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New Yorker Fiction Review: "My Life is a Joke" by Sheila Heti

Issue: May 11, 2015
I am a hipster.

Rating: Meh

Review: Did you ever spend 10 minutes (or an hour, or five hours) reading something and then, upon putting it down, have no idea what you just read? Yeah. It just happened to me when I read this story...

...and yet somehow, because it was in The New Yorker, I feel like I'm the one who's wrong, like I'm the one who's missing something. But I also have a P.h.D. in Self-Contradiction, so I'm going with my initial instinct here, that this story is overly-quirky, excessively cute, under-wrought, and gave me a headache in a surprisingly short amount of time.

The story was not completely without merit. There was a nice little nugget in there about a man who gets married young because he wants to have a "witness" to his entire life and, by marrying and producing children and grandchildren, he succeeds...until all of those people die off, that is.

Sheila Heti has clearly got something going on, I'll admit that. This sort of swirling, completely inward, "mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a riddle" type of story cannot be written by someone who does not have some serious depth of thought and character. I'd just like to see what this talent looks like when it's brought forward into something that doesn't read like a creative writing class exercise.


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