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 The body is a source of pleasure and of pain, at once hopelessly vulnerable and radiant with power. In her ambitious, brilliant sixth book, Olivia Laing charts an electrifying 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. D  The body is a source of pleasure and of pain, at once hopelessly vulnerable and radiant with power. In her ambitious, brilliant sixth book, Olivia Laing charts an electrifying 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. Drawing on her own experiences in protest and alternative medicine, and traveling from Weimar Berlin to the prisons of Joseph McCarthy’s America, Laing grapples with some of the most significant and complicated figures of the past century—among them Nina Simone, Christopher Isherwood, Andrea Dworkin, Sigmund Freud, Susan Sontag, and Malcolm X. Arriving at a moment in which basic bodily rights are once again imperiled, Everybody is an investigation into the forces arranged against freedom and a celebration of how ordinary human bodies can resist oppression and reshape the world.


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 The body is a source of pleasure and of pain, at once hopelessly vulnerable and radiant with power. In her ambitious, brilliant sixth book, Olivia Laing charts an electrifying 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. D  The body is a source of pleasure and of pain, at once hopelessly vulnerable and radiant with power. In her ambitious, brilliant sixth book, Olivia Laing charts an electrifying 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. Drawing on her own experiences in protest and alternative medicine, and traveling from Weimar Berlin to the prisons of Joseph McCarthy’s America, Laing grapples with some of the most significant and complicated figures of the past century—among them Nina Simone, Christopher Isherwood, Andrea Dworkin, Sigmund Freud, Susan Sontag, and Malcolm X. Arriving at a moment in which basic bodily rights are once again imperiled, Everybody is an investigation into the forces arranged against freedom and a celebration of how ordinary human bodies can resist oppression and reshape the world.

30 review for Everybody: A Book about Freedom

  1. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    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 oppos 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 Edelweiss.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paul Ataua

    I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring – David Bowie. I am always reminded of the Bowie quote whenever I start reading anything by Olivia Laing. She starts in one place and time and then takes you on a journey that you could never have imagined. You don’t quite know know where you are going next , but you know wherever it is, it won’t be boring. Setting a course through the struggle for bodily freedom, she begins with Freud and Wilhelm Reich (the person that ties I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring – David Bowie. I am always reminded of the Bowie quote whenever I start reading anything by Olivia Laing. She starts in one place and time and then takes you on a journey that you could never have imagined. You don’t quite know know where you are going next , but you know wherever it is, it won’t be boring. Setting a course through the struggle for bodily freedom, she begins with Freud and Wilhelm Reich (the person that ties all the parts together) and takes you through sexually liberated Berlin of the twenties with Auden and Isherwood, the Fascism of the thirties, the woman’s movement with Ana Mendieta, Angela Dworkin, and Angela Carter, the civil rights movement, and the counter culture with Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac. She even manages to include a bit of Kate Bush and also some anti Margaret Thatcher chants. You can’t help but be fascinated, stimulated by the loose connections that draw all of this together. This is a book that will definitely make you want to curl up in your orgone accumulator.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ari Levine

    The self-indulgence and indiscipline are strong here... Crudo was not an isolated event.

  4. 5 out of 5

    fatma

    I'm not sure why this book didn't work for me like The Lonely City did. From what I'd read of its synopsis, Everybody seemed like it was poised to be a new favourite--a series of essays exploring the body and its relation to politics and liberation? Yes please. It sounded so good, and it's not that it was bad, exactly, it just didn't leave any kind of impression on me. I think this is partly because I didn't care all that much about the principal figure of this book, Wilhelm Reich. Laing explore I'm not sure why this book didn't work for me like The Lonely City did. From what I'd read of its synopsis, Everybody seemed like it was poised to be a new favourite--a series of essays exploring the body and its relation to politics and liberation? Yes please. It sounded so good, and it's not that it was bad, exactly, it just didn't leave any kind of impression on me. I think this is partly because I didn't care all that much about the principal figure of this book, Wilhelm Reich. Laing explores so many people's lives in Everybody--Susan Sontag, Nina Simone, Malcolm X, Andrea Dworkin--but her focus always goes back to Reich, and I just wasn't all that drawn to him as a subject of analysis. Another thing is that these essays felt a little scattered in their focus. The Lonely City worked so well for me because each of its chapters was dedicated to a historical figure, and as such devoted the time to properly exploring that figure's life. That's not to say that Everybody needed to be written like The Lonely City, but just that the latter's format worked so much better than the former's. The essays in Everybody often flitted from one figure to another, trying to ground them all under the same set of themes. But though I appreciated Laing's attempts to draw on the commonalities between these figures, I would've liked more on fewer figures rather than a little on many figures. Thanks so much to W.W. Norton & Company for providing me with an e-ARC of this in exchange for an honest review!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Vartika

