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A Book about Freedom

by Olivia Laing

Everybody by Olivia Laing X
Everybody by Olivia Laing
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  • 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.
  • Lesley F. (San Diego, CA)
    Bodily Freedom
    In my life I have enjoyed a great amount of white privilege and at the same time felt the struggles involved in trying to feel that my body was important and acceptable to "my tribe". This book has explained to me the other side of the reported current events over the last 100 or so years and done that in a remarkably clear explanation.
    Bodily rights are AGAIN currently imperiled and so this is not just a history lesson but a rallying cry as well.
    I intend to tell all my book groups about this wonderful book and hope they can all read it! Thank you, Olivia Laing.
  • Janine S. (Wyoming, MI)
    Thought provoking read
    Wow! What a thought provoking and exhilarating read! Beautifully written and exquisitely researched, this is a book that when read can profoundly in part the soul if one 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 experience to further the portrait of society's limitations on freedom. Laing seeks to point out too 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 is one that is necessary and important to read.
  • Scott M. (Columbia, MD)
    Everybody: A Book About Freedom...Which You Are Free To Think What You Will
    This work is really more a collection of essays that all center on the theme of bodily freedom and how individuals manage to express that freedom. The connective tissue that (mostly) links these essays together is the life of psychoanalyst William Reich, and author Olivia Laing uses examples and aspects of Reich's life, along with her personal experiences and extensive research, to discuss issues such as sexual orientation (gay, transgender rights), civil rights/racism, feminism and criminal justice (the role of prisons). The book takes what most would define as a liberal view on these issues and the author does not hide her advocacy on issues. Agree or disagree, the essays prove thought-provoking and should inspire lively discussion/debate in a book club.
  • Shirley T. (Comfort, TX)
    Everybody by Olivia Laing
    This is a very unusual book, well written and researched with information and ideas from the early twentieth century onward regarding the connection between freedom, the lack thereof, and the effect on the body and mind.

    The author, Olivia Laing, writes about symptoms which could be caused by the lack of choice or freedom of choice for sexual activity, or the result of incarceration and other activities. In the civilized world total freedom is not possible because a body does not exist alone.

    The explicit accounts of the suffering of "unfree" people make this a powerful but disturbing book.
  • Carole A. (Denver, CO)
    EVERYBODY probably not for everyone
    If you are looking for a quick light read EVERYBODY is not for you.  I read it through once and then went back and skimmed it a second time to sort out the layers.  There are some that will be omitted here due to space. The subject matter is interesting with multiple layers. It is because of the multiple layers I believe this would be an excellent book for a serious book club. At the very least a book to keep on your side table and to read and digest a bit at a time.
    Laing based many of the thoughts she expresses on the work of William Reich, a disciple of Freud. Reichs' major concept was that the body houses both pleasure and pain and as such both can be a powerful force for change.  There are many examples of this theory in Laing's life as well as in the lives of many others ranging from the Marquis de Sade, Simone, Isherwood, Sontag and Malcom X.  She explores the impact of this theory on many issues of the 2nd half of the 20th century such as feminism, civil rights and the freedom to be openly gay. Laing goes even further in taking on the subjects of the exploding racism and misogynistic attitudes of today.  
    Yet another layer explores the ways in which the body can heal itself through her own stories and through leaders in the field such as Louise Hay. Laing stresses you can remake your body, your world and the wide world beyond as all is ever changing and nothing is static.  The book can be, indeed, a reminder of the freedom we have within ourselves and the world around us.
  • Connie L. (Bartlesville, OK)
    The Body and its Discontents
    I've read and enjoyed several of Olivia Laing's books in the past, but this one did not hold my interest. I found it to be dry and repetitious.

    Laing is an excellent writer who obviously conducted a great deal of research about the body, studied it extensively, and examined and explained it quite thoroughly and clearly in this book. However, I did not find the subject interesting, and so I found reading this book to be a chore. Others may very well have a much more positive response, but this is a book that turned out not to be for me.
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