Episode five: Sheila vs. the Internet
Author Sheila Heti is a shining literary light. The daughter of Hungarian Jews — her mom is a pathologist and her dad is an electrical engineer — Sheila was surrounded by people who value intellect, curiosity and logical thinking.
Sheila speaks with the unpredictable rhythm of an improvisational musician. Her voice — high, tender and amused — carries an avalanche of words that weave together, building complex ideas and theories. Clearly, Sheila has a powerful connection to her subconscious, and that's why I'm convinced she will make a great guest at our second sleepover. Her forever humming brain will take the conversation in surprising directions.
Success came early for Sheila, gaining international attention for her fiction and journalistic writing. Throughout her career she has witnessed the advent of the Internet and has seen the transformation of the written word into something that can be shared to millions with the click of a button. And it is the Internet — symbolized by her laptop — that is at the root of a problem Sheila shares with us.
Day turns to night and we get comfortable in hotel room 3-168. I change into my muumuu, Sheila and Jon wear their pajamas, and Josis reclines in his sweatsuit. Sheila shares her dilemma, she can't help but be aware of her perceived whiteness and privilege at this moment in time. She sees numerous conversations and cultural critiques about the demand for inclusion taking place online. Sheila is aware of her cultural advantages and does not want to fall on the wrong side of history, but she also wishes for her writing to be received beyond reductive limitations.
It seems the more popular she is, the more detractors there are, and online insults can come fast and furious. She does not want to be paralyzed by what others say, and more importantly she does not want her writing to be affected by a kind of self-censorship that would alter it. Sheila Heti has written extensively about life's confusion, most notably in her landmark book, How Should a Person Be? and it's evident at our sleepover that many of her questions remain unanswered. I'm hoping that strangers Dr. Jon Fiddler, Josis Thomas, and I can help point her in the right direction.
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