    The body's power, the body's vulnerability, bodies becoming a body for change—in Everybody, Laing examines these in context of various historical struggles for freedoms personal and political, and through the lives and works of people like Wilhelm Reich, Susan Sontag, Andrea Dworkin, Agnes Martin, Bayard Rustin, Malcolm X, Justin Vivian Bond, and Nina Simone amongst many others. 4.5 stars, full review to come. The body's power, the body's vulnerability, bodies becoming a body for change—in Everybody, Laing examines these in context of various historical struggles for freedoms personal and political, and through the lives and works of people like Wilhelm Reich, Susan Sontag, Andrea Dworkin, Agnes Martin, Bayard Rustin, Malcolm X, Justin Vivian Bond, and Nina Simone amongst many others. 4.5 stars, full review to come.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Reece Carter

    I honestly cannot say enough good things about this book. Everybody takes a Foucaultian look at arenas of major sociopolitical action over the last century, always circling back to the central role that bodies play in these discussions. Laing focuses on many figures -- Wilhelm Reich, Susan Sontag, Bayard Rustin, and Nina Simone to name a few -- and the use of their bodies in shaping modern dialogue on topics such as race and sexuality. I've gone back and forth on my use of the word "body" in poli I honestly cannot say enough good things about this book. Everybody takes a Foucaultian look at arenas of major sociopolitical action over the last century, always circling back to the central role that bodies play in these discussions. Laing focuses on many figures -- Wilhelm Reich, Susan Sontag, Bayard Rustin, and Nina Simone to name a few -- and the use of their bodies in shaping modern dialogue on topics such as race and sexuality. I've gone back and forth on my use of the word "body" in political discourse. When I heard/saw it on social media ("violence on black bodies" or "silencing of queer bodies"), my first instinct was always to roll my eyes. There was something about the use of such a concrete image like the body in a discussion about massive institutional and systemic problems that seemed too theoretical and academic for TikTok. However, I think Laing's book changed my perspective on the use of the word "body"; it's probably the best image to use given that it's the vehicle through which we interact with the world, both by giving and receiving. One of Laing's analyses that really interested me was the role of the body in medicine. Laing takes up chronicles of illness from writers like Susan Sontag and Audre Lorde to examine what it means to experience medicine as a body. Undoubtedly, we can see that symptoms of sickness are like a language of the body that is otherwise quiet. It's interesting that we really only seem to notice this language when it's saying that something is wrong; we take positive news for granted. On this note, Laing also notes how a popular idea in some circles was that there was a concrete link between the psyche and physical illness. Psychoanalyst Wilhem Reich believed that past trauma was stored in the body and that this could in turn cause illness. While this is an interesting idea, albeit with some kooky corollaries, another thing that fascinated me was Laing's discussion of how patient's feel when they become sick. They are confronted with the confines of their own body, often reduced to raw flesh in a hospital gown. Indeed, the gown itself is one step of a depersonalizing process that begins the second one steps into a hospital whereby doctors strip patients of their selves in order to better isolate the sickness. Illness also accentuates how the body can be a "permeable vessel" that is subject to forces outside its control. This move can be made to discuss tangible things like viruses or intangible things like generational poverty. I think further efforts in what I'm going to call "body analysis" or "theory of body" would be incredibly insightful for really disparate fields like medicine and politics. However, Laing relates this neat analysis of ~bodies~ to the political realm by making the simple observations that not all bodies are treated equal. If bodies are the "permeable vessels" that Laing claims (one side of a two-sided theory by Reich), then they are not all exposed to the same external forces. Black bodies experience different forces than white bodies. Queer bodies experience different forces than het bodies. And it's this difference that Laing charts in her book in a way that is both witty and informative. One aspect of this text that particularly impressed me was the wide variety of sources used to explore the definition of bodies and their relationships to one another. I found myself reading an analysis of Sade's 120 Days of Sodom while only a few pages later examining performance art. I think this book exemplifies the power of interdisciplinary study in that it provides us a multi-angle view of a single question. Laing seamlessly moves from art theory to music analysis to literary critique, all while managing to avoid pretentiousness. At times, it felt like I was talking to a very educated, philosophically minded friend. Witty and biting, Laing's voice is incredibly unique and experiencing it is reason enough to read this text. Additionally, while this book is rooted in theory, Laing still manages to espouse praxis as being the ultimate goal. You know that Laing is not sitting in an ivory tower, chewing mental bubblegum for the hell of it. Laing is about action as their own history in activism proves. Overall, I cannot recommend this book enough. I will say that some chapters may be challenging without some familiarity with psychoanalysis or the discussed texts (i.e. Sade) but there were plenty of works I was not familiar with and managed to appreciate the analysis nonetheless.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andrea McDowell

