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Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency

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“One of the finest writers of the new non-fiction” (Harper’s Bazaar) explores the role of art in the tumultuous twenty-first century. In the age of Trump and Brexit, every crisis is instantly overridden by the next. The turbulent political weather of the twenty-first century generates anxiety and makes it difficult to know how to react. Olivia Laing makes a brilliant, inspi “One of the finest writers of the new non-fiction” (Harper’s Bazaar) explores the role of art in the tumultuous twenty-first century. In the age of Trump and Brexit, every crisis is instantly overridden by the next. The 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. 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. Funny Weather 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 Jean-Michel Basquiat 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 characteristic originality and compassion, Funny Weather celebrates art as an antidote to a terrifying political moment.


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“One of the finest writers of the new non-fiction” (Harper’s Bazaar) explores the role of art in the tumultuous twenty-first century. In the age of Trump and Brexit, every crisis is instantly overridden by the next. The turbulent political weather of the twenty-first century generates anxiety and makes it difficult to know how to react. Olivia Laing makes a brilliant, inspi “One of the finest writers of the new non-fiction” (Harper’s Bazaar) explores the role of art in the tumultuous twenty-first century. In the age of Trump and Brexit, every crisis is instantly overridden by the next. The 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. 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. Funny Weather 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 Jean-Michel Basquiat 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 characteristic originality and compassion, Funny Weather celebrates art as an antidote to a terrifying political moment.

30 review for Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    A few years back I started reading and fell in love with essays. There is something so personal about these short glimpses into what or who authors chose to write. In these Laing gives us a glimpse into the lives of some important artists, writers and singers of the 20th century. In biographical sketches she chose some I had never heard; such as Rachel Kneebone. "An artist who created monumental, frightening complex sculptures out of porcelain. I've never seen anything that so purely captures the A few years back I started reading and fell in love with essays. There is something so personal about these short glimpses into what or who authors chose to write. In these Laing gives us a glimpse into the lives of some important artists, writers and singers of the 20th century. In biographical sketches she chose some I had never heard; such as Rachel Kneebone. "An artist who created monumental, frightening complex sculptures out of porcelain. I've never seen anything that so purely captures the indifference of vitality, the way life is always shifting into death and out again?" I had to look her up and adore her work. https://www.artsy.net/artist/rachel-k.... She also includes O'Keefe whose work I love. Mantel and Ali Smith, a little Bowie and Patti Smith. Some of my favorites were her cultural commentaries. She covers much in a relatively few short pages, some that deserve rereading. This is a thought to which I can certainly relate. "After the American election, I fell asleep each night packing a bag in my mind. A map, a compass, cash, a torch. What kind of disaster did I think was coming? Everything was eroding: language, truth, civil rights." ARC from Edelweiss

  2. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    I don't think art has a duty to be beautiful or uplifting... it's concerned with resistance and repair. Drawing on Eve Sedgwick's 'Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading', Laing's framing essay/introduction attempts to draw together a miscellany of her work from the previous decade. Like all such anthologies, it's a mixed collection and not all of the pieces necessarily fit the stated remit. But that's ok, in these sort of essay collections it's fine to skip a couple. And there's the danger, I don't think art has a duty to be beautiful or uplifting... it's concerned with resistance and repair. Drawing on Eve Sedgwick's 'Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading', Laing's framing essay/introduction attempts to draw together a miscellany of her work from the previous decade. Like all such anthologies, it's a mixed collection and not all of the pieces necessarily fit the stated remit. But that's ok, in these sort of essay collections it's fine to skip a couple. And there's the danger, acknowledged upfront, that there is repetition. Still, the important thing is that Laing is always thoughtful, politically-engaged and readable, and that this might be a book especially suited to the current lockdown. The pieces vary from mini-biogs of artists' lives (e.g. Basquiat, Hockney, O'Keefe), magazine columns, a sprinkling of notes from reading (e.g. Patricia Highsmith, Virginia Woolf, Kathy Acker, Deborah Levy, Jean Rhys), literary interviews (e.g. Mantel, Ali Smith), and some assorted pieces on, for example, women writers and alcohol (a brief coda to her The Trip to Echo Spring), and loneliness (linked to her The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone. Each of these essays is short, given its provenance, so is ideally suited to either dipping into or for more concerted reading. The latter does draw attention to some of the repetitions: refugees, Jo Cox, Nigel Farage and Brexit, but that's fine. In any case, Laing's emphasis is on resistance and strength, on taking inspiration and finding something 'sustaining out of inimical environments'. Laing, as ever, is readable and intelligent without being academic. Many thanks to Picador for an ARC via NetGalley

  3. 4 out of 5

    Fatma

    2.5 stars I know what Olivia Laing is capable of—Lonely City was one of my favourite books of last year—and I don't think Funny Weather did justice either to her writing or to the subjects she was writing about. My disappointment with Funny Weather is more about my high expectations for it than anything wrong with this book, necessarily. If you go into this book keeping in mind that it's a collection of her previously published articles, then you'll enjoy it. I mean, it's Olivia Laing, so her writ 2.5 stars I know what Olivia Laing is capable of—Lonely City was one of my favourite books of last year—and I don't think Funny Weather did justice either to her writing or to the subjects she was writing about. My disappointment with Funny Weather is more about my high expectations for it than anything wrong with this book, necessarily. If you go into this book keeping in mind that it's a collection of her previously published articles, then you'll enjoy it. I mean, it's Olivia Laing, so her writing is still great. But given that this is an anthology and not a cohesive book about one specific theme, like The Lonely City, it read as a little disjointed and underdeveloped. At times I felt like just as I was getting into a piece, it ended. At others it felt like I got barely anything from a piece because it ended so quickly. What I'm trying to say is: these pieces were just too short to be substantial enough for me. Another thing is that a lot of the artists Laing talks about in this book are people I've never heard of before. In The Lonely City I didn't mind this at all because Laing took her time to develop their histories and relate their art back to loneliness. In this book, though, the pieces we got were essentially the barebones of artists I had no interest in, so it felt like a bit of a lose-lose situation. That said, I am still ridiculously excited to read Laing's next book, Everybody, which I think will be more in the vein of The Lonely City. I mean, this is the first line of the book's description: "Everybody is a fierce, vital exploration of what it means to have a body in the modern era." I am so sold. (Thank you to W.W. Norton for providing me with an e-ARC of this via Edelweiss!)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Stewart Tame

