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 The body is a source of pleasure and of pain, at once hopelessly vulnerable and radiant with power. In her ambitious, brilliant sixth book, Olivia Laing charts an electrifying course through the long struggle for bodily freedom, using the life of the renegade psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich to explore gay rights and sexual liberation, feminism, and the civil rights movement. D  The body is a source of pleasure and of pain, at once hopelessly vulnerable and radiant with power. In her ambitious, brilliant sixth book, Olivia Laing charts an electrifying course through the long struggle for bodily freedom, using the life of the renegade psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich to explore gay rights and sexual liberation, feminism, and the civil rights movement. Drawing on her own experiences in protest and alternative medicine, and traveling from Weimar Berlin to the prisons of Joseph McCarthy’s America, Laing grapples with some of the most significant and complicated figures of the past century—among them Nina Simone, Christopher Isherwood, Andrea Dworkin, Sigmund Freud, Susan Sontag, and Malcolm X. Arriving at a moment in which basic bodily rights are once again imperiled, Everybody is an investigation into the forces arranged against freedom and a celebration of how ordinary human bodies can resist oppression and reshape the world.


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 The body is a source of pleasure and of pain, at once hopelessly vulnerable and radiant with power. In her ambitious, brilliant sixth book, Olivia Laing charts an electrifying course through the long struggle for bodily freedom, using the life of the renegade psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich to explore gay rights and sexual liberation, feminism, and the civil rights movement. D  The body is a source of pleasure and of pain, at once hopelessly vulnerable and radiant with power. In her ambitious, brilliant sixth book, Olivia Laing charts an electrifying course through the long struggle for bodily freedom, using the life of the renegade psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich to explore gay rights and sexual liberation, feminism, and the civil rights movement. Drawing on her own experiences in protest and alternative medicine, and traveling from Weimar Berlin to the prisons of Joseph McCarthy’s America, Laing grapples with some of the most significant and complicated figures of the past century—among them Nina Simone, Christopher Isherwood, Andrea Dworkin, Sigmund Freud, Susan Sontag, and Malcolm X. Arriving at a moment in which basic bodily rights are once again imperiled, Everybody is an investigation into the forces arranged against freedom and a celebration of how ordinary human bodies can resist oppression and reshape the world.

30 review for Everybody: A Book about Freedom

  1. 5 out of 5

    Reece Carter

    I honestly cannot say enough good things about this book. Everybody takes a Foucaultian look at arenas of major sociopolitical action over the last century, always circling back to the central role that bodies play in these discussions. Laing focuses on many figures -- Wilhelm Reich, Susan Sontag, Bayard Rustin, and Nina Simone to name a few -- and the use of their bodies in shaping modern dialogue on topics such as race and sexuality. I've gone back and forth on my use of the word "body" in poli I honestly cannot say enough good things about this book. Everybody takes a Foucaultian look at arenas of major sociopolitical action over the last century, always circling back to the central role that bodies play in these discussions. Laing focuses on many figures -- Wilhelm Reich, Susan Sontag, Bayard Rustin, and Nina Simone to name a few -- and the use of their bodies in shaping modern dialogue on topics such as race and sexuality. I've gone back and forth on my use of the word "body" in political discourse. When I heard/saw it on social media ("violence on black bodies" or "silencing of queer bodies"), my first instinct was always to roll my eyes. There was something about the use of such a concrete image like the body in a discussion about massive institutional and systemic problems that seemed too theoretical and academic for TikTok. However, I think Laing's book changed my perspective on the use of the word "body"; it's probably the best image to use given that it's the vehicle through which we interact with the world, both by giving and receiving. One of Laing's analyses that really interested me was the role of the body in medicine. Laing takes up chronicles of illness from writers like Susan Sontag and Audre Lorde to examine what it means to experience medicine as a body. Undoubtedly, we can see that symptoms of sickness are like a language of the body that is otherwise quiet. It's interesting that we really only seem to notice this language when it's saying that something is wrong; we take positive news for granted. On this note, Laing also notes how a popular idea in some circles was that there was a concrete link between the psyche and physical illness. Psychoanalyst Wilhem Reich believed that past trauma was stored in the body and that this could in turn cause illness. While this is an interesting idea, albeit with some kooky corollaries, another thing that fascinated me was Laing's discussion of how patient's feel when they become sick. They are confronted with the confines of their own body, often reduced to raw flesh in a hospital gown. Indeed, the gown itself is one step of a depersonalizing process that begins the second one steps into a hospital whereby doctors strip patients of their selves in order to better isolate the sickness. Illness also accentuates how the body can be a "permeable vessel" that is subject to forces outside its control. This move can be made to discuss tangible things like viruses or intangible things like generational poverty. I think further efforts in what I'm going to call "body analysis" or "theory of body" would be incredibly insightful for really disparate fields like medicine and politics. However, Laing relates this neat analysis of ~bodies~ to the political realm by making the simple observations that not all bodies are treated equal. If bodies are the "permeable vessels" that Laing claims (one side of a two-sided theory by Reich), then they are not all exposed to the same external forces. Black bodies experience different forces than white bodies. Queer bodies experience different forces than het bodies. And it's this difference that Laing charts in her book in a way that is both witty and informative. One aspect of this text that particularly impressed me was the wide variety of sources used to explore the definition of bodies and their relationships to one another. I found myself reading an analysis of Sade's 120 Days of Sodom while only a few pages later examining performance art. I think this book exemplifies the power of interdisciplinary study in that it provides us a multi-angle view of a single question. Laing seamlessly moves from art theory to music analysis to literary critique, all while managing to avoid pretentiousness. At times, it felt like I was talking to a very educated, philosophically minded friend. Witty and biting, Laing's voice is incredibly unique and experiencing it is reason enough to read this text. Additionally, while this book is rooted in theory, Laing still manages to espouse praxis as being the ultimate goal. You know that Laing is not sitting in an ivory tower, chewing mental bubblegum for the hell of it. Laing is about action as their own history in activism proves. Overall, I cannot recommend this book enough. I will say that some chapters may be challenging without some familiarity with psychoanalysis or the discussed texts (i.e. Sade) but there were plenty of works I was not familiar with and managed to appreciate the analysis nonetheless.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Schulman

