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Posts Tagged ‘Sheila Heti’

Playing DFW, and Other News

December 12, 2013 | by

playingdfw

  • Jason Segel will play David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour. Jesse Eisenberg plays reporter David Lipsky.
  • Speaking of LA, a Charles Bukowski-themed bar is opening in Santa Monica. It is called Barkowski. (It should be noted that Brooklyn’s Post Office takes its name from a Bukowski novel, and is a good bar, so.)
  • The National Library of Norway plans to digitize every book in the Norwegian language.
  • If in New York, join Jonathan Ames, Sheila Heti, and Lawrence Weschler at the 92nd Street Y to discuss and celebrate The Best of McSweeney’s.

 

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Sheila Heti, Toronto, Canada

September 7, 2012 | by

A series on what writers from around the world see from their windows.

Can you see that beautiful shrub? It has no bald patch, right? That’s because the shy, moustached, Portuguese man, who seems to live in that house alone, has spent the last six years standing in front of the hedge, where there was, for so many years, a bald patch. He’d stand before that patch, staring down at it for hours every day, even in the wintertime. When I’d come home from my errands and lock my bike to the pole, he would be there. When I went outside to check my mail, or if I looked up over my laptop, he would still be there.

At first I thought he was crazy. Then I began to think of him as more profound than other men. Why should we look at everything all around us? There is enough in a shrub.

This summer, the patch filled itself in. I guess he knew all along that it was not lacking water or fertilizer or chemicals or conversation. All it wanted was his attention. Now he stands at another empty patch.

I sit in a room lined with books, at a round, teak dining table, on the second (top) floor of a Victorian house. He stares at his shrub as I stare at my computer. His body faces me and mine faces him. Our bodies are opposite each other every day, and we stare at things, and wait for the emptiness to fill in. —Sheila Heti

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Two Versions, One Heti

July 27, 2012 | by

I recently picked up a copy of Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be?, out last month from Henry Holt, to find a favorite passage. It appeared at the beginning of the novel’s fifth act, or at least it had in the first copy I had read, a Canadian version published by Anansi in September 2010. But flipping through this new edition from Heti’s American publisher, I couldn’t find it. I felt disoriented and wondered if my memory was failing me, and as I looked more closely at the American version, I saw that much else had changed: passages had been deleted or transposed; new characters appeared; objects changed value and form.

After a few minutes of searching, I found the passage I was looking for. It hadn’t changed much between the first publication and the second, but its new placement left me confused, and surprisingly disappointed. I wanted to find the book exactly as I’d left it, and felt the same as Jonathan Franzen, who recently expressed his misgivings about e-books: “When I read a book, I’m handling a specific object in a specific time and place. The fact that when I take the book off the shelf it still says the same thing—that’s reassuring.” Books often feel like restorative, reliable old friends—and although Heti’s book hadn’t forfeited its material qualities, my assurance of its fixity had been shaken.

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Sheila Heti on How Should a Person Be?

June 18, 2012 | by

Photograph by Sylvia Plachy.

If you’ve been loving Lena Dunham’s Girls, you should most certainly pick up a copy of Sheila Heti’s new novel, How Should a Person Be? In it, fictional Sheila struggles to answer the titular question through conversations with her friends (including Margaux, Misha, and Sholem), blowjobs, impulsive trips to Atlantic City and ... a whole lot more. The novel is a blend of the real and the imaginary—and somehow, in the process of recording her life, real Sheila blends into fictional Sheila, creating a work of metafiction that is playful, funny, wretched, and absolutely true. Sheila and I Gchatted not long ago. Sheila is an impressive writer (see her full bio here) as well as the interviews editor at The Believer. Below is an edited version of our conversation.

Let’s talk about your process. How did you take your conversations from your life and weave it into fiction?

I don’t know. I did lots of different things. But the conversations were not meant for a book. I was just taping friends. I didn’t have a plan for where I was going.

Did you think you were writing your play?

I wasn’t sure. I’d spent the previous five years working on Ticknor, and I wanted to sort of shake that off me. So all the transcribing I was doing was kind of like drinking a glass of water—it was refreshing, like a palate cleanser—a way of getting out of my imagination. Taping and transcribing was part of looking around to see what things were really like in my environment. I’d been completely in my room, in my head, not looking at anything.

That reminds me of something Tilda Swinton once said about filmmaking—it’s a social way of making art. What do you think happens when you’re working like this?

Well, the writing becomes more like life in that you don’t know where you’re going to end up, and you don’t know what’s going to end up being important. It’s like how in life you can meet somebody and not think much of them, then a few years later you’re married and in love, but the person you were really drawn to and thought, This is it!—you forget about them six months later. When I began transcribing, I was certain that I wanted to write a book with no people in it, about the workings of a supermarket.