    Full disclosure: I won a free ARC of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. According to a quote from Harper’s Bazaar, Laing is “One of the finest writers of the new nonfiction.” I wasn't aware that the “new nonfiction” was a thing. As a lifelong reader of both fiction and non-, I’ve always been aware that the latter can be just as satisfying to read as the former. Case in point: Funny Weather. What this book is is a series of essays on art and culture. In her introduction, Laing makes a case for the Full disclosure: I won a free ARC of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. According to a quote from Harper’s Bazaar, Laing is “One of the finest writers of the new nonfiction.” I wasn't aware that the “new nonfiction” was a thing. As a lifelong reader of both fiction and non-, I’ve always been aware that the latter can be just as satisfying to read as the former. Case in point: Funny Weather. What this book is is a series of essays on art and culture. In her introduction, Laing makes a case for the necessity of Art, that it matters more than ever in these turbulent times of Brexit and Trump. She talks of writers and painters and musicians and more. She writes well and clearly, which is not always easy to do in an Art context. I particularly enjoyed the essay on British conceptual art, a topic I definitely would like to explore further at some point in the future. That was actually a frequent occurrence with this book: Laing will talk about someone's work and make it sound so intriguing that Funny Weather begins to take on the aspect of a cultural shopping list. If there is a drawback it is one common to most collections of Art essays: too few illustrations. In some cases, I’m familiar enough with the artist in question (Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Cornell, Philip Guston, etc.) to have at least a general mental image of their work. But many were new to me. Clearly further research is needed on my part. Whether this is the new nonfiction or the old, I’m definitely on board. Recommended!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Vartika

    George Steiner once stated that the commander of a concentration camp could read Goethe and Rilke in the evening and still carry out his duties at Auschwitz the next day, proof that art has failed its most important purpose—to humanise. Olivia Laing begs to differ. Steiner's way, according to her, is a form of escapism, a shirking of duty: art cannot not reorganise our critical and moral faculties without our will and consent; what art does is provide one with new perspectives, different sets of George Steiner once stated that the commander of a concentration camp could read Goethe and Rilke in the evening and still carry out his duties at Auschwitz the next day, proof that art has failed its most important purpose—to humanise. Olivia Laing begs to differ. Steiner's way, according to her, is a form of escapism, a shirking of duty: art cannot not reorganise our critical and moral faculties without our will and consent; what art does is provide one with new perspectives, different sets of eyes to look at the world with. What we do with these new registers and spaces, she says, is up to us. 'Black Windows' by Sargy Mann Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency is a collection of profiles, essays, columns and other writings which explore art as a medium for resistance and repair. As with anything else Laing writes, these pieces are both intimate and engaging, addressing the surrealness of this political moment while beckoning one to explore beyond it through artistic, literary, musical and simply humane considerations of the world. It does what all truly remarkable books should do: it takes one places, willing the reader to explore different artists, emotions, mediums and messages—to put your foot into someone else's shoes, to dip a toe into deeper water. Be it mini-biographies celebrating the likes of Joseph Cornell, Hilary Mantel and Sarah Lucas; lamentations about an age of loneliness and the difficulties of inhabiting our bodies; thoughts on books and british queer art, conversations with a like mind in Joseph Keckler; or confrontations with an age that compels people to literally seal their lips together in process; reading the pieces in Funny Weather requires one to go beyond the page and interact more with the issues and works in question, and it's impossible not to end up with a list of things you want to explore further. If the aim of art is to create engagement and sustain curiosity, this book is where you find it, like a manifesto in action.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael Livingston

    Probably 4.5, but only because a few of the shorter columns felt like they were cut off just as they were getting going. Funny Weather compiles a bunch of columns and essays that Laing has worked on since around the time of The Lonely City. There are book reviews, artist profiles, essays, interviews - it's a real smorgasbord. But the uniting theme is clear - Laing believes that art matters and that artists matter, and she makes a brilliantly strong case for the importance of art in a world going Probably 4.5, but only because a few of the shorter columns felt like they were cut off just as they were getting going. Funny Weather compiles a bunch of columns and essays that Laing has worked on since around the time of The Lonely City. There are book reviews, artist profiles, essays, interviews - it's a real smorgasbord. But the uniting theme is clear - Laing believes that art matters and that artists matter, and she makes a brilliantly strong case for the importance of art in a world going a bit mad. There's something powerfully optimistic about how Laing sees the world, with a love for people who live boldly, openly and graciously. The dreadful toll of the AIDS crisis is a recurring theme as well, but even here Laing focusses at least as much on the beautiful lives that people like David Wojnarowicz and Freddy Mercury lived as she does on the tragic waste of their deaths. Honestly, I will read anything Laing writes and this has left me hugely excited about her next book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Anastasiya Mozgovaya

    fascinated by the way Laing intertwines the lives and works of a wide range of artists with her own personal experiences. this is not a deep dive into one subject matter, but a thrilling exploration of a multitude. p.s. there is always a lot of homework to do while reading Laing`s work and afterwards, but because of how gentle and welcoming she is, it feels exciting instead of being stressful. fascinated by the way Laing intertwines the lives and works of a wide range of artists with her own personal experiences. this is not a deep dive into one subject matter, but a thrilling exploration of a multitude. p.s. there is always a lot of homework to do while reading Laing`s work and afterwards, but because of how gentle and welcoming she is, it feels exciting instead of being stressful.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Glen

    I won this book in a goodreads drawing. A collection of essays about art, artists, and what it's all for. Most of it is the usual stuff you'd expect to read, but there is a section on celebrities which is interesting. I won this book in a goodreads drawing. A collection of essays about art, artists, and what it's all for. Most of it is the usual stuff you'd expect to read, but there is a section on celebrities which is interesting.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Auderoy

