Heartfelt, helpful memoir

SHY: A MEMOIR<br><b>Sian Prior</b><br><i>Text Publishing</i>
SHY: A MEMOIR<br><b>Sian Prior</b><br><i>Text Publishing</i>
As a once very shy male, I thought it looked interesting when I saw Shy on a list of books to be reviewed and read the publisher's blurb.

The trouble I initially had with Sian Prior's version of shyness is I couldn't connect her successful Sydney-based career as a feature writer, broadcaster, singer, MC, teacher and general super-talent with my experience of blushing, sweating and avoiding at all costs sitting opposite girls (or anyone for that matter) on trains or buses.

I've waxed on a bit because shyness, now known as ''social anxiety'', can be easily cured with a few glasses of wine, as Prior discovered. But if it doesn't progress to alcoholism, as hers didn't, the search for reasons ''why am I shy?'' is continuing, as is trying to find ways to alleviate symptoms.

Shy is a memoir that's heartfelt, sometimes entertaining, occasionally moving, and broadly informative with regard to the professional help available.

Family relationships and comparisons with siblings are also explored, and I admit to feeling tearful when she describes how her father, Glen, a musician and orchestra leader, drowned while rescuing two small boys at a Sydney surf beach.

Readers who have experienced broken relationships can imagine the effect on Prior's fragile psyche when her partner of 10 years, whom she met through the internet (''frequently used by shy people to make contact with others'') ends their relationship.

This reactivated Prior's ''disaster dreams'', ranging from ''mass drownings to smoke alarms going off in buildings where flames lick walls and people are trapped''.

Since that dire parting, Prior has worked on her angst by gaining knowledge connected to her problem. For example: ''two-thirds of irritable bowel syndrome patients have anxiety-based psychiatric disorders'', and ''people who are lonely or socially anxious feel better able to express their true selves over the net''.

At a guess it sounds like a fair proportion of the population have a problem or two. Oh, well! At least they'll enjoy reading Prior's book.

- Ian Williams is a Dunedin writer and composer.

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