cover image Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency

Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency

Olivia Laing. Norton, $26.95 (272p) ISBN 9781324005704

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. (May)