    QUOTES: What I wanted most, apart from a different timeline, was a different kind of time frame, in which it might be possible both to feel and to think, to process the intense emotional impact of the news and to consider how to react, perhaps even to imagine other ways of being. Empathy is not something that happens to us when we read Dickens. It's work. What art does is provide material with which to think: new registers, new spaces. After that, friend, it's up to you. I don't think art has a dut QUOTES: What I wanted most, apart from a different timeline, was a different kind of time frame, in which it might be possible both to feel and to think, to process the intense emotional impact of the news and to consider how to react, perhaps even to imagine other ways of being. Empathy is not something that happens to us when we read Dickens. It's work. What art does is provide material with which to think: new registers, new spaces. After that, friend, it's up to you. I don't think art has a duty to be beautiful or uplifting, and some of the work I'm most drawn to refuses to traffic in either of those qualities. What I care about more, and what forms the uniting interest in nearly all the essays and criticism gathered here, are the ways in which it's concerned with resistance and repair. We're so often told that art can't really change anything. But I think it can. It shapes our ethical landscapes; it opens us to the interior lives of others. It is a training ground for possibility. It makes plain inequalities, and it offers other ways of living. Don't you want it, to be impregnate with all that light? And what will happen if you are? It isn't easy to catch the workings of these paintings in words, since they were designed to dodge the burden of representation, to stymie the viewer in their incorrigible habit of searching for recognisable forms in the abstract field. They aren't made to be read, but rather responded to, enigmatic triggers for a spontaneous upwelling of pure emotion. Damp, fecund England, as luxuriant as a Matisse, the hedgerows writhing with renewed life. There's something cartoonish and unadulterated about them, even gluttonous: a need to seize the mad abundance before it becomes something else, bud to leaf, puddle to ice, the endless migration of matter through form. He was visited by many devoted friends, but there still seemed to be something that kept him apart from other people: a pane of glass he couldn't quite break open or unlatch. And yet he never lost his ability to look and be moved--bowled over, even--by the things he saw, from birds in a tree ('cheery-upping of insistent Robin') or shifts in the weather to the marvellous traffic of his dreams and visions. In a wheelchair, he'd still dreamed of photographing the entire world, inch by inch, asking friends to snap the most boring details they could find. Nothing was beneath his regard, and no one exceeded his vision for art as a kind of an alternate planet, equally vast in scope and scale. 'I'm for yes,' he said firmly. 'No excludes. I'm for inclusion.' It was a messy end, though what it perhaps reveals is the immense control that simplicity, elegance and calm require. Without O'Keeffe's sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued, exacting presence, chaos loomed. She made it happen, those simple scenes that are anything but, opening a door to a new way of portraying her country, a new kind of woman's life. 'Making your unknown known is the most important thing.' she said, 'and keeping the unknown always beyond you.' An incantation repeats like a tolling bell: 'Smell the flowers while you can.' It sounds simple, until you remember the many forces geared against health and love, the courage it took to commit to pleasure. It was Wojnarowicz, of course: still finding novel ways to be heard, to counter untruths. Not long before he died, he made a photograph in the desert of his own face, eyes closed, teeth bared, almost buried beneath the dirt, an image of defiance in the face of extinction. If silence equals death, he taught us, then art equals language equals life. All of these paintings draw from the well of Matisse; all could be titled Luxe, Calme et Volupté, and not just for the repeating architecture of infinity pools, the expensive chlorine rectangle lapped by a receding bar of ultramarine. They are testimonials to the abundant pleasures of light and space, the idle hour between swim and beer when everyone drifts into the same small room to pass the time together. It's this weird warmth/coolness as much as the stupendous palette, the deft unseeing strokes of a master colourist, that accounts for the depth charge of these pantings. Nothing much is happening, but everyone that matters is in the room. Would there be a future? Was the past irreparably destroyed? What to do? Don't waste time. Plant rosemary, red-hot poker, santolina; alchemise terror into art. It was the giddy delight of the shoot he loved, the improvised, gorgeously costumed chaos, flying by the seat of his boiler suit, restaging images snatched from dreams. The mouth is for speaking. But how do you speak if no one's listening, how do you speak if your voice is prohibited or no one understands your tongue? You make a migrant image, an image that can travel where you cannot... You make an image to communicate what is unsayable in words. You make an image to go on beyond you, to speak when you no longer can. It isn't academic, art. It's about emergency exits and impromptu arrivals, things coming and going through the ghastly space where a person once was. These objects attested to a leaky universe, a perpetual-motion machine, energy rushing from form to form, a vast migration through space and time. In this transcendental vision, the human body was just another vessel, a decorated shell. It worked a kind of magic, that film, a re-humanising spell. The dancers came on stage, making their glacial suite of movements to two piano pieces by Erik Satie. I'd like to say they moved like automata, but that's not true. What was beautiful was watching their disciplined, pliant bodies straining on the edge of mechanization, up on one wobbling leg like monochrome flamingos, right at the threshold of human capability. After the American election, I fell asleep each night packing a bag in my mind. A map, a compass, cash, a torch. What kind of disaster did I think was coming? Everything was eroding: language, truth, civil rights. It felt reparative, listening to that; it felt like my imaginative ability to frame utopias and then to move purposefully towards them might have been restored, at least for a minute, at least inside those book-clad walls. The disaster had already happened, the bad surprise was finally here. The question was what would happen now, how to live on alongside loss and rage, how to not be destroyed by what are manifestly destructive forces. It felt like the room got bigger as he talked, until we were all sitting in an enormous space, a cathedral of potential, in which the future was as yet unsketched. 'Imagine what a process it was to unnumb yourself, to see it totally and to bear witness,' he said. 'That's the only reason to be an artist: to escape, to bear witness to this.' He didn't mean escape as in run away from reality. He meant act. He meant unspring the trap. He meant cut through the wire. It was true. Gardening situates you in a different kind of time, the antithesis of the agitating present of social media. Time becomes circular, not chronological; minutes stretch into hours; some actions don't bear fruit for decades. The gardener is not immune to attrition and loss, but is daily confronted by the ongoing good news of fecundity. A peony returns, alien pink shoots thrusting from bare soil. The fennel self-seeds; there is an abundance of cosmos out of nowhere. Is art resistance? Can you plant a garden to stop a war? It depends how you think about time. It depends what you think a seed does, if it's tossed into fertile soil. But it seems to me that whatever else you do, it's worth tending to paradise, however you define it and wherever it arises. The show makes a case for Warhol as queer from the very beginning, using art as a way of conjuring the objects of his desire. Inventing what he needed in the paucity of reality, a miner's son willing glamour and beauty his way. It might be my favourite impulse in art. Fantasy, fetish, making up what you don't yet have, using the loved object to will yourself into life. Where do we end up if we wall ourselves in, Smith wonders. Insist on fortifications, and you create a kind of prison for yourself... Far better to yank them down, to learn how to communicate in a different tongue, to welcome the stranger as a friend. Fiction can do that: can make a space for reflecting, for generating novel ways of responding and reacting to lies and guns and walls alike. The mere act of cracking open a book, Smith thinks, is creative in itself, capable of inculcating kindness and agility in the reader. 'Art is one of the prime ways we have of opening ourselves and going beyond ourselves. That's what art is, it's the product of the human being in the world and imagination, all coming together. The irrepressibility of the life in the works, regardless of the times, the histories, the life stories, it's like being given the world, its darks and lights. At which point we can go about the darks and lights with our imagination energised.' You can't paint reality: you can only paint your own place in it, the view from your eyes, as manifested by your own hands. In such an inimical climate, it's not surprising that art became a zone of both enchantment and resistance. In the old days, art had meant things; objects to which the viewer pays solemn homage. But what if art could also be ideas, expressed by way of acts, events in time that left minimal traces in the world? Maybe a person could be a work of art. Maybe you didn't need a gallery at all. Maybe art could take place in the street, or in a field. Maybe it only came into being with the viewer's presence, and maybe it didn't require witnesses at all. The future does not announce its arrival. My own understanding of loneliness relied on a belief in solid, separate selves that he saw as hopelessly outmoded. In his world view, everyone was perpetually slipping into each other, passing through perpetual cycles of transformation; no longer separate, but interspersed. Perhaps he was right. We aren't as solid as we once thought. We're embodied but we're also networks, expanding out into empty space, living on inside machines and in other people's heads, memories and data streams as well as flesh. We're being watched and we do not have control. We long for contact and it makes us afraid. But as long as we're still capable of feeling and expressing vulnerability, intimacy stands a chance. We could as a nation stop being so lethally afraid of strangers, so dangerous in our self-protection. But I think the act of bearing witness is an act of love. There's no need for heaven: the pearly gates, the cherubim and seraphim, the light beyond the sun. It is the protean body, come and gone, that's the abiding miracle. Happiness which depends on privilege and oppression cannot by any civilised terms be described as happiness at all. It is precisely this gift that her own writing possesses: a facility for making room, for offering up possibilities beyond the either/or, the this and that. Perhaps the future wasn't coming; perhaps coming in the present could be its own reward. The problem with the future is that it turns so quickly into the past. Levy has always been skilled at the symbolic, attentive to how we declare our deepest selves in our most casual actions and phrases. Perhaps it's a legacy of her years as a playwright, but she knows how small items--a parakeet, a stray bee, a bubble-gum lolly--generate an atmosphere, making a Freudian weather of their own. This see-sawing, two-things-at-once capacity of objects to open up reservoirs of memory is part of what makes her writing so distinctive. It takes work to insist on being a major character, even in one's own existence. Listening to it now, it becomes apparent that the quiet man on the ferry, dancing silently to sounds that only he could hear, might have been one of the best and strangest talents of twentieth-century composition, a nomad with an absolute commitment to freedom, whose natural element was music itself. There are so many ways you can feel bad in your body, not just ugly but cut off or in transit, untouched, ineffectual, a vector or data point, a consumer, a subject. I love these pictures because they're truly utopian and because the utopia is so abundantly available, even now. I mean it's free. Just holding hands, maybe a blow job, two girls kissing, a boy cutting shapes in a silver dress. It's not that anyone's pretending that this isn't dangerous, that the free exercise of love, the free movement of bodies might cause a person to be killed. That's abundantly documented too. I fear what is happening in the world. I am glad someone is watching how truth is made, diagramming the stages of its construction, or as it may be dissolution. Art is like another reality that makes our reality feel more alive. And because of that entanglement it's tempting to place a burden on the artist... As the person who is responding to and critiquing but also creating reality. It's an elusive task and I think the best art is probably always going to be--I'm trying not to use a bureaucratic phrase. 'Challenging the assumptions about what that means!' (laughter) The best work is always going to seem both deeply unfamiliar and familiar at the same time. It's always going to be operating outside of whatever job description you assign it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Evie Braithwaite

