“One of the finest writers of the new nonfiction” (Harper’s Bazaar) explores the role of art in our tumultuous modern era.
In this remarkable, inspiring collection of essays, acclaimed writer and critic Olivia Laing makes a brilliant case for why art matters, especially in the turbulent political weather of the twenty-first century.
Funny Weather brings together a career’s worth of Laing’s writing about art and culture, examining their role in our political and emotional lives. She profiles Jean-Michel Basquiat and Georgia O’Keeffe, reads Maggie Nelson and Sally Rooney, writes love letters to David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, and explores loneliness and technology, women and alcohol, sex and the body. With characteristic originality and compassion, she celebrates art as a force of resistance and repair, an antidote to a frightening political time.
We’re often told that art can’t change anything. Laing argues that it can. Art changes how we see the world. It makes plain inequalities and it offers fertile new ways of living.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
When society is mired in conflict and upheaval, that’s when art becomes most important. This is the brilliant theme of British cultural critic Olivia Laing’s fantastic essay collection, which pulls together some of her most thought-provoking writing. In bite-size chunks, she charts the evolution of conceptual art, recounts her personal experiences with everything from the ’90s environmental protest movement to Brexit, and profiles artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Hockney, and Agnes Martin. Through it all, Laing—the author of the slim, excellent novel Crudo—approaches even the headiest subject matter with easy candor and a refreshing lack of jargon, giving us the benefit of her insider knowledge without ever making us feel like an art world outsider. Every easy-to-read essay (most are around 10 pages) broadens our horizons in a fascinating new way. Together, they invite us to rethink the role that art and creativity play in every aspect of our lives—especially during challenging times.
This timely collection from Laing (The Trip to Echo Spring) asks "Can art do anything, especially during periods of crisis?" She shows that, indeed, art can change things for the better, pinning her assertion on critic Eve Sedgwick's concept of "reparative reading," which encourages readers to use hope, creativity, and survival in their interpretations. Broken up into sections that include artist profiles, literary criticism, and personal essay, the book shows where art can fight back, as with painter David Wojnarowicz's writing and photography documenting his former partner's death from AIDS at a time of political inaction. Thanks to the short length of her essays, she's able to cover a lot of ground, touching on, in addition to the AIDS crisis, climate change, gender, and in two especially biting selections, the plight of refugees in the U.K. and the Grenfell Tower fire in London. Laing soars in her writing on Maggie Nelson, whom she describes as creating an "exhilarating new language for considering both the messiness of life and the meanings of art." As a collection that aims to exemplify "new ways of seeing" to break through a "spin cycle of terrified paranoia," this will leave readers eager to reengage with art they know well, and explore art as yet new to them.