    I love Olivia Laing, with one qualification, and I loved this book, with the same (those of you who follow my reviews probably already know where this is going). Laing's research into the figures she covers, including psychologists, writers and artists, and her close reading and interpretation of their works, and how she links them together, are stunning and beautiful. Her thesis is liberating and a joy to investigate with her (that people's bodies are the site of both their vulnerability and the I love Olivia Laing, with one qualification, and I loved this book, with the same (those of you who follow my reviews probably already know where this is going). Laing's research into the figures she covers, including psychologists, writers and artists, and her close reading and interpretation of their works, and how she links them together, are stunning and beautiful. Her thesis is liberating and a joy to investigate with her (that people's bodies are the site of both their vulnerability and their power, in the quest for freedom and vulnerability). She writes about the subjugation experienced by racialized, queer, trans, female and feminine bodies, various kinds of incarceration and their effects, and the use of those bodies to find and enjoy freedom. However, in all of this, she nearly entirely ignores disability. There are a few offhand mentions here or there to the fact that disability is also a site of oppression, and that's it. In the meantime, disabled people and disability in general have often been incarcerated, institutionalized, sterilized, euthanized, controlled, and deprived of access and equal rights to this day, on the basis of their bodies. Illness enters the book often, but not disability. I'm not the only reader/reviewer to notice this omission (see: https://www.npr.org/2021/05/06/992049...). Highly recommended, but with notable oversights.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brynn

    "The inner world, she thought, was far more fluid and changeable than the body in which it's housed. She tried to invent a better design: perhaps a body made of gas or cloud, so that it could expand, contract, maybe break apart, fuse, swell, get thicker or thinner according to a person's shifting moods." (36) "'The number of actual and imaginable sexual varieties is almost unending,' he wrote that year, sounding very much like Virginia Woolf in her gender-swapping, time-traveling masterpiece Orla "The inner world, she thought, was far more fluid and changeable than the body in which it's housed. She tried to invent a better design: perhaps a body made of gas or cloud, so that it could expand, contract, maybe break apart, fuse, swell, get thicker or thinner according to a person's shifting moods." (36) "'The number of actual and imaginable sexual varieties is almost unending,' he wrote that year, sounding very much like Virginia Woolf in her gender-swapping, time-traveling masterpiece Orlando. 'In each person there is a different mixture of manly and womanly substances, and as we cannot find two leaves alike on a tree, then it is highly unlikely that we will find two humans whose manly and womanly characteristics exactly match in kind and number.'" (79) "As Chris Kraus says in I Love Dick: 'Why does everybody think that women are debasing themselves when we expose the conditions of our own debasement?'" (150) "To be born at all is to be situated in a network of relations with other people, and furthermore to find oneself forcibly inserted into linguistic categories that might seem natural and inevitable but are socially constructed and rigorously political. We're all stuck in our bodies, meaning stuck inside a grid of conflicting ideas about what those bodies mean, what they're capable of and what they're allowed or forbidden to do." (179) "The biggest mistake he made was to think you can isolate yourself from the outside world. You can't. Our past stays with us, embedded in our bodies, and we live whether we like it or not in the object world, sharing the resources of reality with billions of other beings. There is no steel-lined box that can protect you from the grid of forces that limits in tangible, tormenting ways what each private body is allowed to be or do. There is no escape, no possible place to hide. Either you submit to the world or you change the world." (193) "I find it hard to watch footage of protests from the 1990s, especially of the evictions at Newbury, because it feels as if I'm looking directly into a moment when the future could still have gone a different way, a microcosmic, speeded-up version of what is happening now to the planet as a whole." (251) "There is no republic of unencumbered bodies, free to migrate between states, unharried by any hierarchy of form. It's impossible to know if it will ever be achieved, but if I'm certain about anything at all, it's that freedom is a shared endeavor, a collaboration built by many hands over many centuries of time, a labour which every single living person can choose to hinder or advance. It is possible to remake the world. What you cannot do is assume that any change is permanent. Everything can be undone, and every victory must be refought." (308) "