    “We're so often told that art can't really change anything. But I think it can. It shapes our ethical landscapes; it opens us to the interior lives of others. It is a training ground for possibility. It makes plain inequalities, and it offers other ways of living. Don't you want it, to be impregnate with all that light? And what will happen if you are?” “We're so often told that art can't really change anything. But I think it can. It shapes our ethical landscapes; it opens us to the interior lives of others. It is a training ground for possibility. It makes plain inequalities, and it offers other ways of living. Don't you want it, to be impregnate with all that light? And what will happen if you are?”

  11. 4 out of 5

    Genevieve

    A collection of writings that's about art and artists, but takes on so much more than that. It's written very poetically but I still felt like I learned a lot about art from the 70s, 80s, 90s that I basically knew nothing about. Laing writes about queer experiences with so much love - those were my favourite bits, especially the essay about Derek Jarman. Wish the book had pictures though!! A collection of writings that's about art and artists, but takes on so much more than that. It's written very poetically but I still felt like I learned a lot about art from the 70s, 80s, 90s that I basically knew nothing about. Laing writes about queer experiences with so much love - those were my favourite bits, especially the essay about Derek Jarman. Wish the book had pictures though!!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency is Olivia Laing's response to - and takes its title from her name for - the strange, unsettling political climate of the past few years since Trump's inauguration. In these tough times, Laing turns to her favourite topics including literature, gender, alcoholism, culture and art, and these essays have largely been published elsewhere during the 2010s. The essays are loosely grouped into sections which means at times they can feel a little repetitive and similar Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency is Olivia Laing's response to - and takes its title from her name for - the strange, unsettling political climate of the past few years since Trump's inauguration. In these tough times, Laing turns to her favourite topics including literature, gender, alcoholism, culture and art, and these essays have largely been published elsewhere during the 2010s. The essays are loosely grouped into sections which means at times they can feel a little repetitive and similar to each other, particularly the artist profiles in the opening section. The analysis was a little bit too surface level for my liking, but despite these quibbles there are plenty of essays in this collection which I enjoyed. Thank you Netgalley and Pan Macmillan for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Sadler

    Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City remains one of the most affecting non-fiction books I have read. Olivia is a formidable essayist and art critic and she combined both these skills to craft a tender insight into loneliness through the excavation of the lives and experiences of famous lonely artists who have lived and worked in New York City. And those very same talents are on display again in Funny Weather, a magnificent collection of essays that, together, ask fundamental questions about life and Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City remains one of the most affecting non-fiction books I have read. Olivia is a formidable essayist and art critic and she combined both these skills to craft a tender insight into loneliness through the excavation of the lives and experiences of famous lonely artists who have lived and worked in New York City. And those very same talents are on display again in Funny Weather, a magnificent collection of essays that, together, ask fundamental questions about life and art. “We’re so often told that art can’t really change anything. But I think it can. It shapes our ethical landscapes; it opens us to the interior lives of others. It is a training ground for possibility. It makes plain inequalities, and it offers other ways of living. Don’t you want it? To be impregnate with all that light? And what will happen if you are?” The variety of essays included in this book is mightily impressive; we’ve insights into artists’ lives –Georgia O’Keeffe, David Hockney, Joseph Cornell amongst many others – interviews with such influential names as Hilary Mantel and Ali Smith, the curiosities gleaned from reading books by the like of Chris Kraus and Kathy Acker, the enduring influence of such magnificent lives as those of Freddie, Bowie and Derek Jarman… It goes on and on. Olivia’s ability to capture the emotional power as well as the craft of artworks is formidable; take this gem on a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting: “painted in the heroin wasteland of 1988, Basquiat’s last year, in which a black man rides on a four-legged white skeleton, against an awesomely reduced background, a burlap-coloured scrim, of absolutely nothing at all.” Or this blunt take on Cornell’s famed boxes: “Being the object of a fantasy is claustrophobic, airless, frightening, since what is desired is the outer shell and not the inner person. Plenty of people admired Cornell’s boxes, but no one wanted to live inside them.” And I learnt much on the artists too, from Yayoi Kusama’s passionate affair with Cornell to Georgia O’Keeffe’s breakdown. To the extent and depth of Derek Jarman’s love for horticulture. And through David Wojnarowicz’s homeless years as he hustled on the streets and piers of NYC. But there’s so much more than the famous here. Olivia takes us into the emergence of lip-sewing by refugees – art as agonising protest against horrific conditions. We’ve the American elections and refugees drowning at sea. There’s more stringent laws against abortion and Grenfell. And all the time, Olivia weighs up, “what’s the relationship between art and disaster?” I calculate there are about 50 essays in this book. Many were originally articles or magazine columns in their own right. Yet, here, when bound together, they flow so beautifully. Almost effortlessly. The essays reveal the lives of complete expression, the pleasure, pain but ultimate satisfaction and fulfilment that comes with living a creative life, of being able to manifest emotions into art. I’ll be honest, at times I felt as if I was reading my own personal bible. Creeds and closely held beliefs lid bare across Olivia’s pages. I found this a revelation and a wonder. I have always admired Olivia’s writing yet to have so much collected densely together is a blessing. “On you go, go you must, bound feet moving on damp ground. The weather isn’t looking good, time’s running out, a shrapnel of light falls whitely on the birch.”

