Animal Joy by Nuar Alsadir
Nuar Alsadir weaves together an effortless tale of laughter, mortification and the human soul in her first book of creative nonfiction
An insult, a nugget of truth, an unspoken history, a light-hearted observation, the teller’s greatest insecurity – a joke can hide many things in-between its setup and punchline. From Sacha Baron Cohen and Freud to Trump and attending clown school, Nuar Alsadir weaves together an effortless tale of laughter, mortification and the human soul in her first book of creative nonfiction.
A psychologist and poet, Alsadir approaches the subject of laughter from both the textbook and the stage. Mixing literary theory, psychoanalysis, anecdotes (mostly about her very funny children) and the politics of the Trump era, Alsadir takes laughter as her starting point to explore the sensations inside us, always threatening to erupt as crying, cackles and clowning.
Written during a deeply unfunny time of American politics, Animal Joy interrogates our present day anxieties, mortifications and meme culture. Alsadir admits earlier in the book that she took laughter as her subject because that’s what she saw when she “turned away from what felt too disturbing to approach directly.”
In direct and indirect ways, the book is about what motivates us as people – the animal, or psychologist, D. W. Winnicott’s True Self, that waits, repressed within the body, ready to crack open and mortify us in public. Animal Joy is Alsadir’s ode to the bodily sensations that escape us, told through bursts of fragmented memories, jokes and psychoanalysis. Like any good clown, Alsadir shakes the reader from their stupor in order to intrigue, repulse and, most importantly, entertain.
Fitzcarraldo Editions, out now, £12.99