It just lacks cohesion. Ticknor is unreliable, yes, by why? Is he demented or crazy or a bit of both? Ticknor is going to a party at an old friend's house, but so much goes wrong. He leaves late, the pie is ruined, he misses the streetcar, the advertisements are overwhelming. Most of all, at some point in their pasts, his life and Prescott's his old friend life diverged.
The Millions: Ticknor: A Novel by Sheila Heti
Now, with his humiliation looming all he can do is catalogue this divergence, obsessing over how it was that Prescott was such a success, and Ticknor nor such a failure. This is a slim novel that is written in the first person, Ticknor is going to a party at an old friend's house, but so much goes wrong. This is a slim novel that is written in the first person, all of it bouncing around the overwrought head of George Ticknor. Though it seems like he constantly obsesses about his friend, I choose to be charitable and assume that this is relatively infrequent occurance, brought on by the circumstances.
It has all gone wrong, which reminds him of his life, at least in comparison to his famous friend. Heti's prose shines in the mind of George Ticknor. She effortlessly moves from past to present to imagined future. There were only a few passages at the beginning that confused me.
She makes no effort to introduce the narrator, allowing his muddled mind to introduce itself in time. Which is very effective and helps the reader to get acquainted with Ticknor in an organic sort of way. The book doesn't feel like a book. You feel like these thoughts are actual thoughts, not sentences composed to look like thoughts but also obey a narrative order. This leaves a bit of work for the reader but not too much. If the novel was any longer thank you Sheila Heti for resisting the urge to compose an epic it would've been boring and confusing.
This is manageable and entertaining. We get one trip to one party; but it becomes a symbol for the general progression of the narrator's life. In the end you don't want to be like Ticknor, but he is not unsympathetic. I think this style of resentment is something we are all guilty of, or at the very least capable of. This universal quality is what makes it so funny. Jan 14, Leila rated it really liked it. It is the internal dialogue of protagonist Ticknor, who endlessly compares himself to his successful, socially adroit, and much loved friend Prescott.
By comparison, Ticknor is anxious, indecisive, socially awkward, self-absorbed, jealous, and envious. In short, he is not very likable. Summaries and reviews of the novella suggest Prescott is self-absorbed and even cruel when it comes to his treatment of childhood friend Ticknor. But remember we are seeing him through the distorted gaze of Ticknor, who is by no means subjective. This approach underscores his nervousness, his bumbling demeanor, and his general incompetence.
He is a fellow who is trapped by, and suffers more from this own personality traits, than his friend Prescott does from actual maladies. Dec 25, Dusty rated it liked it Shelves: William Hickling Prescott, the author of such insanely popular nineteenth-century titles as The History of the Conquest of Mexico , was mostly blind--the unfortunate result of being hit in the eye with a biscuit while he was attending boarding school. In Ticknor , Sheila Heti offers a fictionalized account of Prescott's life that is told from the perspective of his friend and intellectual contemporary, George Ticknor.
In a note at the end of the book, Heti acknowledges that Ticknor was, in William Hickling Prescott, the author of such insanely popular nineteenth-century titles as The History of the Conquest of Mexico , was mostly blind--the unfortunate result of being hit in the eye with a biscuit while he was attending boarding school. In a note at the end of the book, Heti acknowledges that Ticknor was, in fact, a family man and a successful author in his own right, but for some reason the character she presents in the book is a self-absorbed misanthrope who can't quite manage to bake a decent pie, let alone write a book on the history of Spanish literature.
I found the novel off-putting and a little tedious in the beginning, in part because Heti's Ticknor speaks to himself in both the first and second person, but by the end I found myself drawn into the author's fantastical depiction of early nineteenth-century Boston and the Ticknor character's struggles to overcome his own self-doubt. If Prescott, on the one hand, is physically blind, then Ticknor, on the other, is intellectually blind, as he is unable to perceive anything except for the failure of his own life in contrast to the triumph of his friend Prescott's life.
The book is a disappointment as a biography, I guess, but it is more than satisfactory as a novel. Aug 07, John rated it really liked it. I liked this book. It was very funny - tongue in cheek.