  14. 4 out of 5

    Eleanor

    Funny Weather is one of those round-ups you get once an author has enough columns in various publications to their name; the second section is two years’ worth of short monthly pieces for Frieze magazine, for example. Luckily, unlike most collections of this type, the quality is consistently good, and excellent in places. I enjoy Laing’s writing a good deal more in long form than in short, so her Frieze pieces struck me as occasionally, unavoidably, glib, but an earlier section—biographical and Funny Weather is one of those round-ups you get once an author has enough columns in various publications to their name; the second section is two years’ worth of short monthly pieces for Frieze magazine, for example. Luckily, unlike most collections of this type, the quality is consistently good, and excellent in places. I enjoy Laing’s writing a good deal more in long form than in short, so her Frieze pieces struck me as occasionally, unavoidably, glib, but an earlier section—biographical and creative appraisals of various 20th-century artists—was a delight. No one else writes about artists with such infectious verve; I now desperately want to read both Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature and David Wojnarowicz’s Close To the Knives, to seek out Agnes Martin’s paintings, to look up Sargy Mann. Her profiles of four creative women—Hilary Mantel (hey!), Ali Smith, Sarah Lucas and Chantal Joffe—reveal her fascination with artistic process and an artist’s psychology: why do writers, or painters, or filmmakers, or sculptors, work the way they do and on the things they do? There’s also a marvelous three-page essay (which I photographed and posted in full on Twitter, because it’s so good) about Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s idea of “paranoid reading” versus “reparative reading”: paranoid reading is what a lot of us are doing right now, desperate semi-mindless thumb-ache-inducing scrolling in order to gather the minutest pieces of data about a given situation. Sedgwick suggests an alternative paradigm, one in which the mere revelation of Bad Stuff Happening isn’t prioritized over attempts to process it or make it constructive or beautiful. Much harder to define, this reparative reading, but a really useful idea, at least for me, in the middle of this endless breaking news about Bad Stuff.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bert

    Worth **** stars, but I cannot but long for Laings thorough researched and superbly elaborated longer works of non-fiction. This was a very interesting entertainment though during the long wait for Everybody. Laings passage in the video-interview series Repairing The Future, organised by Bozar, was a nice introduction to this collected pieces of writing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ixWh... Worth **** stars, but I cannot but long for Laings thorough researched and superbly elaborated longer works of non-fiction. This was a very interesting entertainment though during the long wait for Everybody. Laings passage in the video-interview series Repairing The Future, organised by Bozar, was a nice introduction to this collected pieces of writing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ixWh...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    Today we are living in a terrifying world, where there's a sense that freedoms are being curtailed and policies are being made to shutter the rights many have worked to secure for so long. Olivia Laing worries about these changes and holds up art as a remedy for these troubles. Funny Weather is a collection of Olivia Laing's essays. Laing shares her thoughts about memorable artists as well as her reviews of books and writers. Today we are living in a terrifying world, where there's a sense that freedoms are being curtailed and policies are being made to shutter the rights many have worked to secure for so long. Olivia Laing worries about these changes and holds up art as a remedy for these troubles. Funny Weather is a collection of Olivia Laing's essays. Laing shares her thoughts about memorable artists as well as her reviews of books and writers.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Derick Cursino

    I love Olivia Laing. Her way with words is otherworldly and all her books dwell into the realm of arts - which is both an education and a source of questioning. I highly recommend it!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    I wasn’t familiar with that many of the artists profiled in this collection of previously published essays, so I spent a lot of time on the internet while reading this book in order to familiarize myself with them. It was interesting.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Navya

    I read Laing's Lonely City a few months earlier and while I liked the book, I was far more fascinated by the author herself - how she looked at the world, the nuances she drew out, and the kindness and empathy she had for her subjects. Funny Weather, which collects Laing's writings of various kinds from over a period of time, seemed like the perfect next step. The loose connector is art (kind of obviously, given the author's background), but other than that there is a lot of different things in I read Laing's Lonely City a few months earlier and while I liked the book, I was far more fascinated by the author herself - how she looked at the world, the nuances she drew out, and the kindness and empathy she had for her subjects. Funny Weather, which collects Laing's writings of various kinds from over a period of time, seemed like the perfect next step. The loose connector is art (kind of obviously, given the author's background), but other than that there is a lot of different things in here. There are reviews, essays, artists' profiles, a conversation with a friend (???). And it is mostly...fine. I enjoyed a lot of the writing, and I also speedread through a lot of other parts. There was some potential for the diverse writings to showcase convergent themes and main ideas of the author, but overall it read to me as a bit too fragmented. It was like an appetizer - interesting and engaging and a good sample, but leaves you wanting more. A good book if you are a fan of Laing's, but I wouldn't recommend starting here.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Corey Terrett

    I loved this book so much! About art, love, literature, and more. She is such an acute, brilliant writer and I've got a list full of wonderful books, essays and artwork that I need to explore after reading it. I particularly loved reading about the artists in relation to the AIDS crisis that Laing writes in the book. It also shows the importance of art - especially now. I loved it. I loved this book so much! About art, love, literature, and more. She is such an acute, brilliant writer and I've got a list full of wonderful books, essays and artwork that I need to explore after reading it. I particularly loved reading about the artists in relation to the AIDS crisis that Laing writes in the book. It also shows the importance of art - especially now. I loved it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Andrea McDowell

