Olivia Laing online at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Sarah-Clare Conlon, Literature Editor
Writer Olivia Laing. Photo by Manuel Vazquez
Writer Olivia Laing. Photo by Manuel Vazquez.

25 August 2020 Entrance is free — Visit now

Cast your mind back to 2018 and you may recall that Olivia Laing’s experimental real-time short novel, Crudo, all about food and love was on everyone’s lips. Written in just seven weeks, and started while on holiday in Tuscany, this was Laing’s debut prose book, and she was due to read from it alongside André Aciman at Manchester Literature Festival in October 2018. Unfortunately, she was ill (if memory serves us correctly) and unable to attend, so instead why not catch her at this event, entitled Art Is Political, taking place as part of this year’s now online Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Laing’s latest output is the critically acclaimed tome Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency, which collates her essays about art and culture written over the span of her career

Usually a creative nonfiction dabbler, if you will, this talk focuses on that. The Lonely City: Adventures In The Art Of Being Alone was shortlisted for the 2016 Gordon Burn Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism, while The Trip To Echo Spring: On Writers And Drinking (she likes a long title) got shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Biography Award and the Gordon Burn Prize, and was named a New York Times Notable Book of 2014. These were preceded by To The River, about the Ouse, where Virginia Woolf drowned in 1941, and various essays on the likes of visual artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman. Her next book, Everybody: A Book About Freedom, will be published in spring 2021 by Picador in the UK. 

Laing’s latest output is the critically acclaimed tome Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency, which collates her essays about art and culture written over the span of her career so far, offering up a collection that examines the pivotal role that art plays in our political and emotional lives, and is described by author Kate Mosse thus: “A warm, thinking, enticing sweep of a book, like spending the afternoon with your brainiest friend.” In the book, the blurb explains: “She profiles Jean-Michel Basquiat and Georgia O’Keefe, interviews Hilary Mantel and Ali Smith, 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 time.”

In this special event, the “accidental literary grande dame” (New York Magazine) will be chatting with the director of Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery Fiona Bradley to “unpack our political, emotional and creative selves, drawing us in to her career-spanning conversations with art, with artists, and with herself”. Her writing about art and culture appears in the GuardianFinancial Times and frieze, among many other publications, so this promises to be an interesting discussion.

25 August 2020 Entrance is free Visit now

Where to go near Olivia Laing online at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Waterstones Leeds

Standing proudly on the busy shopping hub of Albion Street, Waterstones Leeds is a bookshop that also hosts a variety of events

Manchester Factory international Festival - People enjoying Festival Square in the city centre
Café or Coffee Shop
Factory Square

Factory Square is a huge beer garden, on the banks of the River Irwell, with top-quality drinks and street food selections.


Modern Greek Mediterranean cuisine from the team behind Tattu.

Flat Iron Leeds
Flat Iron Leeds

Relaxed restaurant in Leeds serving impressively high-quality steaks at an affordable price point.


Odioba is a new audiophile bar in Stockport, from the team behind the much-missed NAM. Coffee shop by day, bar by night.

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