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Only thing sometimes I felt I was being hit over the head with the same information over again. But it fits the characters in the real story. If you want to study people who think the same thoughts in circles this is the book for you. If you are looking for an intervention for people who definitely need it, then I would skip this. It would be very sad if it were not so funny. But then again what is obvious to an outsider confounds the peopl I liked this book. But then again what is obvious to an outsider confounds the people in the middle of it.
The characters don't bend and they don't break either.
The Problem Child: Why Won’t America Publish Sheila Heti’s Second Novel?
They just are what they are. We all know people like these people, but why can't they see the obvious and just be different? I can't wait to see what Heti does with similar material as she develops. She'd probably not agree with the idea of development as each work stands alone. But certainly 'How Should a Person Be' is just better than this book in practically every way. If she were to write a quasi historical novel now I am sure it would flow, nuance and richly develop each character much more than this book does.
I could see how Heti could create a masterpiece out of similar material by presenting the story as if she were living it herself. But historical fiction does not really fit into her current aesthetic. Perhaps she will come back to it at some point perhaps she won't. There is no downside either way. I am not good at those sorts of arrangements, pouring drinks or holding out a hand to a woman to help her from her chair; even sitting in the corner of the parlour with the men, smoking and talking in appropriate ways.
I had nothing to say in the appropriate ways. I could not help out because I no longer knew the house, not as some of the others did, or what was needed, or what they might have wanted from me. I cannot go to his house. I often go to the mirror when crying, to see how I might look. Sometimes I feel I would, and it makes me cry even harder; other times I do not and it fills me with despair — well, then I weep more pitifully than before. In these ways I find I am able to enjoy myself. The pure times I spend alone are rare. Oct 12, Melanie Page rated it it was ok Shelves: Two stars look really "bad," but the Goodreads definition is "it was okay.
It took me many, many, many tries over several years to get into this book because my brain kept puzzling out "you" vs. However, these changes aren't noted with italics or set off in any way. You just have to catch them, and Two stars look really "bad," but the Goodreads definition is "it was okay. You just have to catch them, and I felt that made the book unnecessarily difficult to read.
Ticknor is supposed to be the best friend from Prescott's childhood, but the whole of the book focuses on Ticknor's jealousy that Prescott has other friends as an adult, that there are numerous people at Precott's parties, and that Ticknor was not meant to be the only guest. The confusing bit in terms of Ticknor's feelings is that there are no scenes that prove Prescott was his friend.
Therefore, we're taking his jealousy and his "failure" when compared to Precott's writing success at his word. When the book finished, I was quite surprised and not entirely certain what I was meant to feel when I finished.
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Perhaps I was extra bemused by Ticknor because I'm so used to Heti's more whimsical fiction. Jul 29, k rated it really liked it. You have to be in the right mood for this one, that's for sure. When I first started it, was in the wrong mood, and couldn't manage more than a few pages of Heti's gauntlet-throwing variable second-person subjects sometimes "you" for the narrator himself, talking to himself, sometimes "you" for the narrator speaking in his mind to the not-present subject of his obsession, Prescott.
Anyway, took it up again, started from beginning, was in the right mood somehow, and loved it. Ticknor is You have to be in the right mood for this one, that's for sure. Ticknor is the worst in all of us, Prescott the kind of person you want to be, love, and tend to hate all at the same time. Mar 29, Lori rated it liked it. This book was mentally exhausting. It was like reading a copycat script of the movie "Groundhog Day. I do like the style, but reading basically the same thing over and over gets a bit tiresome, especially when the over and over does nothing to build suspense or interest on the narrative.
I did come away thinking that This book was mentally exhausting. I did come away thinking that Ticknor the man is a real piece of work, but that's about it. Jan 15, Stephen rated it really liked it Shelves: To call this misanthropic little monologue "delightful" might be a stretch, but Heti so convincingly channels Thomas Bernhard that I can find no other word to describe this. A remarkable ventriloquism act, densely packed into a mere pages. Mar 08, Jacob Yang rated it really liked it. My brother came me a book of Sheila Heti's short stories which I enjoyed.