    While chronic illness and complex medical conditions have been indisputably good practice for coping with uncertainty and restrictions during a pandemic, they have also had a significant downside, and that is: with medical offices and services shut down to restrict the spread of covid, our own medical conditions have become harder to manage. My diabetes is not so bad; in fact, my blood sugar control is better on shots right now than it has been on the pump for many years. But Frances’s condition h While chronic illness and complex medical conditions have been indisputably good practice for coping with uncertainty and restrictions during a pandemic, they have also had a significant downside, and that is: with medical offices and services shut down to restrict the spread of covid, our own medical conditions have become harder to manage. My diabetes is not so bad; in fact, my blood sugar control is better on shots right now than it has been on the pump for many years. But Frances’s condition has been, in a word, terrible. The first few months were fine. The steroid injections in December were still at full effect in March and through most of June, and daily physio walks and exercises and medications were keeping the pain under control and her mobility high. Then she injured her knee in June, just before the steroid shots wore off. She was in too much pain to stand up, too much pain to sit down; shifting her weight on the couch would make her cry out in pain. She couldn’t walk unassisted in the house; we didn’t have any indoor mobility aids and with everything shut down, couldn’t easily get one. The office that does steroid injections was shut down, and then had a large backlog to work through. Her referral to the hip surgeon from our last appointment in January was lost or never sent; then the surgery offices shut down, and when they opened up again we had to start over with calls to the last office to get a new referral and a new appointment. She could no longer manage stairs without help, including the two steps to our front door, leaving her effectively housebound (even with help she couldn’t get up and down those two steps without crying out); funding for the ramp had been put on hold due to covid. None of the companies offering ramps or custom shoes or any of the things she needs were open. She is on the list for a double hip replacement–if everything stays open–this fall. The recovery period, of course, is affected by covid, as is everything else: she needs custom prostheses, ideally, but there are supply chain issues from the pandemic and they may not be completed or delivered in time. Which would mean using standard prostheses, requiring a different surgical process, and approximately 3 months in a wheelchair afterwards to recover. All of the stress is making my blood sugar numbers bounce around like those little rubber balls sadistic parents put in birthday party loot bags. This is hard, and this was a cost imposed on us to control the pandemic. These are losses my kid has endured, and I have endured, to keep your family healthy and safe. But that’s not the part I’m struggling with. The shutdown was manifestly not personal; our governments made the best decisions they could with the information they had to protect as many people as possible, including the health system my kid depends on so much. Many other families have made other sacrifices; our family’s loss was the increase in pain and loss of mobility and independence caused by the loss of health services. If it seems steeper than the price paid by most other families, I can admit that I’m likely looking at this through my own partial lens, and agree that most of us are suffering and 2020 has been a shit year. And sure, there has been little to no media attention paid to kids and adults like Frances, who are suffering because of the loss of health care services; and yes, this reflects the unpardonably low status disabled and chronically ill people cope with and the discrimination against them. It pisses me off, but that too isn’t what I’m struggling with: I’m used to this. I hide my diabetes diagnosis during job interviews because I know it will count against me. I’ve been laid off from jobs because of the number of medical appointments I attend.This is not new; it infuriates me, but I have learned how to manage it through lots of practice. No, what I’m struggling with is how easily and how smoothly the supposedly pro-disabled social-justice advocates on the left have slipped back into eugenics as the economy reopens, and how stubbornly they’re clinging to it. For example, the insistence that the conservative provincial government revise their education plan to include classrooms in community centres and tents outside. Community centres are enough of a problem: Frances’s school walker is kept at school, and can’t be transported on school buses, so she is unable to jet all over the city to these alternative school sites, and you know damned well that it’s not the well-off white abled students of two-parent families whose educational choices will be restricted to whatever’s available at the single site they can access. But as ridiculous as that idea is, outdoor classes are worse. It is hugely unsafe to operate mobility devices on ice- or snow-covered surfaces. Even just a little bit of ice or snow can make the wheelchair or walker misbehave. Frances has been injured on her school yard in the winter before; she does not go outside at school in the winter anymore, except to the bus and back. Last year she missed a good chunk of her co-op days because the sidewalk between the school and the city bus stop was so inconsistently cleared. And in case any of you have the notion that “inaccessible” means “inconvenient,” like a cupboard that’s out of reach, in this case it’s more like a permanently red light at a busy intersection with your town’s only grocery store on the other side. It means injury, and for a kid who already deals with terrible ongoing pain and physical damage from regular activities, “injury” might as well be a concrete wall topped with barbed wire. What has the response been of these progressive social-justice advocates, who have been so outraged with the impacts on disabled kids of the policies of our conservative government? Fucking crickets. At best. At worst, “well, but it’s only for a few months,” they say, or “wow, that’s a good point, we’ll send it to our committee!” TO OUR COMMITTEE. Because if the mom of a disabled kid tells you that it’s impossible to make an outdoor educational environment safe in winter for kids who use mobility devices, the answer is to give it to a bunch of well-intentioned abled moms to solve. In a couple of weeks. I mean, how hard can it be? The overall tone is: It’s really so sad that Frances has been taking the brunt of our province’s pandemic response plans, but let’s just keep that up for another year or two. It’ll be totally different because it’s by the NDP instead of the Conservatives! Please don’t let your daughter’s life get in the way of our potential electoral advantage. I’m so enraged I can’t even look at these people. Why am I devoting my life and career to the climate crisis, when society will not see that my daughter is a human being with the same entitlement to rights as their own children? Why should I work so hard to save your kids, please tell me, when you clearly consider mine expendable? (I know many others find themselves in this position too: racialized groups, LGBTQ, etc., often find themselves in the position of working hard to redeem a society that is trying