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.
One of my favourite living writers: intelligent, lucid and, most impressive of all, funny – even when he’s writing about the most difficult subjects.
Graham Caveney approaches the subject of agoraphobia diaristically, legally, and philosophically; he drinks about it, reads about it, has therapy about it, and assembles the long and fascinating history of its writers. Any of these approaches could have been its own book. But the best part of this book is the silence Caveney somehow also manages to include on the page, which holds space for the phobia’s mute, ineffable, terrifying center.