How Should a Person Be? suggests that the ideal way to manage uncomfortable feelings — such as those that arise from proximity to sexual violence — is to mimic Paris Hilton’s “steady wrist,” which represents the freedom of being valued for doing something easy that makes one feel nothing. As Paris Hilton told Rolling Stone, “My boyfriends always tell me I’m not sexual. Sexy, but not sexual.” To be sexual is to risk shame, vulnerability, disappointment and anger and pain; it’s to court pleasure, intimacy, surprise and delight at the view of the world outside one’s head. Sexiness divorced of erotic feeling is nothing more than a manipulation of an image.
Is this really, as Adbusters suggests, the “next decade of feminist dreams?” If so, then How Should a Person Be? is merely the latest illustration of a new literary genre that might be called Sexy But Not Sexual. Bentley, Millet, Roche, Cohen, Heti: all are far more interested in describing their undergarments than the bodily experience of succumbing to desire."
Hannah Tennant-Moore, “Exile in Girlville: Sex and Sheila Heti” | LA Review of Books (via lazz)
While I wouldn’t suggest it’s without flaws, I really, really didn’t think of How Should A Person Be? as a novel about sex and I don’t think the point of the book was to talk about the emotional complexities of sex and I basically disagree with this woman’s reading of Heti’s tone/the conclusion the book wants you to draw.
I don’t know, I kind of take it personally. I don’t relate to “Sheila” exactly but I mean, I am a lady in my late 20s. I live in more or less the same neighbourhood the book is mostly set in. I live in a basement apartment. I recognized a lot of the places she referenced, obliquely or by name. I started to try to write about it this summer and I should try to go back to it now that I’ve had more time to think about it, but basically this novel really “spoke to me” in weird ways.
Also kind of grossed out that Tenant-Moore says Heti adopted this pseudo-autobiographical style that obviously owes a lot to existing work within a specific tradition (I Love Dick, for instance, especially) because she was too lazy to write other kinds of novels? Like, oh it’s way easier to write a novel where you expose weird awkward parts of your friendships and artistic insecurities and grandiose fame ambitions and write a character that people will obviously conflate with you who buries her nose in a guy’s ass?
Also, why is writing about “the bodily experience” of sex more profound than writing about underwear.