Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency (Paperback)
“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.
About the Author
Olivia Laing is the author of three acclaimed works of nonfiction, To the River (2011), The Trip to Echo Spring (2013), and The Lonely City (2016), which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism and has been translated into seventeen languages. Her first novel, Crudo, was a New York Times Notable Book and won the 2019 James Tait Black Prize. She writes for the Guardian, New York Times, and frieze, among many other publications. Her collected writing on art, Funny Weather, was published in 2020. The recipient of the 2018 Windham-Campbell Prize in nonfiction, Laing lives in Suffolk, UK.
[Olivia Laing is] a kind of cultural sage… an accidental literary grande dame of the emotional havoc wrought by late capitalism and digital disconnect.
— Hillary Kelly - Vulture
Laing’s arts writing is sharp-minded, and her manner is generous toward both subject and reader.
— John Glassie - Washington Post
Laing writes of her creative subjects in a winning, passionate voice that proves both soothing and galvanizing, especially amid a panic.… It’s not just art we need in an emergency, but writers, like Laing, who gently guide our eyes to what’s out there.
— Alina Cohen - Observer
As exterior life shuts temporarily down, Funny Weather is an immensely useful reminder that new space can be intellectual as well as physical.… Laing animates her prose with concise, brainy descriptions of visual art.… Laing is a tremendously gifted genre-mixer, and her writing flourishes most when its topic requires her both to observe and to imagine.… Funny Weather is an invitation to Laing’s imaginary museum, where minds if not bodies meet, and where true hospitality resides.
— Lily Meyer - Hyperallergic
Laing opens each piece with a deceptive ease [and] alights upon poetic insights.… [H]er light touch throughout these essays makes room for some stunning perceptions.
— A.V. Club
A thought-provoking, inspiring collection that you can go back to whenever the weather takes a funny turn.
— Susannah Butter - Evening Standard
Funny Weather gives the reader a tangible sense of the sprawling garden of work which Laing has planted. She is to the art world what David Attenborough is to nature: a worthy guide with both a macro and micro vision, fluent in her chosen tongue and always full of empathy and awe.
— Mia Colleran - Irish Times
An incisive meditation on the value of heartfelt, messy art in our paranoid times.
A fine writer’s embrace of the artists who preceded her, friendly visits with their lives, and loving acknowledgement of their foundational contributions. A work of joy in recognition.
— Sarah Schulman, author of Conflict Is Not Abuse
Like all great critics, Olivia Laing combines formidable intelligence with boundless curiosity and fabulous taste, but she also has a rare quality of intimacy; an ability to connect the reader to a work of art or literature (or for that matter a facet of life itself) with a directness that lights it up like nothing else. It’s why I read her.
— James Lasdun, author of Afternoon of a Faun