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Schulman

    Everybody is a riveting and fascinating innovative historiography of 20th century Euro-American radical thought. Olivia Laing's eagle eye connects previously dispersed impulses to understand and express with her lucid writing, revealing mostly Jewish, Female, and Black desires for radical social transformation through sexuality, liberation and the body. Brainy, open-hearted and bold. Everybody is a riveting and fascinating innovative historiography of 20th century Euro-American radical thought. Olivia Laing's eagle eye connects previously dispersed impulses to understand and express with her lucid writing, revealing mostly Jewish, Female, and Black desires for radical social transformation through sexuality, liberation and the body. Brainy, open-hearted and bold.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Anya

    This is a fascinating book. What is it about though? So much: politics, racism, socialism, fascism, feminism, misogyny, sexuality, as told through the stories of prominent twentieth century figures and connected to the authors own opinions and experience. I learnt so much, and am so glad I read this book. It is very well written and researched, but is definitely written in an academic style which may not be for everyone. For me the writing style was a relief from the many “dumbed down” non- fict This is a fascinating book. What is it about though? So much: politics, racism, socialism, fascism, feminism, misogyny, sexuality, as told through the stories of prominent twentieth century figures and connected to the authors own opinions and experience. I learnt so much, and am so glad I read this book. It is very well written and researched, but is definitely written in an academic style which may not be for everyone. For me the writing style was a relief from the many “dumbed down” non- fiction which are in circulation. The book definitely written from a liberal view point, and the title “everybody” fits and then doesn’t fit, making the reader wonder what this book is about, what does body mean, as we are introduced to a discourse which weaves the stories of figures who I think are also grappling with these same questions of freedom and right and wrong. Worth reading! Not necessarily an quick or easy read, but very informative and thought provoking. Maybe I should have given it 5 stars (but every now and then I doubted the coherence of the argument or didn’t quite know if it still fitted with the title. That diversity of sources and ideas was also a benefit, but not always easy for the reader....)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I've loved everything I've read by Olivia Laing. The way she can draw connections between artist and thinkers across genres and eras is dazzling. "Everybody" is an insightful and lucid examination of the way bodies carry political and cultural meanings, and how those meanings differ depending on the body you're in. Using Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich as a jumping off point, Laing makes her way through the 20th century, from Weimar Berlin to the civil rights and gay liberation movements in I've loved everything I've read by Olivia Laing. The way she can draw connections between artist and thinkers across genres and eras is dazzling. "Everybody" is an insightful and lucid examination of the way bodies carry political and cultural meanings, and how those meanings differ depending on the body you're in. Using Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich as a jumping off point, Laing makes her way through the 20th century, from Weimar Berlin to the civil rights and gay liberation movements in the US and Britain, to the feminist body artists of the 1970s America (Ana Mendieta and the University of Iowa are featured). She then moves to the present, from the struggles for trans rights to the resurgence of white supremacy under Trump, and the current issues around bodily autonomy during a global pandemic. I had a visceral reaction to some of Laing's writing, which is only appropriate for a book about bodies.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie Wroe

    Reading Olivia Laing is luxurious. Eloquent without being pretentious, educational but in an incredibly readable, storytelling way. I really savoured this one to make it last as long as poss.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ellison

    We think of our minds as controlling our bodies but in many ways the opposite is true - we judge ourselves by our thoughts but we are judged by others by our looks and our actions and how others treat us so we are formed. This is a beautifully written book examining basic questions about what it is like to be alive.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    This book was between a 3 and 4 stars for me. My review as posted on BookBrowse: 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 persona This book was between a 3 and 4 stars for me. My review as posted on BookBrowse: 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Verity O'Connell

    Absolutely stunning!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    I actually couldn’t put this down. This was absolutely beautiful, and a masterpiece, and an honour and privilege to read. I have never had more respect for the human body and the power it holds just by being it’s complex self.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jan Peregrine

