How Should A Person Be?
Funny, wistful, and obsessed with the politics of fellatio, How Should a Person Be is complicated, mostly because of the “should” word. It haunts “Sheila,” the main character of the book, not only in her attempts to be an authentic moral person, but also in her ambition to be an authentic moral artist. The relationship between ethics, authenticity, and aesthetics forms the basis of just about every interaction in a novel in which the misplaced modifiers of everyday existence pry open the implied interrogatives of Western culture (i.e., Can there be a unified self? How about balancing the demands of morality with those of erotic desire? How does art come into being?). Through the endless discussions of the group of artists at the core of the novel, Shela Heti slowly imagines a way to self-identity. It’s not easy and it’s not pretty, but it feels hard won and true, a self imagined and imagining, bonding the struggle to create meaningful representations with the struggle to resolve the contradictions of lived experience.