Author of How Should a Person Be?
—Miranda July, author of No One Belongs Here More Than You
Heti's How Should a Person Be? has sparked exuberant conversations, inspired countless think-pieces, and garnered positive reviews. In early 2013, Heti was nominated by TIME magazine for its TIME 100, a list of the most influential people on the planet; the magazine called HSAPB “among the most-talked-about books of 2012.” Before that, Heti wrote four critically acclaimed books, in as many genres. Her body of work includes The Middle Stories, a collection of short stories; Ticknor, a novel; We Need a Horse, an illustrated book for children, featuring art by Clare Rojas; and The Chairs Are Where the People Go, a book of “conversational philosophy,” co-written with Misha Glouberman, which was named as one of the Best Books of 2011 by The New Yorker. She is also the co-editor (alongside Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton) of Women in Clothes, a new book that explores the wide range of motives that inform how women present themselves through clothes, and what style really means.
Heti works as Interviews Editor at The Believer, and has contributed many interviews with writers and artists to the magazine. In 2001, she created Trampoline Hall, a non-expert lecture series hosted by Misha Glouberman, that runs monthly in Toronto, and which has sold out every show since its inception. Heti “stars” in photographs as Lenore Doolan in Leanne Shapton’s book-as-auction catalogue, Important Artifacts…, which has been optioned for film. She also appears in Margaux Williamson’s film Teenager Hamlet, and with her runs The Production Front, which puts on shows and promotes the work of other artists.
Heti’s writing has also appeared in The London Review of Books, The Guardian, n+1, McSweeney’s, Bookforum, The New York Times, and other places, and her work has been translated into nine languages. She studied playwriting at the National Theatre School, in Montreal, before attending the University of Toronto to study art history and philosophy. She lives in Toronto.
How Should a Person Be? An Evening with Sheila Heti
Charming, candid, philosophical, Sheila Heti is sought after to discuss themes from her work, as well as the process—her process—of writing. Heti explores the questions that animate her books, especially the critically lauded How Should a Person Be? That work, paradoxically, is highly personal and broadly relatable: its many champions mention how much of themselves they see in the life, the struggles, and the ambitions of the book's protagonist (a young writer named Sheila) and her group of friends. In a spirited keynote, Heti talks about relationships, sex, art, friendship, jealousy, urban life, and what it means to dedicate yourself to a craft—and to a truth—that is worth pursuing.
How Should A Person Be?
From the internationally acclaimed author of The Middle Stories and Ticknor comes a bold interrogation of the notion of a beautiful life. How Should a Person Be? is a novel of many identities: it is an autobiography of the mind, a postmodern self-help book, and a portrait of the artist as a young woman — of two such artists, in fact. Thrown into a quandary of self-doubt by an early divorce, “Sheila” finds herself questioning how a person should be in the world. Inspired by her friend — the painter Margaux Williamson — and her untortured ability to live and create, Sheila casts Margaux as material, embarking on a series of recordings in which nothing is too personal, too ugly, or too banal to be turned into fiction. When this investigation becomes too difficult, Sheila escapes into a delirious love affair with a male painter and encounters even more painful truths about herself and her desires. Searching, uncompromising, and yet mordantly funny, How Should a Person Be? is a fictional notebook from the psychic underground of Canada’s most fiercely original writer.
Women In Clothes
Through original interviews, conversations, surveys, projects, diagrams and drawings from over six hundred contributors—including Miranda July, Cindy Sherman, Elif Batuman, Mac McClelland, Lena Dunham, Molly Ringwald, Tavi Gevinson, Rachel Kushner, Roxane Gay and Sarah Nicole Prickett—Women in Clothes explores the wide range of motives that inform how women present themselves through clothes, and what style really means.
The Middle Stories
Balancing wisdom and innocence, joy and foreboding, each story in The Middle Stories leads us to surprising places. A frog doles out sage advice to a plumber infatuated with a princess, a boy falls hopelessly in love with a monkey, and a man with a hat keeps apocalyptic thoughts at bay by resolving to follow a plan that he admits he won't stick to. Globe and Mail critic Russell Smith has described Heti's stories as cryptic fairy tales without morals at the end, but really the morals are in the quality of the telling and in the details disclosed along the way. Look where you weren't going to look, think what you wouldn't have thought, Heti seems to say, and meaning itself gains more meaning, more dimensions. Heti's stories are not what you expect, but why did you expect that anyway?
The Chairs Are Where the People Go
Should neighborhoods change? Is wearing a suit a good way to quit smoking? Why do people think that if you do one thing, you’re against something else? Is monogamy a trick? Why isn’t making the city more fun for you and your friends a super-noble political goal? Why does a computer last only three years? How often should you see your parents? How should we behave at parties? Is marriage getting easier? What can spam tell us about the world? Misha Glouberman’s friend and collaborator, Sheila Heti, wanted her next book to be a compilation of everything Misha knew. Together, they made a list of subjects. As Misha talked, Sheila typed. He talked about games, relationships, cities, negotiation, improvisation, Casablanca, conferences, and making friends. His subjects ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. But sometimes what had seemed trivial began to seem important—and what had seemed important began to seem less so.
The Chairs Are Where the People Go is refreshing, appealing, and kind of profound. It’s a self-help book for people who don’t feel they need help, and a how-to book that urges you to do things you don’t really need to do.
George Ticknor is trying to reconcile his own failure with the success of his boyhood friend, the famous American historian William Prescott. Ticknor's life has been reduced to a series of awkward meetings, failed dinner parties, and other misfortunes he is loath to own up to. Situated in the complicated and contradictory moments that make friendships both tenuous and difficult to relinquish, Ticknor's fixated thoughts about his and Prescott's dissimilar fates lead him through a litany of rationalizations and recriminations, a psychological maze that is paranoid and harrowing as well as ludicrous and absurd.
In George Ticknor, Sheila Heti has created a memorable new hero of Prufrockian dimension. Ticknor is an exquisite singularity.
We Need a Horse
A speckled horse wonders why he was made a horse. Can the sassy sheep, who claims to be a good tennis player, help him find understanding? And wait a minute: How can that sheep even play tennis if she doesn't have hands? Perhaps the bright light holds answers. Or the talking apple. Or the singing grass.
We Need a Horse, the first children's book from author Sheila Heti and painter Clare Rojas, asks big questions with a gentle hand. We Need a Horse is a timeless book for quiet moods, and makes especially good reading for anyone who likes to ask "Why?"
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