department of corrections

Sheila Heti on Drinking Her Way to a Child’s-Eye View

A 2013 Wikipedia blog post estimated that 90 percent of the company’s top editors were men. Which means the majority of Wikipedia entries about people were — and probably still are — controlled by a bunch of dudes. Cool.  

Well, three authors who excel at writing personal narratives have found a way to control the Wikipedia narrative, in a way. Emily Gould (Friendship), Sheila Heti (How Should a Person Be?), and Chris Kraus (I Love Dick) used Genius’s annotation tool to add corrections and personal details to their Wikipedia pages — mostly as a way to play with the form but also as a way to correct, explain, and rewrite a story that someone else has written about them.

Kraus takes the opportunity to set some things straight through her annotations. First off, she finds it frustrating that people assume women are always writing autobiographically: “Autobiography … that’s a descriptor that’s often wrongly applied to autofiction when written by women. Seventy percent of literary fiction, I believe, is autofiction in some sense.”

And, she writes, she doesn’t consider I Love Dick to be her most personal work, though it’s a fictionalized account of one of her relationships. “I think Torpor is more personal,” she writes. “The ‘Chris’ character in I Love Dick has experiences and feelings typical of a lot of women in an urban cultural milieu. It’s not a book I’d write now, but it’s great that it’s circulating.”

Gould, whose “Career” section is significantly shorter than her “Criticisms” section, finds herself rethinking Wikipedia’s reliability: “A lot of my page isn’t exactly inaccurate, it’s just from a bizarre standpoint. This is never what a human would sit down and write — even a human who really hated me.”

Meanwhile, Heti uses many of hers to give readers a glimpse into her writing process. Like this explanation of how she got into the mind of a child for the book We Need a Horse: “When I wrote this story, I actually felt like my brain changed and I was in my child brain and could see the world through child eyes. The way I got there was to get drunk. Maybe, when you’re drunk there’s much emotion and bewilderment. I went to a party and saw an ex and got drunk and went home and wrote this story. That’s the formula.”

Check out their annotated pages here, here, and here.

Drink Your Way to a Child’s-Eye View