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Ebook My Life Is a Joke by Sheila Heti read! Book Title: My Life Is a Joke
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The author of the book: Sheila Heti
Date of issue: May 4th 2015
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Language: English
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 1.82 MB

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The act of ‘witnessing’ invites several connotations, in settings ranging from
courthouses to baptisms. It’s also the word Sheila Heti uses in “My Life is a Joke” to
describe a perspective on relationships—specifically, having relationships so that one’s life
may be witnessed by another person. This begs many questions, the first of which is: which
connotation of ‘witnessing’ did Heti have in mind when giving this description—to witness
life with the severity of criminal acts, or the purity of rebirth, or something in between? In
other words, what does it mean to be a witness of one’s significant other? And more
importantly, what consequences does such an attitude have on people and relationships?
Based on Heti’s narrative, the implications of using relationships for witnesses are
equivocal—and resemble, like all else in life, a double-edged blade. While the ultimate results
are far from absolute, there is evidence that this mindset is not as heartless and harmful as it
seems, and that it may even yield a type of success.
In order to properly understand the significance of seeing romance as witnessing, an
explication of this outlook must first be given. At first glance, it is the opposite of a young
couple’s dreams—one of those cold stony realizations, instilled in by years of cynicism. But
such time-taught axioms are rarely devoid of truth, and having a partner with whom to talk,
to unburden each day’s struggles, and to help bear life’s crushing load is no small blessing.
Within “My Life is a Joke,” the attitude being examined affects two people in polar
fashions—the narrator herself, and her high-school boyfriend. The boyfriend is the source
of the belief, unabashedly imparting it onto the narrator. The narrator sees this as selfish and

arrogant. It’s certainly unromantic, and perhaps limits the boyfriend’s experiences with love,
particularly the emotional roller coasters ridden by his more youthful-minded, irrational
peers. Yet it’s also frank and honest—a simple goal to have in life, and “he got exactly what
he wanted.” Moreover, despite the narrator’s accusation, it’s possible that witnessing can go
both ways, and that her first boyfriend would have enjoyed “to watch [her] life unfold,”
since his minimal description at the very least conveys loyalty and commitment. And while
unguaranteed, it appears the boyfriend lived in content.
This stands in stark contrast to the narrator’s relationship with the piece of wisdom.
For her, it’s a seed that burrows itself in her conscience, eventually poisoning her mind.
When the narrator first hears about ‘witnessing,’ she still believes that relationships can, and
should, offer much more than simply being a viewer of another’s life. Her hope for the
cliché, however, would not last, and after breaking up with her second boyfriend, she sees
that she doesn’t even have a witness in her life—a seemingly-humble aspiration she once
demeaned, but whose absence now serves as a constant reminder of her loneliness and
What, then, do these two portraits signify? The answer is largely dependent on
personality—those who understand love as ‘witnessing’ are suggested as more practical and
mature. On a more introspective level, it would seem that they lack some independence,
even self-confidence—that they require an outside perspective to reaffirm their lives. Yet
this need for reinforcement of our actions and beliefs exists in everyone; after all, how can
one accurately perceive events in life, and be confident in his or her perceptions, without
knowing the reactions of other, separate minds? Indeed, the narrator fails to be an exception,
and because of her deep, unfulfilled need for someone to truly understand her, she turns the

ephemeral remarks of her second love into a self-fulfilling prophecy—so that she may have
the ‘best’ witness of all.
Another implication of having witnesses, one unforeseen by the narrator, but from
which the boyfriend inadvertently benefits, is a lasting legacy. Having witnesses in his life
gave him a legacy, whereas the narrator is forced to return from the dead, to “put on the
flesh of [her] body” and give her story to a living audience, so that she may have some form
of legacy and inner peace for herself. In the boyfriend’s way, wanting witnesses may signify a
love for family—specifically, children to carry one’s memories and achievements.
It is apt that the narrator arrives at these realizations in death, for when else would
one be able to view the entire course of a life, and to find meaning from it? If this is indeed
the case, then the view of love as witnessing is the meaning of the narrator’s life—an idea
that invisibly plagues her life, but is “the only thing” she knows in death. While the
boyfriend, who holds this view while alive, reaps its rewards, his fortune comes at the cost of
the narrator’s happiness and will to live.
For the narrator and the boyfriend, the belief of ‘romantic witnessing’ destroyed their
relationship. As for the fate of other lovers who come to hold this opinion, however, Heti’s
story leaves as muddled and murky as the future itself. But if societal patterns are a valid
source, it appears that technology has made us, now more than ever, emotionally enslaved to
witnesses. Truly, it is no longer awe and fear that the Earth’s sublime first inspires in us,
those fantastical wonders of millions of years of nature’s effort, but rather the need for the
best Instagram photo. With social networks providing hundreds of witnesses, are we
compelled to expect even more from romantic relationships? Could such witnesses have
prevented the narrator’s suicide? And can these ‘friends’ even be considered witnesses in the
first place, or do the omniscient dead find them as trivial and fleeting as a joke?

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Read information about the author

Ebook My Life Is a Joke read Online! Sheila Heti is the author of five books; three books of fiction, a children's book, and a work of non-fiction with Misha Glouberman. She is Interviews Editor at The Believer and is known for her long interviews. She lives in Toronto.

Reviews of the My Life Is a Joke


Very controversial Vpechalenija


There are clear drawbacks


The book has disappointed, little new, lots of water!


The book has disappointed, little new, lots of water!


I never liked the book.

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