    Olivia Laing has a lot to say about what freedom is and isn't, inspired by many writers and civil rights activists that she's either read or met or experienced through their protest art. I hadn't heard of most of them, but did recognize Freud, Susan Sontag, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and the writer of the play A Raisin in the Sun (Lorraine Hanberry?). I learned the disturbing news that a decade or so before I got to the University of Iowa, a woman was raped and mutilated in her dorm room. I had n Olivia Laing has a lot to say about what freedom is and isn't, inspired by many writers and civil rights activists that she's either read or met or experienced through their protest art. I hadn't heard of most of them, but did recognize Freud, Susan Sontag, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and the writer of the play A Raisin in the Sun (Lorraine Hanberry?). I learned the disturbing news that a decade or so before I got to the University of Iowa, a woman was raped and mutilated in her dorm room. I had no idea! The idea of freedom goes much beyond Sebastian Junger's idea of it expressed in his little book Freedom that I reviewed recently. A woman's perspective, particularly an artistic one, is far different. Laing grew up discriminated against for her queerness. She doesn't dwell on it too much, but instead tells us how it launched her into the protest culture that was fighting to protect the environment and bring awareness of climate change. It doesn't sound like she was ever arrested, but she complains a great deal about America's prison culture and how in the 1960s prison stopped being about rehab and became a means to punish the minorities considered degenerates. One very interesting person she talked about was a gay, black man named Bayard Rustin, imprisoned for his pacifist, Quaker belief that war is wrong and his refusal to join the military. Later he would teach Martin Luther King, Jr. about peaceful protest because King was confused about it. Rustin also organized The March on Washington where King gave hs famous “I Have A Dream” speech. (In China the word 'protest' was banned so protestors used the phrase 'I'm dreaming.') Rustin's sexuality, never in the closet, kept him out of top leadership positions. He served on a miserable chain gang for a couple years just for being caught being intimate with another man. Laing tells the fascinating stories of psychoanalyst William Reich who had a falling out with Freud. Freud believed that civilization civilized people and people who protested authority were in the wrong and should be put n their place. Reich believed the opposite. He wanted to understand why people protested like he'd often witnessed. The singer Nina Simone was hesitant in getting involved in protests, but started writing heartfelt songs that expressed her rage and grief. I'd read about the writer Susan Sontag, but was happy to learn more. I've actually got Sontag's books Illness As Metaphor and AIDS a d Its Metaphors, which are criticisms of talking of illness that way. She wrote them based on her experiences surviving cancer twice. \ And Laing gave me a whole new way of looking at the libertine the Marquis de Sade. I've never read his disgusting novels written in prison, but Laing says they are not about finding satisfaction in the violent sex acts, but that sex can make your body feel like a prison, unable to be at peace. He has a point. Sex is often just about power. I will never forget the woman artist from Iowa whose shocking performance art showed women as victims and our great discomfort with seeing it. Her boyfriend probably murdered her. So there's much to absorb here. Laing weaves her own story with all these stories to bring home the message that we are not free unless we treat others as free too. Simple message, but powerful and one that needs to be heard often, whether it's in books, songs, paintings, performance art, or on the streets among the protesting masses. Freedom is not about privilege, namely white privilege or straightness, but about how open we are to others, to their bodies, minds, hearts. Do we imprison others because we fear them? Do we imprison ourselves because we fear the idea of being free or being in our mortal bodies? I feel imprisoned because of my incomplete spinal cord injury, but while my body feels that way, my mind is not. I understand the pain of feeling imprisoned and not free and wish freedom for all. I highly recommend this provocative book!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Auderoy

    QUOTES: I’d had a strong sense since childhood that I was holding something, that I’d locked myself around a mysterious unhappiness, the precise cause of which I didn’t understand. The past is interred in our bodies, every trauma meticulously preserved, walled up alive. There can be no possibility of a safe zone, no way of keeping yourself isolated from the world. Life demands exchange. Bottom line, the body becomes its own inescapable prison, its needs turned against it, reduced to unbearable, unig QUOTES: I’d had a strong sense since childhood that I was holding something, that I’d locked myself around a mysterious unhappiness, the precise cause of which I didn’t understand. The past is interred in our bodies, every trauma meticulously preserved, walled up alive. There can be no possibility of a safe zone, no way of keeping yourself isolated from the world. Life demands exchange. Bottom line, the body becomes its own inescapable prison, its needs turned against it, reduced to unbearable, unignorable sensation. This is the true horror of violence, that the you of you is still inside. Pleasure and love aren’t just alluring possibilities, but annihilating states, places you can reach but perhaps can’t come back from. No, what I really miss is hope. The larger truth of road protests is that they existed at a time when it still seemed possible that climate change could be averted, and my grief at the willed foreclosure of that future has only grown larger and more painful with the years. Evil is not confined to specific bodies in specific eras. It bleeds out, seeping and staining through the years. History always comes home to roost. There is no possibility of a life uncompromised by the violence of the past. Freedom is a shared endeavour, a collaboration built by many hands over many centuries of time, a labour which every single living person can choose to hinder or advance. It is possible to remake the world. What you cannot do is assume that any change is permanent. Everything can be undone, and every victory must be refought. This is what one body can do for another: manifest a freedom that is shared, that slips under the skin. Freedom doesn’t mean being unburdened by the past. It means continuing into the future, dreaming all the time. A free body need not be whole or undamaged or unaugmented. It is always changing, changing, changing, a fluid form after all.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Linville

