The October issue of New English Review features our favorite doctor musing on shyness, obsessive reading habits, Arnold Bennett, and dealing with the ubiquitous English health and safety propaganda.
For the first half of my life (so far), I feared that I had no personality to speak of. I had nothing to say to anyone whom I did not already know well; and entering a room full of complete strangers I suffered agonies of apprehension that they would find me a bore.
Dalrymple is always so touching on the subject of his personal life, his shyness and awkwardness growing up. Gooseberries in particular, although it treats of his father, is a beautiful essay which I often return to. He writes with what Philip Larkin called (in defense of Stevie Smith) the “authority of sadness,” but he is never maudlin or melodramatic, and he is always amused and therefore amusing. I take great consolation from his writing.