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Everybody

A Book about Freedom

by Olivia Laing

Everybody by Olivia Laing X
Everybody by Olivia Laing
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  • Diane S. (Batavia, IL)
    Every-body
    Laing is such a fabulous writer, not only are these essays interesting but they also teach, empathize and she always leave some wanting more. In these she uses Wilhelm Reich to tie these essays together or maybe I should say she uses him to guide us through what freedom for our body actually means.

    From Isherwood and Weimar Berlin she explores the sexual freedom that was prominent, where all sexes, what one was or wanted to be was not judged. From freedom to McCarthyism which was almost the opposite. From illness, using Sontag and her will not to submit to the cancer eating away at her body, to Agnes Martin, who wanted to escape from people and her mental illness. Malcolm X and Nina Simone, all the different freedoms they wanted but did not have, though they fought for them.

    There is so much here, people who found freedom, people who want to take away others freedoms, these essays exemplify both the body's power and it's vulnerability. A truly terrific grouping of essays.

    ARC from W. W. Norton and BookBrowse.
  • Patricia L. (Seward, AK)
    Freedom's Struggle
    Everybody: A book about freedom by Olivia Laing, while difficult to define, is a fascinating read.

    Laing states her book is about "...bodies in peril and bodies as a force for change." She uses Wilhelm Reich, "...one of the strangest and most prescient thinkers of the twentieth century…who dedicated his life to understanding the vexed relationship between bodies and freedom..." to illustrate the extent to which bodily freedoms or the lack thereof have shaped our current reality. This thread is woven into the fabric of the sexual revolutions and freedom movements of the last century and the rise of incarceration as a tool of suppression today.

    Within the weaving are multiple personal histories of artists, musicians and activists, some notable and others not so, who are associated with efforts to define and achieve freedom. Ana Mendieta's performance art to combat violence to women, Nina Simone's evolution into a civil rights activist, Freud's acquiescence to Hitler and much more are the central draw of the book. These anecdotes entertain as well as educate, creating an insatiable need to know more.

    One such story was of Reich's orgone accumulators, essentially a box in which patients would sit, shutting out all stimulation, as a way to achieve bodily freedom. The author doesn't miss the irony of comparing the box to the use of solitary confinement in prisons. Aptly, Laing uses a photo of Reich's orgone box, increasingly dimmed, for each chapter, as she journeys through the history of oppression and the fight for freedom, both individual and collective.

    Laing may have woven a lot into her work yet she has created much food for thought. What more can be asked of a book? Highly recommended.
  • Becky S. (Springfield, MO)
    Wow... just wow
    This is a book to be read slowly and savored.. at times I felt like it was a bit over my head, but the concepts and information stretched my mind in a way that hasn't been done in a while. It is perfect for the times .. very pertinent and timely ideas that help us learn how the body and soul, have struggled throughout history to be free .. I just loved the ideas expressed in this book.. would be great for book club discussion!
  • Peggy H. (North East, PA)
    Thought Provoking and Ingenious
    When I started this book, there is no way I thought that I would be rating it as highly as I have. It is a bit dense, and it includes lots of information on figures that I knew nothing about, such as Wilhelm Reich and Amanda Martin. Laing ties together such disparate figures in ways that I would never have imagined...leaving me eager to discover what I can do to make the world better for all bodies.
  • Rosemary C. (Golden, CO)
    Such a Journey!
    Laing's takes us on a sweeping odyssey to explore the effects of liberation on the human body. Her prose is evocative and her research impressive. This book would be a great book group selection to provoke thoughtful discourse.
  • Barbara O. (Red Bank, NJ)
    Brilliant Writing
    Olivia Laing has taken a unique approach exploring the human body and it's freedom from the points of view of several controversial figures from the late 30's through the 70's. From Freud and Wilhelm Reich, prominent writers and activists the author writes how psychoanalysis and sexual identity, illness and freedom of the body itself evolved across decades of time from the 1930's and the feminist and civil rights movements of the 70's. Ms Laing presents a disturbing and thoughtful point of view about how society reacts to social upheaval and change when those perceived norms are threatened. Most alarming is how the body and it's freedom are once again being threatened and how history really does repeat itself.
    Excellent read.
  • Lucy S. (ANN ARBOR, MI)
    A Fascinating Exploration
    This book is an excellent reminder of the groups of people who historically and still today have had to fight for bodily autonomy. Laing's work is incredibly well researched and highly informative. Using the lens of the life of psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich to examine the different ways in which a body can be marginalized, Laing writes about sick bodies, bodies that have experienced violence, sexual bodies, bodies used in protest, to create a very thought provoking look at bodies seeking liberation.
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