to obliterate them. Really it’s amazing that anyone from a marginalized, outcast population ever manages to find the generosity to do world-building work.) That is, in the world’s biggest nutshell, my state of mind in July/August when I began reading Olivia Laing’s Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency. I am a lifelong Laing fan from her incredible The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone, which is less about how lonely cities often make us, than it is about how loneliness, though it feels so isolating and unique, is actually so common today that it could populate cities (and does). She has an enormous knowledge of artists from all periods, and a perceptive and fascinating analysis of their work and its connection to the issues she analyzes, and she has a consistent, deep and abiding analysis of the interconnection with stigma, marginalization, and abuse. If the pandemic has left you concerned about social isolation and its impacts, there are worse places to begin than The Lonely City; I highly recommend it. Funny Weather is a series of reviews and essays inspired by Eve Sedgwick’s early 1990s essay, “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You’re so paranoid, you probably think this essay is about you.” Loosely, it defines paranoid reading as gathering information to figure out how fucked up everything is, how it got fucked up, the various cultural forces encouraging the up-fucking, and who explicitly is to blame. Reparative reading, on the other hand, is reading that is looking for a solution, or reasons to hope; that is interested in generating ways out of the predicaments we find ourselves in (and god knows, we have no shortage of predicaments). To turn to reading and to learning as a way of healing, in order to better act, rather than as a self-defensive means of proving that there is no point to acting: “What we can best learn from such practices are, perhaps, the many ways selves and communities succeed in extracting sustenance from the objects of a culture–even of a culture whose avowed desire has often been not to sustain them,” as Sedgwick wrote; and as Laing continues: “I don’t think art has a duty to be beautiful or uplifting, and some of the work I’m most drawn to refuses to traffic in either of those qualities. What I care about more, and what forms the uniting interest in nearly all the essays and criticism gathered here, are the ways in which it’s concerned with resistance and repair.” “…This, Sedgwick explains, is the problem with paranoia as an approach. Though paranoid readings can be enlightening and grimly revelatory, they also have a tendency to loop towards dead ends, tautology, recursion, to provide comprehensive evidence for hopelessness and dread, to prove what we already feared we knew. While helpful at explaining the state we’re in, they’re not so useful at envisaging ways out, and the end result of indulging them is often a fatal numbness.” Following this introduction are dozens of essays, reviews, letters and interviews with artists, musicians and writers who take the raw material of severely disadvantaged lives and make something beautiful, enlarging and sustaining out of them: family abuse, mental illness, severe poverty, abandonment, AIDS, discrimination and oppression, war and refugee status, imprisonment and detainment, violence and institutionalized hate. None of the creators featured have had easy lives, none have avoided those issues in their work, and all have in some fashion worked to create something that is or could be part of the way out. I loved it, but of course, there is not much mention of disability here, and when there is, it’s usually portrayed as if the disability is the enemy, rather than a society that considers disabled lives not worth living. (I listened to a podcast about the covid pandemic in Canada’s long-term care homes. Most people and most media outlets think of long-term care homes as being for the elderly; but they’re actually for the disabled, many of whom happen to be old. This podcast episode interviewed a man about my age who had been told he could not be released from hospital to his own home; that the hospital would only release him to a long-term care facility; this happened to him in his mid 30s and he’s been imprisoned there ever since. His word, not mine, since others with his condition and his symptoms are living independently with supports. He describes being offered euthanasia by multiple doctors as the only alternative to long-term care homes at the time of his health crisis; his doctors were prepared to kill him, or imprison him, but not prepared for him to have ownership and control of his own life. This is Canada in 2020. Eugenics is not over yet.) I’m disappointed in this oversight and hope she considers the subject more deeply in her upcoming book about resistance and embodied lives, Everybody. Meanwhile, I’m trying very hard to develop some form of reparative reading practice around this, some way of approaching or thinking that can believe that one day soon, Canada–or anywhere else–will know that disabled lives are worth living, that our families are worth having, that we are not expendable, that Frances is neither your inspo-porn nor your kid’s sacrifice zone. When our self-described allies on the left won’t immediately default to ableism and eugenics, and if they do and are informed of it, will apologize and stop rather than dig in and insist on discarding our rights and entitlements. What objects in this culture sustain disabled lives? If none do, on their own, how can they be made to? Resistance and repair: what does that mean, in disability justice? How can we convince you that the repair we need is more often in society, and not so much our bodies? Who and what are we trying to repair; how can we begin? How can I bring that to climate work; when I know, I see, that disabled lives are often left out of climate adaptation planning, when disabled people are left behind during climate emergencies, when disabled people die in emergency response? How do we resist, when so many of us are so dependent on the systems that harm us, for whatever care we manage to get for ourselves or our loved ones? When anything but gratitude feels so dangerous, like such a risk, because the consequences are so high? What is it that we’re resisting? How can we resist, what does it look like? And what will you do, how will you react, Dear Reader, when you learn that part of what we are resisting is you?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    In a minute of synchronicity, I read an essay about the garden and Derek Jarman just before I started reading Olivia Laing's Funny Weather, and to read about her 'overspill of tenderness' towards him was so lovely. Theres a little anecdote in the beginning about how we read now -- looking for the poison rather than the nourishment, reading to confirm our values and suspicions rather than to rest in a different space -- a special thought for a book of criticism, in a time where that is so loaded. In a minute of synchronicity, I read an essay about the garden and Derek Jarman just before I started reading Olivia Laing's Funny Weather, and to read about her 'overspill of tenderness' towards him was so lovely. Theres a little anecdote in the beginning about how we read now -- looking for the poison rather than the nourishment, reading to confirm our values and suspicions rather than to rest in a different space -- a special thought for a book of criticism, in a time where that is so loaded. I enjoyed it. Also, great cover design?

