On Agoraphobia

Graham Caveney

28 April 2022
208 pages


If we’re talking agoraphobia, we’re talking books. I slip between their covers, lose myself in the turn of one page, re-discover myself on the next. Reading is a game of hide-and-seek. Narrative and neurosis, uneasy bedfellows sleeping top to toe.

When Graham Caveney was in his early twenties he began to suffer from what was eventually diagnosed as agoraphobia. What followed were decades of managing his condition and learning to live within the narrow limits it imposed on his life: no motorways, no dual carriageways, no shopping centres, limited time outdoors.

Graham’s quest to understand his illness brought him back to his first love: books. From Harper Lee’s Boo Radley, Ford Madox Ford, Emily Dickinson, and Shirley Jackson: the literary world is replete with examples of agoraphobics – once you go looking for them.

On Agoraphobia is a fascinating, entertaining and sometimes painfully acute look at what it means to go through life with an anxiety disorder that evades easy definition.

Never less than completely absorbing, simply because [Caveney] is such a nimble, exact writer, able to move swiftly but unjarringly between daft jokes and serious reflections. His descriptions of the toll the condition takes on his mental health are horrifying in their precision, but that precision makes them beautiful at the same time...the book has the merit of timeliness, in addition to its eloquence and refreshing sense of being totally unconfected

Intellectually curious, emotionally bracing and immensely erudite. . .bright and funny, and full of telling quotes. . .it will hearten people who have agoraphobia, enlighten medics and teach outsiders all the lessons Caveney has learned
A strange and many-headed work that melds personal experience with cultural criticism....thoughtful, humane and unjustly enjoyable