      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   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. 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.  From 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.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    First, the disclaimer. I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads Giveaways. I struggle with how exactly to describe this book. In fact, when my wife asked "what's it about?" I had a hard time describing and encapsulating it. Often, I found myself wondering why I was persisting in reading, but I did. The writing is good, some of the history is informative in the "stuff they don't teach in school" category. I also often felt like I was reading a book that wasn't mine, wasn't for me, as First, the disclaimer. I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads Giveaways. I struggle with how exactly to describe this book. In fact, when my wife asked "what's it about?" I had a hard time describing and encapsulating it. Often, I found myself wondering why I was persisting in reading, but I did. The writing is good, some of the history is informative in the "stuff they don't teach in school" category. I also often felt like I was reading a book that wasn't mine, wasn't for me, as if it really is for lesbians, or at least people who are more marginalized than I am. If you get this feeling while reading, please, skip to the last 2 chapters, then go back and pick up where you left off! *Everybody* covers a lot of territory. Bodies that have been made illegal, bodies that have been slaughtered, or just allowed to die. Bodies that wish to love similar bodies, and bodies that are modified to fit identities. Bodies that aren't white. What I thought is missing is the bodies that are disabled. This group always seems to be left out of the revolution of marginalized groups - Black, Brown, LGBTQIA+++, Poor, etc. *Everybody* is worth the time to read. The writing is good, and sometimes intense and powerful. Let me point particularly to pages 264-5. Wow! Laing certainly isn't trying to be a documentarian. The author shows up in the book regularly, discussing early experiences at protests, Pride Celebrations, gender and sexuality considerations, etc. Opening that window works, I think, because the topics under consideration benefit from the revelations and participation.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    “The body is a source of pleasure and of pain, at once hopelessly vulnerable and radiant with power.” In Olivia Laing’s latest publication, Everybody, she explores the many facets of freedom using the psychoanalyst, Wilhelm Reich as the main thread throughout the text. Laing succinctly investigates bodily freedom, gay rights, sexual liberation, feminism and the civil rights movement whilst drawing on her personal experience. In addition, Laing’s draws on the experiences of Andrea Dworkin, Christop “The body is a source of pleasure and of pain, at once hopelessly vulnerable and radiant with power.” In Olivia Laing’s latest publication, Everybody, she explores the many facets of freedom using the psychoanalyst, Wilhelm Reich as the main thread throughout the text. Laing succinctly investigates bodily freedom, gay rights, sexual liberation, feminism and the civil rights movement whilst drawing on her personal experience. In addition, Laing’s draws on the experiences of Andrea Dworkin, Christopher Isherwood, Malcolm X, Susan Sontag, Sigmund Freud, Nina Simone and many others to demonstrate the pursuit of freedom in its various forms. In the chapter Unwell, Laing looks the spectrum of health and trauma. I was particularly fascinated with the extremes of how Susan Sontag and Kathy Acker dealt with their cancers. Sontag wanted all treatments for her cancer notwithstanding how sick they made her, especially at the end of her life compared to Acker’s refusal to have treatment. Also, whilst discovering Reich’s orgone accumulator ‘invention’, it was the inspiration to Kate Bush’s song, Cloudbusting. There is so much to unpack in this part memoir, part exploration of freedom but ultimately, it’s a must read and will stay with me for a long time. 4.5 stars

  22. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    The chapters that caught my interest were the ones in which Laing addressed incarceration and the topic of racism and the civil rights movement. Although it was very well written, it was nothing new, however it was well researched and I was captivated by the information. I love Olivia Laing's writing and I am not saying this was a bad book, but I grew increasingly frustrated with the references to Wilhelm Reich, Freud and the Marquis de Sade (especially and not in a Andrea Dworkin sense). I unde The chapters that caught my interest were the ones in which Laing addressed incarceration and the topic of racism and the civil rights movement. Although it was very well written, it was nothing new, however it was well researched and I was captivated by the information. I love Olivia Laing's writing and I am not saying this was a bad book, but I grew increasingly frustrated with the references to Wilhelm Reich, Freud and the Marquis de Sade (especially and not in a Andrea Dworkin sense). I understood that Reich was a central figure to the book, but there were times when I felt like I was reading his biography rather than a book about freedom. The end of the book is what really did it justice because Laing started to address more prominent issues without the influence of psychoanalysis present and I felt more of her voice come out. I would still recommend the book t0 people I feel would understand the content, however it would come with a hefty warning about the overwhelming views on psychoanalysis in the 1930s and it's overbearing presence on the entirety of the book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Eliza

