Whether it’s a novel or one of her more long-form essay style titles, I am always beguiled by the work of Olivia Laing, a writer with astute observation and an exploratory approach, which entices me to purchase and read her work. Funny Weather is the book I am referring to here, one of her essay form titles, the one that came out pre Every Body but post Crudo. A title with a strong admiration and reference towards the work of Derek Jarman along with many others, Funny Weather is a wonderful consideration of art during turbulent times.
Olivia Laing is a writer and critic. She’s the author of To the River, The Trip to Echo Spring and The Lonely City, which has been translated into seventeen languages and sold over 100,000 copies worldwide. Her collected essays, Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency, were published in 2020. And it is just as relevant and fascinating a read in 2021.
This turbulent political weather of the twenty-first century generates anxiety and makes it difficult to know how to react. Olivia Laing makes a brilliant, inspiring case for why art matters more than ever, as a force of both resistance and repair, throughout Funny Weather. Art, she argues, changes how we see the world. It gives us X-ray vision. It reveals inequalities and offers fertile new ways of living. And by focusing on artists such as Basquiat and Jarman we can see that she is filtering out the less radical artists.
This book brings together a career’s worth of Laing’s writing about art and culture, and their role in our political and emotional lives. She profiles artists such as the aforementioned and Georgia O’Keeffe, interviews Hilary Mantel and Ali Smith, writes love letters to David Bowie and Wolfgang Tillmans, and explores loneliness and technology, women and alcohol, sex and the body. With a great degree of consideration and compassion, Funny Weather celebrates art as an antidote to a terrifying political moment.
A real treasure for the artists of these times, and a wonder for anyone considering art in the more turbulent times of this pandemic Laing would argue that it’s precisely during these tried and tested times that we need it more. I urge you all to pick up a copy and languish with the best of them in the wondrous art that is out there, stemming from difficulties that life besets.
Funny Weather is available now, published by Picador