It's a shy word, a timid little word that begs to remain unnoticed. Only three letters long, and it begins with an exhortation to silence. Shhh. Reserved is different. It's for tall men with jutting jaws. Prime ministers can appear reserved: never shy. Restrained carries itself with dignity.
Even introvert has a whiff of authority about it: these people have been tested; Myers and Briggs have awarded them an impressive three-syllable psychological label. But with shy there's no authority, no control. It's a blushing, hunching word; a nervous, knock-kneed, wallflower word. A word for children, not grown-ups, because surely grown-ups grow out of shyness. Don't they?
Sian Prior has maintained a career in the public eye, as a broadcaster and performer, for more than twenty years. For far longer than that she has suffered from excruciating shyness.
Eventually, after bolting from a party in a state of near-panic, she decides to investigate her condition. What is it—shyness? Where did hers come from? Why does it create such distressing turmoil beneath her assured professional front?
As Sian begins to research the science of social anxiety, other factors present themselves as facets of the problem. Family, intimate friendships, self-perception and fear and longing and the consequences of love… While, in counterpoint, there is the security, the sense of belonging, she finds in the life she shares with Tom, her famous partner. Until he tells her he is leaving.
Shy: A Memoir—frank, provocative, remarkable in its clarity and beautifully written—is a book about unease: about questioning who you are and evading the answer. It is about grief, and abandonment and loss. It is about how the simple word shy belies the complex reality of what that really means.
- Publication Date:
- 01 / 08 / 2015
- 153 x 234mm
an exceptional debut
Shy: A Memoir is the first book by Australian journalist, broadcaster media consultant and teacher, Sian Prior. Since 1980, when the DSM III recognised social anxiety, shyness has been accepted as a form of this disorder, situated on a spectrum that ranges from mild anxiety to social phobia. Sian Prior has suffered from shyness for as long as she can remember, but it was the overwhelming need, when she was in her forties, to escape from a party that finally stimulated her to research this often debilitating condition. Her research, together with candid accounts of Sianâ€™s own experiences, form the bulk of this memoir. This highly personal aspect gives the reader a remarkable insight into the plight of those who suffer from this unenviable affliction, but also a revealing look at the rest of us. (â€œWhy do we remember our failures and sufferings so much better than our pleasures and triumphs?â€ could equally apply to the unafflicted.) Prior explores the various definitions of shyness, as well as attitudes to shyness, and explains the difference between shyness and introversion. The contradiction arising from the fact that shy people are often successful in very public roles is also examined: Prior depicts Shy Sian and Professional Sian as virtually different people. Prior found that â€œshyness was sometimes interpreted by others as haughtiness or a lack of interestâ€¦â€ Pride, shame, loneliness, fear of rejection and bullying in relation to shyness are all considered, but Prior also notes the association of shyness with empathy and caring. Also appearing in this memoir are some interesting support characters: psychologist and mother, Professor Margot, the imaginary Magazine Woman, fearless grandmother Peg, Mr Hippy Shoulder Bag, musician, father and posthumous hero Glen, partner Tom (an alias for a well-known musician and performer), grandfather Stan and his printing press, Professor Ron, Julia Gillard and Charles Darwin. While the subject matter could have proved heavy going, Prior tells her story with wit, humour and some wonderfully descriptive prose. â€œAnxiety can be contagious, leaping from person to personâ€ and â€œâ€¦the West Indian boys who played in the steel drum band would be swaying in a ragged line, brown arms waving over the metal pans like card-trick magicians, conjuring the sound of shy church bells seduced by calypsoâ€ and â€œWhat strange sort of holiday was I packing for here? A holiday on an island of griefâ€ are just a few examples. This memoir is interesting and thought-provoking, and is an exceptional debut