That sounds so different than the book you ended up writing!

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Literary Paint Chips: Gallery 2

May 2, 2012 | by

Paint Samples, suitable for the home, sourced from colors in literature. As seen in our two-hundredth issue. See Gallery 1 here.

Havisham’s Complexion1 Anti-Sex Scarlet2 Plum Purple3 Closed Eyelid4
Green Paste5 Rain Stone6 Nothing7 Esther’s Sauce8
Anthracite Brazier9 Dove10 Encrimsoned11 Foul Mood12
Snot13 Eyes14 Aschenbach’s Youth15 Saffron Silk16
Elm Shadow17 Paris18 Paper Smell19 England20
Rat Brown21 20,00022 Dorian Scarlet23 Lilac Ocean24
Basking Pear25 March Morning26 Sour Apple27 Gulag28

Annotations

  1. “ ‘Dear Miss Havisham,’ said Miss Sarah Pocket. ‘How well you look!’ ‘I do not,’ returned Miss Havisham.‘I am yellow skin and bone.’” ‘Great Expectations,’ Charles Dickens.
  2. “A narrow scarlet sash, emblem of the Junior Anti-Sex League, was wound several times round the waist of her overalls, just tightly enough to bring out the shapeliness of her hips.” ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ George Orwell.
  3. “ ‘Not those socks, Jeeves,’ I said,gulping a bit but having a dash at the careless, off-hand tone. ‘Give me the purple ones.’ ‘I beg your pardon, sir?’ ‘Those jolly purple ones.’ ‘Very good, sir.’ ” ‘The Inimitable Jeeves,’ P. G. Wode- house.
  4. “I pulled up my feet, bent my knees, and rested my chin on my hand. Then I closed my eyes. Still no sounds. The darkness behind my closed eyelids was like the cloud-covered sky, but the gray was somewhat deeper.” ‘The Wind-up Bird Chronicle,’ Haruki Murakami.
  5. “I bought makeup in tubes off a rack, and in the cold and dirty toilet of the gas station, I attempted a transformation, slapping buff-colored liquid over my face and rubbing green paste on my eyelids.” “Dulse,” Alice Munro.
  6. “A rainstorm would last hours, soaking the ruined outbuilding nearby, darkening its stones.” “St. Martin,” Lydia Davis.
  7. “Taken to his uncle’s house once, he had stumbled on her in the soft pink bedroom. Ida had just emerged from her bath and she sat in a powder blue nothing before a mirror at a little table crammed with jars.” ‘The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz,’ Mordecai Richler.
  8. “He taught me how to eat avocados by melting grape jelly and french dress- ing together in a saucepan and filling the cup of the pear with the garnet sauce.” ‘The Bell Jar,’ Sylvia Plath.
  9. “At the street corner there was a brazier alight, the red cones of anthracite beautifully glowing, and a whiff of heat shedding from it.” ‘Girls in Their Married Bliss,’ Edna O’Brien.
  10. “Passersby, who, of course, stopped and stared, had just time to see a face of the very greatest importance against the dove-gray upholstery, before a male hand drew the blind and there was nothing to be seen except a square of dove gray.” ‘Mrs. Dalloway,’ Virginia Woolf.
  11. “Feeble gleams of encrimsoned light made their way through the trellised panes, and served to render sufficiently distinct the more prominent objects around.” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Edgar Allan Poe.
  12. “At home I’d slept for several hours then woke to a blue light and in a foul mood.” ‘Ticknor,’ Sheila Heti.
  13. “Tom was crying. He put his knuckles in his eyes the way little girls do on biscuit tin lids. A large tube of green snot hung out of one nostril, and when he sniffed it bobbed out of sight.” ‘The Cement Garden,’ Ian McEwan.
  14. “Pretty eyes. Pretty blue eyes. Big blue pretty eyes. Run, Jip, run. Jip runs, Alice runs. Alice has blue eyes. Jerry has blue eyes. Jerry runs. Alice runs. They run with their blue eyes. Four blue eyes. Four pretty blue eyes. Blue-sky eyes. Blue-like Mrs. Forrest’s blue blouse eyes. Morning-glory-blue-eyes. Alice-and-Jerry-blue-storybook-eyes.” ‘The Bluest Eye,’ Toni Morrison.
  15. “ ‘Surely you will permit me to restore what belongs to you?’ ‘How?’ asked Aschenbach. For answer the oily one washed his client’s hair in two waters, one clear and one dark, and lo, it was as black as in the days of his youth.” ‘Death in Venice,’ Thomas Mann.
  16. “But still at home, ignoring him, I’ll stay . . . Beautiful, clad in saffron silks all day.” ‘Lysistrata,’ Aristophanes.
  17. “On a sheep-cropped knoll under a clump of elms we ate the strawberries and drank the wine—as Sebastian promised, they were delicious together—and we lit fat, Turkish cigarettes and lay on our backs, Sebastian’s eyes on the leaves above him, mine on his profile, while the blue-gray smoke rose, untroubled by any wind.” ‘Brideshead Revisited,’ Evelyn Waugh.
  18. “In Paris, Cyril had a room away from his mother. I could already imagine the window open to the pink and blue sky, the wonderful sky of Paris, with the pigeons cooing on the windowsill, and with Cyril beside me on the narrow bed.” ‘Bonjour Tristesse,’ Françoise Sagan.
  19. “It used to disturb me at first. I thought seriously of burning the house—to reach the smell. But now I am used to it. The only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell.” “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
  20. “At Gatwick they found a taxi without difficulty. It was raining, as it always seemed to be when you returned to England. Graham gazed through the speckled window. Why did every- thing green seem to have so much brown in it here? And how was it possible for things to be both damp and dusty at the same time?” ‘Before She Met Me,’ Julian Barnes.
  21. “It was a rough and ugly thing, an overall length of twenty-eight feet, a five-foot draft and just that one junk sail, but with a respectable three hundred and fifty square feet. A trim tab rudder hung on the stern. She was heavy and slow. And very ugly. I made her more ugly by painting her rat brown.” ‘The Shipping News,’ Annie Proulx.
  22. “The solar rays shone through the watery mass easily, and dissipated all color, and I clearly distinguished objects at a distance of a hundred and fifty yards. Beyond that the tints darkened into fine gradations of ultramarine, and faded into vague obscurity.” ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,’ Jules Verne.
  23. “His finely chiseled nostrils quivered, and some hidden nerve shook the scarlet of his lips and left them trembling.” ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray,’ Oscar Wilde.
  24. “The sky turns a soft lilac. Seeing this magnificent, enchanting sky, the ocean frowns at first, but soon itself takes on such tender, joyful, passionate colors as human tongue can hardly name.” “Gusev,” Anton Chekhov.
  25. “Grapes for the asking, / Pears red with basking / Out in the sun, / Plums on their twigs; / Pluck them and suck them, / Pomegranates, figs.” “Goblin Market,” Christina Rossetti.
  26. “It was a typical March morning when we got up to drive them to the train: blowy, dark, with spits of rain now and then.” ‘The Country Wife,’ Dorothy Van Doren.
  27. “White halogen off the green of the composite surface, the light out on the indoor courts at the Port Washington Tennis Academy is the color of sour apples.” ‘Infinite Jest,’ David Foster Wallace.
  28. Both of us were weak, dried out; our skin was grayish-yellow on our bones.” ‘The Gulag Archipelago,’ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