    I loved this in the way that I love everything Laing writes, but at the end I wondered what I came away with - maybe it was just too broad in scope or (more likely) the intelligence and themes confound the usual forms I’m familiar with, requiring more thought and future returns. Using Reich as a touchstone Laing explores the modern arbitrary restrictions placed on individuals and societies as a result of the involuntary forms they inhabit. By way of the fallout from psychoanalysis in Vienna (Fre I loved this in the way that I love everything Laing writes, but at the end I wondered what I came away with - maybe it was just too broad in scope or (more likely) the intelligence and themes confound the usual forms I’m familiar with, requiring more thought and future returns. Using Reich as a touchstone Laing explores the modern arbitrary restrictions placed on individuals and societies as a result of the involuntary forms they inhabit. By way of the fallout from psychoanalysis in Vienna (Freud, Reich) Weimar Germany (Isherwood, Hirschfeld, Reich again)20th Century NYC/US (Acker, Sontag, Dworkin, Mendieta, Martin) and her own personal experience in various locations (among many, many others), Laing traces the impacts and legacy of Reich’s theories - not least in the sad conclusion of his own story, serving as a foreboding living metaphor. An original, awe-inspiring journey. (And, on a more mundane level, I was delighted that the origins of Kate Bush’s Cloudbusting were unearthed, along with the accompanying Donald Sutherland anecdote.)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    “Pleasure is frightening, and so too is freedom. It involves a kind of openness and unboundedness that’s deeply threatening both to the individual and to the society they inhabit. Freedom invokes a counter-wish to clamp down, to tense up, to forbid, even to destroy.” Extraordinary in scope and insight. The book is a bit hard to describe or pin down—the central organizing theme is following the life and writing of psychoanalyst and activist (and eventually, pseudoscientist) Wilhelm Reich, but also “Pleasure is frightening, and so too is freedom. It involves a kind of openness and unboundedness that’s deeply threatening both to the individual and to the society they inhabit. Freedom invokes a counter-wish to clamp down, to tense up, to forbid, even to destroy.” Extraordinary in scope and insight. The book is a bit hard to describe or pin down—the central organizing theme is following the life and writing of psychoanalyst and activist (and eventually, pseudoscientist) Wilhelm Reich, but also the main freedom movements of the last century (feminism, civil rights, gay liberation), but also the author’s own life as a body—but despite its slipperiness, fascinating and well-written. Like Reich, and like me in my newest book, Laing is trying to understand “the body itself: why it’s so difficult to inhabit, why you might want to escape or subdue it, why it remains a naked source of power, even now” and also how this power exists “not despite but because of [its] manifest vulnerabilities.”

  25. 4 out of 5

    Glen Helfand

    Befitting its title, "Everybody" is an intellectually extroverted book. Olivia Laing has assembled something that comes across as a Wilhelm Reich theme party, inviting various personages whose lives and works intersect with his ideas about the intersections of mind and body. Laing plays host, inviting in Kathy Acker, Susan Sontag, Ana Mendita, Agnes Martin, Nina Simone, Christopher Isherwood, Bayard Rustin, Oscar Wilde, Malcolm X, Marquis de Sade, William Burroughs, Andrea Dworkin, and Justin Vi Befitting its title, "Everybody" is an intellectually extroverted book. Olivia Laing has assembled something that comes across as a Wilhelm Reich theme party, inviting various personages whose lives and works intersect with his ideas about the intersections of mind and body. Laing plays host, inviting in Kathy Acker, Susan Sontag, Ana Mendita, Agnes Martin, Nina Simone, Christopher Isherwood, Bayard Rustin, Oscar Wilde, Malcolm X, Marquis de Sade, William Burroughs, Andrea Dworkin, and Justin Vivian Bond, among others. It is a fascinating group, not without their clashes. Laing writes about them with engaging clarity--this is a well-researched book of ideas that flows with ease, like a convivial conversation. The approach and concepts are inspiring, pertinent, and personal to the author. And like a gathering, it only goes so deep. The beauty of "Everybody" then is in its way of generating the desire to dive deeper into her subjects, and in that way, everybody is invited.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Davis