  23. 5 out of 5

    toria (vikz writes)

    Two disclaimers. I received this book from the publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. More importantly, I am a major Olivia Laing fan girl. I love the way that Laing combines literary biography and personal memoir to create an exciting fresh art form. Funny Weather is a collection of previously published works, focusing on, the lives of certain artists and personal narratives outlining the role of art within the author's life. This is an essay collection. So, not every essay Two disclaimers. I received this book from the publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. More importantly, I am a major Olivia Laing fan girl. I love the way that Laing combines literary biography and personal memoir to create an exciting fresh art form. Funny Weather is a collection of previously published works, focusing on, the lives of certain artists and personal narratives outlining the role of art within the author's life. This is an essay collection. So, not every essay will be of interest. The more personal shine through more brightly than others. But, overall, this collection is well worth a read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Libby Mandarino

    Funny Weather is the perfect read for this moment. It comfortingly addresses the surreal, evil weirdness of the current administration, and often just felt like you were having a conversation with a very smart, empathetic friend. The best part was it gifted me a long list of artists, filmmakers, and writers to dive into during quarantine.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    This is yet another “art book” that really ought to have spent more time actually talking about art, but I enjoyed Laing’s musings regardless of that.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brynn

    "Empathy is not something that happens to us when we read Dickens. It's work. What art does is provide material with which to think: new registers, new spaces. After that, friend, it's up to you." (2) "There's something cartoonish and unadulterated about them, even gluttonous: a need to seize the mad abundance before it becomes something else, bud to leaf, puddle to ice, the endless migration of matter through form." (38) "Being the object of a fantasy is claustrophobic, airless, frightening, sinc "Empathy is not something that happens to us when we read Dickens. It's work. What art does is provide material with which to think: new registers, new spaces. After that, friend, it's up to you." (2) "There's something cartoonish and unadulterated about them, even gluttonous: a need to seize the mad abundance before it becomes something else, bud to leaf, puddle to ice, the endless migration of matter through form." (38) "Being the object of a fantasy is claustrophobic, airless, frightening, since what is desired is the outer shell and not the inner person. Plenty of people admired Cornell's boxes, but no one wanted to live inside them." (46) "An incantation repeats like a tolling bell: 'Smell the flowers while you can.' It sounds simple, until you remember the many forces geared against health and love, the courage it took to commit to pleasure." (75) "Imagine thinking morals are a luxury for the super-rich!" (94) "For our time is the passing of a shadow And our lives will run like Sparks through the stubble." (95) "This struck me as exactly what A Dance is really about. Powell started it at forty, the same age as Poussin when he started to paint his reeling figures. It's the age at which you begin to notice how strange time is, how it repeats and returns, how the group you travel with is inexorably diminished. On you go, go you must, bound feet moving on damp ground. The weather isn't looking good, time's running out, a shrapnel of light falls whitely on the birch." (125) "Continuation is a comfort; life of some sort is surely assured." (136) "More than any other historical novelist I can think of, she has a knack for conveying the slipperiness of time, the way it sloshes back and forward, changing even as you look. 'History and memory is the theme,' she agrees. 'How experience is transmuted into history and how memory goes to work and works it over. It's the impurity, the flawed nature of history, its transience, that's really what fascinates me." (148) "Like fiction itself, Smith thinks, 'it reminds you to read the world as a construct. And if you can read the world as a construct, you can ask questions of the construct and you can suggest ways to change the construct. You understand that things aren't fixed.'" (166) "Faced with the knowledge that nothing we say, no matter how trivial or silly, will ever be completely erased, we find it hard to take the risks that togetherness entails. But perhaps I am being too negative, too paranoid, as lonely people often are. Perhaps we are capable of adapting, of finding intimacy in this landscape of unprecedented exposure. What I want to know is where we're headed. What is this sense of perpetual scrutiny doing to our ability to connect?" (221) "The future does not come from nowhere. Every new technology generates a surge of anxious energy, since each one changes the rules of communication, rearranging the social order." (221) "The problem with the future is that it turns so quickly into the past." (276) "Capitalism, he wrote in Ways of Seeing, survives by forcing the majority to define their own interests as narrowly as possible. It was narrowness he set himself against, the toxic impulse to wall in or wall off. Be generous to the strange, be open to difference, cross-pollinate freely. He put his faith in the people, the whole host of us." (305) "This is political too: that it isn't always clear what you're seeing. It's not a spoon, it's a fold of paper, It's not a stone, it's a potato. It's not the sun, it's a searchlight. Nothing doesn't not require attention." (312) "I think one of the dangers in talking about art is that it can rapidly become sentimental or cosy. You said this great thing once about how a start should be like an alien crashing down, and it made me think, actually the work that's most affected me isn't reassuring. It's truly unsettling." (331) "Art is like another reality that makes our reality feel more alive." (331)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lili

    4.5 Laing's Funny Weather ignited something dormant within me this year. In full transparency, my love for this collection of essays is possibly primarily due to the fact it came to me at the most opportune time; when I was coming to the end of my latest round of therapy. It was a time where I knew I was going to shortly be on my own again and even though I had somewhat of a sturdier and efficient 'emotional floatation device' provided to me by an amazing woman (i.e. my therapist), there was still 4.5 Laing's Funny Weather ignited something dormant within me this year. In full transparency, my love for this collection of essays is possibly primarily due to the fact it came to me at the most opportune time; when I was coming to the end of my latest round of therapy. It was a time where I knew I was going to shortly be on my own again and even though I had somewhat of a sturdier and efficient 'emotional floatation device' provided to me by an amazing woman (i.e. my therapist), there was still an element of panic in the bottom of my gut. At this time I started reading Funny Weather and it caused a further shift within me, a shift in my perception of myself and of the world and people around me. I began to mention Laing's essays and the feelings they were stirring in me during my sessions, which resulted in my therapist picking up a copy for herself. This allowed me to quote Laing's essays when I felt their words eloquently conveyed my own emotions about my past and present when I felt suffocated by my own attempts to articulate. I took my time to allow myself to devour the lyrical descriptions within Laing's essays; gifting me such powerful use of language that it opened the floodgates to annotating my books, something I tried my best to get around even during my English Literature studies but that I jumped into without trepidation this time around. "It takes work to insist on being a major character, even in one's own existence." *0.5 stars away from 5/5 as not every essay was on par but that is entirely natural in a collection of various subject matters.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Dawkins

    I ❤️ Olivia Laing. Olivia Laing makes me want to read books, watch films, look at art, research the lives of others and continually uncover the ways in which human beings have created beauty and beautiful ugliness. Forever hopeful in the face of the horrific political climates, Laing shows us ways in which resistance can flourish, and freedom can prevail. Her work is guided always by a love of human nature and an optimistic outlook on how that nature can overcome. She describes her work as “chee I ❤️ Olivia Laing. Olivia Laing makes me want to read books, watch films, look at art, research the lives of others and continually uncover the ways in which human beings have created beauty and beautiful ugliness. Forever hopeful in the face of the horrific political climates, Laing shows us ways in which resistance can flourish, and freedom can prevail. Her work is guided always by a love of human nature and an optimistic outlook on how that nature can overcome. She describes her work as “cheerless, miserable books”, and yet even when dealing with the darkest of themes, she lets in the light. Just as I emerged from The Lonely City feeling less alone than I did going in, I left Funny Weather reassured that art really DOES something, really helps, really shapes and reflects. Olivia Laing makes me want to write; makes me realise that opinions and individual ways of seeing are important and interesting. You can make art just by describing and explaining the art of others, and she does it like no other.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kerry Beth

    I won an Advanced Reader Copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. This book is more of an anthology of articles the author has previously published in newspapers and magazines, chosen to support her view point about the usefulness of art in an emergency, well laid out in the Forward, each presented with a title and the month and year of original publication. The writing is pithy and engaging, what you would expect from that format, and clearly, she’s good at what she does or she would not be a I won an Advanced Reader Copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. This book is more of an anthology of articles the author has previously published in newspapers and magazines, chosen to support her view point about the usefulness of art in an emergency, well laid out in the Forward, each presented with a title and the month and year of original publication. The writing is pithy and engaging, what you would expect from that format, and clearly, she’s good at what she does or she would not be able to pick and choose a plethora of articles to republish in this manner. That said, why would I give this book 1 star? I agree with her assertions about the value of art. I don’t necessarily think her choice articles clearly support it - one, I think it would be more impactful with more personal stories about where these articles came from and why they were the ones chosen. Two, and far more importantly, for a book about the impact of art - the only artwork, other than the written word, is the cover. Art is described, but never displayed, and while I am familiar with some of the artists, I cannot say that of all of them. Had representative samples been included, it would have made the author’s position and this publication far stronger. With inclusion of some visual aids, this would easily be a minimum of a 3 star read or potentially more.

  30. 4 out of 5

    ra

    3.5 stars: as with every essay collection, there were bits of this which i wish were longer and bits which i skipped over. overall though, i really appreciated the sentiment of the book and its opening after sedgwick's essay on paranoid reading. - "We're so often told that art can't really change anything. But I think it can. It shapes our ethical landscapes; it opens us to the interior lives of others. It is a training ground for possibility. It makes plain inequalities, and it offers other way 3.5 stars: as with every essay collection, there were bits of this which i wish were longer and bits which i skipped over. overall though, i really appreciated the sentiment of the book and its opening after sedgwick's essay on paranoid reading. - "We're so often told that art can't really change anything. But I think it can. It shapes our ethical landscapes; it opens us to the interior lives of others. It is a training ground for possibility. It makes plain inequalities, and it offers other ways of living. Don't you want it, to be impregnate with all that light? And what will happen if you are?"

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