have been this way, too, but long ago he realized his intelligence didn't extend so far---to know what was good from what was best---so he taught himself to dig well, and did."

It goes on a bit more, and it's lovely. Perhaps you should read it, too?