The body is a source of pleasure and of pain, at once hopelessly vulnerable and radiant with power. In her sixth book, Olivia Laing charts a 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.
In this multilayered and masterfully structured book, Laing obsessively examines the life of psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich (a protege of Freud), drawing connections to other intellectuals, ranging from the Marquis de Sade to Malcolm X, while including stories from her own life ... There’s no path Laing is afraid to explore. She writes about the sick body, imprisoned bodies, bodies that protest, the sexual body, bodies that have experienced acts of violence—illuminating the strengths and the weaknesses of the corporeal form ... Reading Everybody, it’s impossible to turn away from all the pain that has been inflicted on bodies ... Everybody should be required reading for anyone who cares about not just where we are now, but the future.
Talk about timely: Laing began writing about bodies under siege over five years ago, and the book is being published in the middle of a pandemic. But we have become newly aware of the vulnerabilities of our bodies in the past year in other ways ... she mixes biography, memoir, psychology and art criticism to create a treasure trove of cultural curiosities and political ideas ... Laing makes an entertaining tour guide, moving like a magpie through art, history and politics, and accumulating an exhilarating set of connections ... This is Laing’s most personal book yet – she talks about her own gender identity, going on Buddhist camping retreats with an ex-boyfriend, and her years as a climate activist. But it’s her ability to describe her own experience of looking at artworks that really illuminates her topics ... It’s an ambitious, absorbing achievement that will make your brain hum, like going on a funfair ride with a very clever friend.
... brims with empathy. Never condescending or unkind, Laing explores the experiences of those crushed by feckless cruelty, shaken by cancer, or crazed by their impulses to eke out possibility, meaning and joy — all to achieve a semblance of freedom ... Laing teases out similarities and contrasts that deliver sizzling insights ... Laing has written a piercing book. That she has no final answer to the problem of freedom does not detract from her achievement. Indeed, she encourages us all to ask new questions to discover how it feels, and what it means, to be free — queries that are as vital as they are resistant to any single answer.