This slim novel is a throughly enjoyable exploration of one man's self- absorbed, petty and mildly resentful mind. Heti's ability to capture the inner monologue that many of us deliver in our heads, around social anxieties and self perception was impressive. May 22, Stefanie rated it it was ok Shelves: I think I read about half of this. I love how small the scope of this novel is. At the moment it didn't capture me, though. I'm very willing to consider the possibility that I just wasn't in the right mood for it.
I should give it another try. Jan 06, Zoe Rider rated it it was ok Shelves: Was just not my thing, apparently. It's so short, and this became my refrain as I tried to get through it: It'll be over in no time. Oh my god, I still have 72 pages to go. It's likely I was just not the right sort of person to appreciate it. Feb 21, Matt rated it liked it Shelves: I reviewed this as a staff writer for my then-magazine quite a few years ago. Check it out here it's actually one of my better pieces, I think, I'm very proud of it.
It took a really long time to write, going minimal - http: Dec 15, Rebecca H. I like the concept of this novel -- its stream of consciousness and exploration of envy and resentment, plus its lack of interest in traditional narrative -- but ultimately it never came alive for me.
I wanted to get caught up in the narrator's voice, but I always felt too distanced. Nov 18, Zoe Prichard rated it did not like it. I found almost nothing in this book that tickled my fancy- I thought the main character morose and full of envy and the book in general difficult to follow. It felt like the author had made a conscious effort to create a 'literary' work which took all the enjoyment out of it for me. Apr 19, Jessie rated it it was ok Shelves: It is interesting to read and evaluate this book as an exercise in writing.
But purely as a reader wanting to enjoy a story, I did not like the book. Mar 26, Pss rated it really liked it.
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A beautiful but almost grotesquely uncomfortable read, much like encountering myself on one of my more honest days, and Heti's Ticknor is no less despicable. Sponsored products related to this item What's this? For fans of Kerry Lonsdale and Kerry Fisher, an honest and emotional story about life-defining moments, unexpected love and second chances. Yulia is no stranger to dangerous men.
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Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. I like it as much as her other Ticknor is a very different experience vs. How Should A Person Be--but so brilliant. I like it as much as her other work, which means it gets my highest possible recommendation.
One person found this helpful. I thought the format of the monologue -- essentially the narrator interviewing himself, switching between "I" and "you" and changing his "I" story in the face of unsympathetic and well-informed questions from the "you" questioner -- had potential, but nothing about the actual content grabbed my interest. I gave up after 33 pages. At least it only cost me 1c Don't you hate people who are more successful than you are?
Especially the ones who pretend they're your friends. George Ticknor, the narrator of Sheils Heti's super new novel, has a problem with his more successful chum, a boyhood pal called William Prescott who has grown into a one-man writing factory, while he, George, has remained a low level journalist and a fulltime milksop, just seething with secret resentments.
The relationship between them is not unlike the one Nabokov sketched out in PALE FIRE between John Shade, the Olympian, above it all poet, and his neighbor Charles Kinbote, who comes to believe that the poem Shade spends his last days writing is "secretly" an allegory for Kinbote's own hidden past in Zembla. Heti's novel has its Zemblan aspects, a fleecy, neurosis-ridden prose style used to expose Ticknor's pretensions.
That's not to say he isn't sometimes genuinely lyrical. Prescott shares his name and profession with the real-life famous US historian of the American Renaissance period, while George Ticknor was the publisher of Hawthorne, Lowell, many in the same era. Sheila Heti has scrambled pieces of their identities to provide us with an increasingly modern story of guilt and forgiveness, for in her version, something happened way back when in the boyhood of the two main characters, something dark and nasty that resulted in Prescott's losing an eye, like the accident Robert Creeley suffered as a youth, but here there's a definite BAD SEED feeling to it.
Sheila Heti's not so good when describing George's lustful feelings for a woman who probably doesn't even know he's alive. Funny lapse in a writer otherwise so gifted. I just didn't buy that he was attracted to her. It seemed like Heti was trying a either to humanize her boy or b to make him more sociopathic and creepy or c a mixture of both but I doubt any man has ever felt that way about any woman outside of a book so it just felt clunky.
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