At once prose poem, manifesto, sociological study and therapy session. Poet and psychoanalyst Nuar Alsadir’s first nonfiction book advocates the liberating power of spontaneity, curiosity, humor. The book practices what it preaches. The exposition jumps for intellectual joy, hopscotching from literary criticism to philosophy and psychology to political analysis ... The completed picture shows how humor, like any instinctual act, is fundamentally subversive ... Although the concepts are sometimes knotty, the writing never is, and after finishing this book, a reader may be obliged to thank the author for clarifying some hitherto unyielding ideas ... Not that all is high-flown or esoteric. Threaded throughout are accounts both movingly personal and endearingly experiential ... Great art mainly makes you not think but feel ... Animal Joy made me do both. Its author practices two disparate disciplines — poetry and psychoanalysis — that she argues are essentially the same. In a neat corollary, her book forms a subtly engineered bridge between art and reason.
Enthralling ... Expansive and erudite ... She lets the reader ride her waves of thought ... In the associative style of Freudian talk therapy, Alsadir riffs to her audience on an astonishing array of people, topics, and theories...all in the service of examining how the human activity of laughter is inextricably connected to our conscious and unconscious minds, our physical bodies, and our body politic ... Although she deliberately avoids a clear plot, throughline, or thesis, Alsadir comes across as rhetorically persuasive on page after page ... Just as her style resembles therapy, so too does it resemble poetry, utilizing repetition and surprise to advance her ruminations ... The book was a game that I wanted to play, a back-and-forth that felt invigorating and real ... The book is full of witty but subtle touches.
Ruminative ... Splicing sometimes dense academic theory with provocations drawn from the fraught years of the Trump presidency as well as from her own personal and professional life, she covers [diverse topics] ... Her attention to language and literature is a rich and constant pleasure. It allows her to draw impish meaning from typos and erroneous autocorrections, and yields some wonderfully startling sentences and images ... Though not svelte, Animal Joy takes the form of an extended essay. It moves with the associative fluidity of a talking-cure session ... At its best, this freeform structure feels profoundly playful ... At other times, Alsadir’s clinical training, always there in the background, obstructs the flow ... Her writing is at its most immediate, most alive, in these snatches of memoir, and they left me wishing for more ... It will leave you feeling enlightened and emboldened, and will even make you laugh.
Animal Joy is Alsadir’s ode to the bodily sensations that escape us, told through bursts of fragmented memories, jokes and psychoanalysis. Like any good clown, Alsadir shakes the reader from their stupor in order to intrigue, repulse and, most importantly, entertain.
Though Nuar Alsadir set out to write a book about laughter, Animal Joy is a far deeper study of how we express and understand our most powerful emotions, told through meticulous psychoanalytic research and Alsadir's own experiences ... An intimate examination of impulsive and unconscious communication in all of its 'savage complexity' ... These deeply specific references only heighten the intimacy Alsadir offers. There is plenty of serious academic analysis to admire in Animal Joy ... Though the terrain Alsadir covers is vast and often feels tenuously connected, the resonant beauty of her prose helps guide the reader through a deliberately cluttered and complicated narrative ... Animal Joy is a challenging and deeply rewarding meditation on laughter and communication that will stand up to multiple readings.
Thoughtful ... The author offers resonant insight on the uses of laughter to redistribute power ... Most memorable are her personal asides ... Gorgeously written and by turns hilarious and crushing, Alsadir’s examination of humanity’s 'savage complexity' is not to be missed.
Over the course of a wide-ranging, sometimes scattered narrative, the author explores a host of topics ... Throughout, she weaves in personal stories about her family as well as concepts, quotes, and theories ... At its best, the book is vulnerable, lyrical, and refreshingly incisive. At times, the author’s expansive, meandering style makes the prose feel more like a series of interesting anecdotes than a cohesive argument, but Alsadir’s quiet wit and depth of knowledge lead to unique insights and profound self-reflection ... A sprawling, poetic meditation on humor in all its forms.