Author(s): Joe Moran
Our success as a species is built on sociability, so shyness in humans should be an anomaly. But it's actually remarkably common - we all know what it's like to cringe in embarrassment, stand tongue-tied at the fringe of an unfamiliar group, or flush with humiliation if we suddenly become the unwelcome centre of attention. In Shrinking Violets, Joe Moran explores the hidden world of shyness, providing insights on everything from timidity in lemon sharks to the role of texting in Finnish love affairs. As he seeks answers to the questions that shyness poses - Why are we shy? Can we overcome it? Does it define us? - he uncovers the fascinating stories of the men and women who were 'of the violet persuasion', from Charles Darwin to Agatha Christie, and from Tove Jansson to Nick Drake. In their stories - often both heart-breaking and inspiring - and through the myriad ways scientists and thinkers have tried to explain and cure shyness, Moran finds a hopeful conclusion. To be shy, he decides, is not simply a burden - it is also a gift, a different way of seeing the world that can be both enriching and inspiring.
Come on, don't be shy: pick up this outstanding cultural history of shyness from the brilliant Joe Moran
An intriguing, poignant and passionate story about shyness in humans and animals. I was captivated from start to finish. Joanna Bourke A probing, surprising and continually alert book ... Moran is the razor-edge analyst of reticence, a virtuoso reader of those who hope to evade the eye. Francis O'Gorman, author of WORRYING Whether you're boldly outgoing or reticent and self-effacing, you'll find something to inspire, inform or surprise in this thoughtful, beautifully written and vividly detailed cultural history. Susan Cain, author of QUIET This remarkable compendium of shyness, vivid and insightful, provides both a history of diffidence and a compelling account of its cultural and psychological complexity. Whether discussing embarrassment, stammering, stage fright, or reticence, Moran considers the impact of shyness on creativity and its myriad contributions to fiction, art, and music. Beautifully written, appealingly candid, and thoroughly engaging, Shrinking Violets deserves a very wide readership. Christopher Lane, author of Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness This is a probing, surprising, and continually alert book about a feeling that is well-known - even when it doesn't want to be - yet almost never discussed. Moran, with beautifully shaped prose, ruminates on cultural attitudes to, and representations of, shyness. He is generous about his own shyness, and forensically alert to what being shy more generally means and what it doesn't. Shyness is just there, he concludes: loaded with potential interpretations but not defined by them. Examining a huge amount of cultural material-from sociological reports to popular music, from Virginia Woolf to Desert Island Discs - Moran is the razor-edge analyst of reticence, a virtuoso reader of those who hope to evade the eye. -- Francis O'Gorman, author of WORRYING: A Literary and Cultural History Joe Moran's excellent Shrinking Violets is an invitation to enter the strange and wonderful world of shyness, an emotion experienced by everyone from Charles Darwin to Japanese teenagers. Whether you're boldly outgoing or reticent and self-effacing, you'll find something to inspire, inform or surprise in this thoughtful, beautifully written and vividly detailed cultural history. -- Susan Cain, bestselling author of QUIET and co-founder of Quiet Revolution Praise for Joe Moran: 'Moran has fast become Britain's foremost explorer and explainer of the disregarded -- Juliet Gardiner, author of 'Wartime: Britain 1939-1945' Joe Moran is the most perceptive and original observer of British life that we have -- Matthew Engel At last! The view from the sofa. A history of television that reflects the lives of those who watch it - and that means pretty well all of us. Informative, evocative, funny, moving, sometimes even startling, Joe Moran, Britain's premier historian of the everyday, has pulled it off again. -- Juliet Gardiner All that time we were watching television Joe Moran was thinking about it. This wonderful book is packed with stories and characters, shot through with Moran's customary affection for the ordinary and the overlooked. A beautiful study of that flickering box that keeps us enthralled. -- Sam West Joe Moran is a wonderfully gifted social historian, with a ravenous capacity for research ... He is particularly good at overturning the bogus collective memories to which television so often gives rise ... His sources from diaries and memoirs are rich and varied ... Armchair Nation offers rich pickings for those, like me, who struggle to remember (everything we've watched). -- Craig Brown Mail