How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
The protagonist of Sheila Heti’s thorny novel is a young divorced woman, living in Toronto, who is a heap of contradictions. She has a Jungian analyst yet works at a beauty salon. She’s writing a play for a feminist theater yet is in sexual thrall to a man named Israel. She is concerned with the biggest questions (“How do you build your soul?”) but realizes that “to go on and on about your soul is to miss the whole point of life.” Heti’s prose is dark and perceptive. She has a special gift, given to few, of being able to deliver prose that feels like actual, flickering, unmediated, sometimes humiliating thought. Speaking about art with a friend, Heti’s narrator says: “You have to know where the funny is, and if you know where the funny is, you know everything.” There is wit in Heti’s novel, for sure, but also a sense that she is drawing from a deep well, and that this will not be her last major book.