PositiveThe New RepublicHow Should a Person Be? often feels like a transitional work, a book caught between new, reality TV-inspired concepts of self-presentation and fictional form, and old necessities of plot and character development: an ungainly beast ... Here is where reality can fail us: sometimes it is not that interesting. Sometimes the stakes are not that high. Fiction allows the writer to create a heightened version of reality, to raise the stakes on a familiar sort of conflict, to use the tools of suspense and surprise to awaken us into a startled sense of \'what it means to be human\' ... Heti lets her edits show. The quarrels between Sheila and Margaux, and the estrangement and long journey-of-the-soul that follow, feel manufactured to add compulsion to the plot. They are over-narrated, which is a sad waste from such a talented scene-builder ... The rest of the book offers a devastating account of the traps women fall into nonetheless, namely allowing men to act as their sole mentors and sources of approval. It is, in a very new way, the most thoughtfully feminist novel I have read in years—because of its flaws, and not despite them.
RaveThe New Republic\"Although Faye is central, her own story is almost completely excised from the book, which is made up of the stories told to her by people she meets on her trip: a billionaire lunch companion; her neighbor on the flight, a middle-aged Greek shipping heir; another teacher, Ryan; several Greek writers and poets and people working in publishing; a varied group of students ranging from street protesters to housewives; and finally, Anne, a British playwright … If Faye is the negative space, then the novel’s quasi-Socratic dialogues construct a very particular outline. Certain themes return again and again: the illusions created by love, whether honesty is possible between men and women, the dizzying shift in perspective that occurs when a relationship ends … Cusk almost can’t help what a good storyteller she is, even if she’s attempting something less conventionally ‘told.’ Many of the conversations in Outline form brilliant tiny narratives.\
MixedSlateSchor’s book alternates evenly between a history of the language and her own personal history, as she attends Esperanto conferences and moves deeper into an understanding of the language and its speakers. And although she is undeniably a powerful and scrupulously thoughtful writer both of intellectual and private history, the balance ends up feeling like an unfortunate choice. The sections in the past are for the most part much more interesting than those in the present ... Schor herself has complex goals, and her book—as ambitious, soulful, intellectually hefty, and yet occasionally naïve as the project it describes—sometimes gets tangled in them.