thefourthvine's Reviews > Wish I Could Be There: Notes From a Phobic Life

Wish I Could Be There by Allen Shawn
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's review
Jan 25, 2009

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bookshelves: biographies-autobiographies-memoirs, science, kindle
Read in January, 2009

This book is kind of an unholy union. Half of it is an interesting memoir about Allen Shawn's family, his life, and his phobias (and the intersections of the three). The other half is a relatively boring summary of neurological and psychological aspects of phobias.

The memoir part of it is, well, like I said: really interesting. Shawn's family background is fascinating. That's a little disingenuous, because I honestly think that almost anyone could write a good book about their family and childhood if they wrote honestly and well. But. Still. The family stuff was good. Even better, though, was Shawn's description of the development of his phobias and how they affect his life. He does a fabulous job of describing what phobias feel like and how he, as what we might call a high-functioning agoraphobic, lives and copes.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot of that, because much of the book is dedicated to the science side of things. If he'd been writing in depth about that, it would also have been interesting, but as it was, he kind of skims along the surface. He doesn't go into a lot of depth, and what he does cover is the stuff most people already know. There's nothing new in this information, and he's not a science writer, so it's not presented particularly well, either. A lot of the time I felt like he was using the science portion more as filler than as content, which was a pity, because he could have said a lot more about his family and his life (or a lot more interesting things about neurology and psychology, if he was more of that kind of person).

So the melding of the two types of book was unsuccessful. Still - the parts that were personal were good enough to make me glad I'd read the whole book.
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