cover image Animal Joy: A Book of Laughter and Resuscitation

Animal Joy: A Book of Laughter and Resuscitation

Nuar Alsadir. Graywolf, $17 trade paper (296p) ISBN 978-1-64445-093-2

Psychoanalyst Alsadir (More Shadow Than Bird) investigates the power of laughter in this thoughtful tour of humans’ unconscious. True laughter, Alsadir suggests, rouses “wakefulness,” expresses one’s “True Self” and betrays the “False Self” constructed for social conformity and protection. The author offers resonant insight on the uses of laughter to redistribute power (liking to laugh or make others laugh are ways “of signaling a preferred position”), and finds an apt comparison for it in the musical term appoggiatura, a note that disrupts an anticipated melody and taps a deeper state of emotion. Alsadir moves confidently through the intellectual terrain of Freud, Donald Winnicott, and neurophysiologist Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne, invoking Heidegger’s term aletheia, or “truth as unconcealment” as easily as she calls up pop cultural jokes about trauma or Anna Karenina. Most memorable are her personal asides, such as her account of attending clown school (she tried to drop out but “by staying, was provoked, unsettled, changed”) and the piquant remarks by her daughters—when asked “What does beautiful mean?”—that “beautiful means most self.” Gorgeously written and by turns hilarious and crushing, Alsadir’s examination of humanity’s “savage complexity” is not to be missed. Agent: Harriet Moore, David Higham Assoc. (Aug.)