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Are authors more likely to be introverts than the rest of the population? Recent publishing history suggests so. Joe Moran put his finger on it in Shrinking Violets, concluding: “Shyness turns you into an onlooker, a close reader of the signs and wonders of the social world.” Melissa Dahl, in Cringeworthy, took a scientific approach to understanding and overcoming awkwardness. Susan Cain discussed the power of introverts in the bestselling Quiet. Now comes Jessica Pan, a shy American who finds herself in a new city, married, but with no good friends nearby. Pan has “friend dates”, talks to strangers, travels alone and gives speeches, in what she calls “an introvert’s year of living dangerously”. Doing all of this in famously unfriendly London, and as someone who barely drinks alcohol, certainly adds an extra layer of jeopardy.
She begins the book by describing her shyness as a neurosis, and writes: “Ninety percent of my acquaintances don’t even know that I’m an introvert because I take such pains to hide it.” For adults, being shy is not quite acceptable and yet, as Pan argues, it is many people’s natural state. A once-quiet “charisma coach” tells her: “It’s a fact that extroverts have massive advantages, so I’m self-taught.”
Pan is a fervent advocate for introverts – people who “get their energy from being alone” – but she takes up “extroverting” as a means to an end. She finds that making the effort can be an end in itself; that talking to strangers provides a cheap high; and that doing improv in groups is shockingly addictive. But the book doesn’t end tritely with Pan learning to be an extrovert after all. She is still introverted, and proud. “I want that sweet, sweet hit of cancelling on something that’s good for me in the long run,” she writes.
Sorry I’m Late is much more personal, colloquial and intimate than other books in this bashful little genre, but it offers many of the same messages: shy people are not alone; connection is everything; being extroverted can be fun; but sometimes, curling up alone with a good book is really perfectly fine.
• Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: An Introvert’s Year of Living Dangerously is published by Transworld (£12.99). To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com. Free UK p&p on all online orders over £15.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan review – an introvert’s year | Books