Laughter shakes us out of our deadness. An outburst of spontaneous laughter is an eruption from the unconscious that, like political resistance, poetry, or self-revelation, expresses a provocative, impish drive to burst free from external constraints. Taking laughter's revelatory capacity as a starting point, and rooted in Nuar Alsadir's experience as a poet and psychoanalyst, Animal Joy is an ode to spontaneity and feeling alive.
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.