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 seeks to recover the sensation of feeling alive and embodied.
Writing in a poetic, associative style, blending the personal with the theoretical, Alsadir ranges from her experience in clown school, Anna Karenina’s morphine addiction, Freud’s unfreudian behaviours, marriage brokers and war brokers to ‘Not Jokes’, Abu Ghraib, Fanon’s negrophobia, smut, the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, laugh tracks, the problem with adjectives, to how poetry can wake us up. At the centre of the book, though, is the author’s relationship with her daughters, who erupt into the text like sudden, unexpected laughter. These interventions – frank, tender, and always a challenge to the writer and her thinking – are like tiny revolutions, pointedly showing the dangers of being severed from our True Self and hinting at ways we might be called back to it. A bold and insatiably curious prose debut, Animal Joy is an ode to spontaneity and feeling alive.
‘To read Animal Joy is to become alive to the condition of wakefulness in the world. This spectacular achievement by the psychoanalyst and writer Nuar Alsadir provokes and destabilizes our understanding of a life’s competing narratives. I can think of no other contemporary work of nonfiction that brings together autobiography, a learned history of psychoanalysis, lyrical poetics, ontological investigations of our attempt to manage our own feelings, with such astute engagement. This is a work that will change conversations about who we are, what we think motivates us, what makes us us. The meeting place of the intentional and the unintentional erupts in Animal Joy in order that we might reinvestigate our incoming thoughts and feelings with a sense of vigor and curiosity. If you are open to introducing “tiny revolutions” of thought into your life by resisting received and uninterrogated scripts, read this book.’
— Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen
‘With Animal Joy Nuar Alsadir is in a relentless pursuit of authentic life, slaying the endless ways we accept falsehoods and store-packaged simulacrums, in search for what is beyond the obvious. Alsadir radically foregrounds inner over external reality as an act of subverting convention. Moving seamlessly between the most intimate to the political reality of our time, she leans hard into the absurd, harnessing the engines of psychoanalytic theory, philosophy, and her poet’s love-hate relationship with language to bring back from exile what has been rendered unthinkable by social contract. Reading this book you are on a joy ride with the mind of a free thinker who will surprise you, make you laugh uncontrollably, and trouble you until you come out changed. You will gain a different relationship to what is before you, less tolerant of the lies and defenses that keep us apart from the impulse of our true self, joys, excitements, and devastations.’
— Orna Guralnik, Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, Couples Therapy (BBC)
‘Nuar Alsadir has wandered fearlessly through the wordless regions of everyday life and returned intact, bearing this exhilaratingly personal and artful weave of stories and meditations. As precise as it is lyrical, Animal Joy invites us to attend anew to human feelings, those elusive, barely noticed entities transmitting everywhere, all the time, “with a frequency outside of measurement.”’
— Josh Cohen, author of Not Working
‘Nuar Alsadir’s lyrical, hilarious and beautifully undefended meditation has the capacity to widen our consciousness to allow notice of what occurs in the interstices of attention and mortification. In that way, Animal Joy is a book that seems compassionately able to read us as we turn its pages.’
— Jonathan Lethem
‘Nuar Alsadir’s Animal Joy is extravagant with revelations. Alsadir reads the human psyche with brilliant rigor and generosity, patiently prodding underneath the surface of human behavior, language, politics and race to get at the root of the real. After I finished Animal Joy, I came away feeling more awake, more present, and more connected to myself and the world.’
— Cathy Park Hong, author of Minor Feelings
‘Through the awesome and heterogeneous study of this book, laughter at first feels like the most enigmatic act, a convulsing creature in the psyche, in the home, in awkward publics, but then it is returned to us as the most true form of comprehension; an animal attitude to reality, a culturing note of corpsing, creasing and cracking up, that snags on the meaning of everything.’
— Holly Pester, author of Comic Timing