    So glad I read this book. She's a terrific writer. The title is probably misleading, however. It's really not about everybody, as other-abled bodies are not included in the mix. As well, all the discussion orbits around the examination of gender and sexuality, which is fine, but even when talking about Black bodies (the only other-than-white bodies discussed), the conversation is centered around folks like James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin. Malcolm X seems to be essentially a comparative figure. I So glad I read this book. She's a terrific writer. The title is probably misleading, however. It's really not about everybody, as other-abled bodies are not included in the mix. As well, all the discussion orbits around the examination of gender and sexuality, which is fine, but even when talking about Black bodies (the only other-than-white bodies discussed), the conversation is centered around folks like James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin. Malcolm X seems to be essentially a comparative figure. I think of Laing had been direct in presenting the work as an examination of the freedoms denied and allowed based on gender, sexuality, and sexual preference I wouldn't have been waiting for more. She does briefly discuss her own body/gender issues, giving the reader a clue as to her motivation, but it doesn't quite satisfying. Having said that, there is much to learn and much to ponder here, and as I said, Laing is a terrific writer.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Eliza Pillsbury

    If only this cast of characters could meet in real life, embodied. Nina Simone, Sigmund Freud, Agnes Martin, Susan Sontag, Ana Mendieta, Malcolm X, Marquis de Sade, Phillip Guston, Andrea Dworkin, Christopher Isherwood. I’m so fascinated by the way Laing’s brain works, and I will continue to devour anything she writes. I highly recommend this book for a brain-bending, mind-opening read. Lonely City had more emotional resonance for me, since I was reading it during a very lonely time in my life, s If only this cast of characters could meet in real life, embodied. Nina Simone, Sigmund Freud, Agnes Martin, Susan Sontag, Ana Mendieta, Malcolm X, Marquis de Sade, Phillip Guston, Andrea Dworkin, Christopher Isherwood. I’m so fascinated by the way Laing’s brain works, and I will continue to devour anything she writes. I highly recommend this book for a brain-bending, mind-opening read. Lonely City had more emotional resonance for me, since I was reading it during a very lonely time in my life, so that’s why this is only four stars! But I could easily give it 4.5 stars and round up, too. I thought this New Yorker review gives a good sense of the experience of reading this book: https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-...

  28. 5 out of 5

    Janine

    I was assigned this book to review by BookBrowse to offer a free and impartial review. This is not a book I would normally choose to read but I am now grateful it was assigned to me. What a thought provoking and exhilarating read. Beautifully written and exquisitely researched, this is a book that when reading can profoundly impact the soul of one who 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. I was assigned this book to review by BookBrowse to offer a free and impartial review. This is not a book I would normally choose to read but I am now grateful it was assigned to me. What a thought provoking and exhilarating read. Beautifully written and exquisitely researched, this is a book that when reading can profoundly impact the soul of one who 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 experiences to further the portrait of society’s limitations on freedom. Laing seeks to point out as well 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 us one that is necessary and important to read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bella

    Fascinating and deeply interdisciplinary, as is characteristic of Laing's nonfiction writing. I almost don't want to give it a rating because I'm not sure if that best captures the thought-provoking nature of Laing's work. I don't necessarily agree with every conclusion she draws (or, to be more accurate, I fear some of her argument is too "tidy" for space's sake), but I thoroughly enjoyed the journey throughout history. What, truly, is a body? The body's presence in the collective, relationship Fascinating and deeply interdisciplinary, as is characteristic of Laing's nonfiction writing. I almost don't want to give it a rating because I'm not sure if that best captures the thought-provoking nature of Laing's work. I don't necessarily agree with every conclusion she draws (or, to be more accurate, I fear some of her argument is too "tidy" for space's sake), but I thoroughly enjoyed the journey throughout history. What, truly, is a body? The body's presence in the collective, relationship to the soul, role in the pursuit of liberation...? Questions I'll continue to ponder. Grab this, and, of course, THE LONELY CITY too :)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amy Tweddle

    Sensitive, thought-provoking and insightful. Laing's writing is as beautiful as ever in 'Everybody', she continues her powerful style of meshing personal experience with observations/commentary on other artists/writers/thinkers/ to create a book that takes you everywhere (inc 1920s Berlin, 1950s Kentucky, 70/80s Britain) making you feel like you've lived countless lives by the time you've finished. The final chapter (22nd Century) about Nina Simone (and The Civil Rights Movement) is both deeply Sensitive, thought-provoking and insightful. Laing's writing is as beautiful as ever in 'Everybody', she continues her powerful style of meshing personal experience with observations/commentary on other artists/writers/thinkers/ to create a book that takes you everywhere (inc 1920s Berlin, 1950s Kentucky, 70/80s Britain) making you feel like you've lived countless lives by the time you've finished. The final chapter (22nd Century) about Nina Simone (and The Civil Rights Movement) is both deeply reflective and rousing - an incredibly moving piece to end on. I would absolutely recommend this book to, well, 'Everybody'.

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