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Leanne Shapton

February 16, 2012 | by

It’s no secret how much I admire Leanne Shapton. The former art director of The New York Times’ Op-Ed page is also the author of several books, including Was She Pretty? and Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry. She’s also a contributor to The Paris Review. Open any of the last four issues to glimpse her beautiful illustrations of Roberto Bolaño’s The Third Reich. Or buy issue 196, whose cover she painted. I visited her studio space north of Manhattan last spring. I can still remember her dog, Bunny, running to greet me. Leanne served tea and sweets, and we talked long after I turned off my tape recorder.

I wake up, walk the dog, or let the dog out. I’ll pretty much start working right off the top, depending on what I need to do, on deadlines.

I was talking to Sheila Heti about how and where we work. Sometimes I feel I get a lot done waiting for something else, with my shoes and coat on, with the car running. I don’t have a set routine. I can work for hours at a time, but I get a lot of stuff done in these weird starts and stops, which makes it a little bit harder to track. I have so many backs of envelopes with notes written on them in my pockets or stuffed into the side door of a car. I also use my Blackberry to write myself notes. Last night, I wrote myself an e-mail that said, “Tough girls with dark pink skin, England air, etc.” Now it’s sort of coming back to me, but when I woke up and read it, I was like, “What? What did I drink?” Lots happens in these little spaces between work and eating and sleeping. Sheila said she had this image of me standing up—you know how you stand up and eat when you’re really hungry? Well I stand up and work. It’s not a Hemingway thing, it’s more like I have to get this done, because the elevator is coming up. Some thing happens then. And that’s when I work.

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