The “novel from life,” part diary, part play and part excerpts from friends’ conversations, How Should a Person Be?
is best read in small chunks over time. A chapter here and there is charming, but too many all at once is like spending time with a friend who is so uncomfortable being authentic that she needs to bury herself in who she knows and what they think of her, exhaustively in other people’s words. Sheila Heti flirts with philosophy the same way university students do, as though she’s more interested in proving she knows the questions than really examining or revealing any answers. It took me a long time to finish this book; I kept abandoning it to write to the women in my life---inspired by the emails Margaux writes to Sheila which, for me, were shining moments in the novel---women who, though asking similar questions as Heti, have far more compelling answers in not nearly so many words.