Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Allen Shawn's Insecurities

A list of composer Allen Shawn's innumerable phobias from his new memoir (as quoted in the New York Times):
"I don't like heights. I don't like being on the water. I am upset by walking across parking lots or open fields where there are no buildings. I tend to avoid bridges, unless they are on a small scale. I respond poorly to stretches of vastness but I do equally poorly when I am closed in, as I am severely claustrophobic. When I go to a theater, I sit on the aisle. I am petrified of tunnels, making most train travel as well as many drives difficult. I don't take subways. I avoid elevators as much as possible. I experience glassed-in spaces as toxic, and I find it very difficult to adjust to being buildings in which the windows don't open. ... I am afraid both of closed and of open spaces, and I am afraid, in a sense, of any form of isolation."
The Times' book critic Michiko Kakutani gives Shawn's book, Wish I Could Be There, one of her rare positive reviews. What seems to be so remarkable about Mr. Shawn is that through all the absurd fears, he's highly aware of how they control -- and weaken -- his life. Still, Shawn (5'2") was stable enough to sustain a marriage to the writer Jamaica Kincaid (six-feet-tall) for 25 years.

Allen Shawn is the son of the great New Yorker editor William Shawn, and brother to the actor and playwright Wallace Shawn (also known as the Grand Nagus on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Vizzini in The Princess Bride).

And read William F. Buckley's strange but affectionate obituary for the New Yorker's William Shawn here.

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