    Everybody is a riveting and fascinating innovative historiography of 20th century Euro-American radical thought. Olivia Laing's eagle eye connects previously dispersed impulses to understand and express with her lucid writing, revealing mostly Jewish, Female, and Black desires for radical social transformation through sexuality, liberation and the body. Brainy, open-hearted and bold. Everybody is a riveting and fascinating innovative historiography of 20th century Euro-American radical thought. Olivia Laing's eagle eye connects previously dispersed impulses to understand and express with her lucid writing, revealing mostly Jewish, Female, and Black desires for radical social transformation through sexuality, liberation and the body. Brainy, open-hearted and bold.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tessy Consentino

    I wish I could spend a day with Olivia Laing. Beautiful book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    fatma

    idk...it just didnt work as well as The Lonely City for me... RTC

  5. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    Here's an excerpt of my review at 4Columns: Given the vast, pervasive relevance of its subject, freedom, Olivia Laing’s new book about it is appropriately big—in scope, in reach, in feeling. (It’s fairly standard in page count.) Everybody: A Book About Freedom travels buoyantly through a rich swathe of cultural history to investigate bodily freedom and its curtailments: from illness and pain to the methods we take to relieve them, from state-sanctioned violence to the freedom movements that have Here's an excerpt of my review at 4Columns: Given the vast, pervasive relevance of its subject, freedom, Olivia Laing’s new book about it is appropriately big—in scope, in reach, in feeling. (It’s fairly standard in page count.) Everybody: A Book About Freedom travels buoyantly through a rich swathe of cultural history to investigate bodily freedom and its curtailments: from illness and pain to the methods we take to relieve them, from state-sanctioned violence to the freedom movements that have emerged to resist it, from gender injustice to sexual liberation. It’s a formidable undertaking, one that Laing executes savvily, her plainly diligent research synthesized in lucid, coolly urgent prose. More here: http://4columns.org/milks-megan/every...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Janine

    I was assigned this book to review by BookBrowse to offer a free and impartial review. This is not a book I would normally choose to read but I am now grateful it was assigned to me. What a thought provoking and exhilarating read. Beautifully written and exquisitely researched, this is a book that when reading can profoundly impact the soul of one who is open to viewing freedom from a different construct: the body you are in is constrained by forces and laws that do not allow you to live freely. I was assigned this book to review by BookBrowse to offer a free and impartial review. This is not a book I would normally choose to read but I am now grateful it was assigned to me. What a thought provoking and exhilarating read. Beautifully written and exquisitely researched, this is a book that when reading can profoundly impact the soul of one who is open to viewing freedom from a different construct: the body you are in is constrained by forces and laws that do not allow you to live freely. Laing centers her proof on giving insights into the lives of individuals ranging from Wilhelm Reich to Malcolm X where these individuals were confined and persecuted by ideologies that sought to deny them their individuality. She also draws upon her personal experiences to further the portrait of society’s limitations on freedom. Laing seeks to point out as well that “freedom is a shared endeavor” and the wrongness of white supremacy, religious bigotry and malign meanness of the human spirit deprive the body of freedom. It’s impossible to capture the brilliance of this book in a review. I can only point out that while this is a book that should be considered as worthy to be read, it us one that is necessary and important to read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mason

    Always a pleasure to be taken along for the ride by Laing, this time through questions around the freedom of bodies to be what they are and want to be. This book radiates with lessons for the here and now, even as the threads Laing teases out span centuries.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Pe

    outstanding

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mikaela Bichara

    Author’s way of storytelling is so good, I suggest you join NovelStar’s writing competition, you might be their next big star.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Beth Storey

  11. 4 out of 5

    McKenna Moore

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sanmeet

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katya

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eric Genrich

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alastair Woods

  16. 5 out of 5

    Pieter

  17. 5 out of 5

    John

  18. 5 out of 5

    James

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  21. 5 out of 5

    Annikky

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lori

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lane Williamson

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jennie

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dagmara

  27. 5 out of 5

    David Cantin

  28. 5 out of 5

    John

  29. 4 out of 5

    OTIS

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sara Robinson

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