on Sunday One of the most entertaining things about the book - and there are many - is finding out how many of the things we think we know about television are either myths, or simply hogwash ... As well as being consistently perceptive in his observations, Moran has done something I would confidently have thought impossible - he's made the history of British TV as dramatic as it is fun. -- John Preston Sunday Telegraph A formidable historical analysis of the gogglebox ... Moran's achievement is remarkable given the breadth of subject matter ... Extensive research is lightly worn -- Arifa Akbar Independent Moran is scholarly but welcoming ... But in its insights, clarity and honest wit, it's hard to imagine a more engaging book on a subject everyone already thinks they know about. As in the best TV itself, you find yourself learning something new with almost no effort. -- Phil Hogan Observer Quite wonderful, beautifully written ... it reveals a seated nation, something which has never happened before. There is nothing like it. -- Dr Ronald Blythe Armchair Nation is as compulsive as any soap, as informative as any documentary and as funny as any sitcom. Moran knows and loves his subject, exploring well-covered territory as well as the less familiar with wit and perception. -- Harry Venning The Stage Joe Moran is a superb elegist of the mundane ... Armchair Nation is a captivating look at a universal but unsung subject: the British television viewer ... packed with glorious details -- Ysenda Maxtone Graham Country Life Joe Moran, like many of us, is shy ... Thankfully Shrinking Violets, his "field guide" to shyness, exhibits all the sparkle and fluency on the page he might lack when chatting to strangers -- Paul Laity Guardian Moran is a past master at producing fine, accessible non-fiction. His trick is to take what might be considered a perfectly ordinary behaviour ... and uncover fact after fascinating fact ... Moran is entertaining and excellent at curating this vast knowledge. -- Helen Davies Sunday Times His fourth and best book ... Moran is a wonderful, witty writer, and here he surpasses himself ... To a shy person, this book is incredibly cheering. It shows us we are not alone in our desire for solitude. -- Marcus Berkmann Daily Mail A delightful book on shyness ... Shrinking Violets is a nimble, entertaining exploration of shyness in all its manifestations, not all of them virtuous. ... full of fascinating and amusing anecdotes about a wide range of shy types, ranging from Morrissey to General de Gaulle ... Moran proves a wonderful guide to these various eccentrics. He is gifted as an anecdotalist and as an acute observer of art and life. -- Craig Brown Mail on Sunday Joe Moran shines a light here on the phenomenon of shyness ... The author's lightness of touch belies some profound insights into human nature, from the strange science of blushing, to the inherent fragility of our social roles ... Moran writes deftly about a condition that leaves many of us at times feeling "marooned from the world". -- Laura Garmeson FT Beautiful descriptions of the anguish of the shy ... It's not a polemic; but, given Moran's belief that there is no remedy for shyness other than Zen acceptance, it's not really a self-help book either. Except in one respect. Shy people often fear that we are boring others, and that fear becomes self-fulfilling, as we fight the consciousness of our own shyness. If nothing else, this book shows that shyness can be positively interesting. -- Andrew Watts Spectator It's a fascinating read, not just for its roll-call of the legions of the shy, but also for its illuminating stories gathered from across the world ... Some of Moran's case-histories are truly affecting ... Moran sums the matter up so well, and puts into words the thoughts that I have never quite been able to articulate. We are shy, he says, because we know we are different from other living things. And because humans also carry a rare cargo of self-consciousness, we are uniquely aware that, for all our need for intimacy, we face the world alone. A little shyness around each other is surely forgiveable. -- Russell Leadbetter Sunday Herald A beautifully written book -- Laurie Taylor BBC R4 Thinking Allowed Shrewdly observed, invariably compassionate, unexpectedly poignant ... a remarkable history of shyness -- Brendan Daly Sunday Post This fascinating and enthralling mix of anthropology, biography, biology, sociology, popular culture and much more. -- Brian Maye Irish Times
Joe Moran is Professor of English and Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University. He contributes regularly to the Guardian and other newspapers. His book On Roads was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and, together with his previous book, Queuing for Beginners, received unanimous critical acclaim.