Wish I Could Be There: Notes From a Phobic Life

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9780670038428: Wish I Could Be There: Notes From a Phobic Life

A droll, inquisitive, and poignant memoir of agoraphobia from a member of one of New York’s premier literary families

Allen Shawn is afraid of heights, water, fields, parking lots, tunnels, and unknown roads. He avoids taking subways, using elevators, or crossing bridges. In short, he is afraid of both closed and open spaces and of any form of isolation. Yet this is a memoir of enormous bravery.

Shawn grew up in a lively but mysterious world. He is the son of the famous, longtime New Yorker editor William Shawn and brother to the brilliant playwright and actor Wallace Shawn. His twin sister is autistic, and when they were eight years old, she was put in a home. Though it was kept from him until he was in his thirties, his father led a double life that introduced strict taboos to his household. Shawn examines these influences, his father’s and mother’s phobias, and his own struggle with agoraphobia with generosity, wit, and insight, attempting to decipher the psychological and biological puzzles that have plagued him for so long.

Interwoven with both Freudian psychology and cutting-edge brain research, Shawn has written a profound examination of familial love and the universal struggle to face our demons.

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About the Author:

Allen Shawn is on the faculty at Bennington College in Vermont. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly.

Review:

As a person with autism, I can really relate to the constant panic and anxiety the author suffers. Many of his experiences with panic attacks were similar to mine. This book will provide great insights for people who have panic attacks and for the people who live with them. -- Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation and Thinking in Pictures

I`ve written no sentence in my life as often as the title of this book--every time I have to call off appointments, even very important ones. It is a wonderfully comforting book which tells you are not alone with your fears. Allen Shawn, whose family history is similarly dysfunctional and full of catastrophes as my own, speaks of useful human fears that can be turned into strengths and of unnecessary fears. Unfortunately I can no longer differentiate between either form. All my fears seem unnecessary to me, and they make me, make everyone, into something contolled from outside, something almost no longer human when the fears take over, or when you see other people or every change of location only as a threat. There is a lot to learn from this book, and it calms your insides when you are told about it this way. I'm very grateful for it, grateful too that I am not alone with my fears. -- Elfriede Jelinek, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature

Remarkable. In probing the consequences and possible causes of his phobias, Mr. Shawn has written a brave, eccentric and utterly compelling book that's as revelatory and candid as anything ever written by Joan Didion, and as humane and scientifically fascinating as any one of Oliver Sacks's case studies. Mr. Shawn is unsparing in his dissection of his phobias and the self-preoccupation they entail, and he intercuts his research into the psychology of his affliction with some painfully recalled childhood memories that unfold into a thoughtful, philosophical meditation on Freud and families and identity...his inquiry into his affliction becomes an inquiry into his own past, and that inquiry, in turn, becomes an eloquent meditation upon the mysteries of personality and family, and the ingenious, often debilitating ways in which the human mind can try to cope with the exigencies of the world. -- Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

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