The first essay of Kevin Brazil’s essay collection Whatever Happened to Queer Happiness? posits that very question. A quick survey of some of the most popular queer books in recent years reveals that they all have one major thing in common – their relentless misery. Édouard Louis’ The End of Eddy, Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, the list goes on. Why is it when people write about queer characters, or when queer people create art about queerness, it is rarely joyous, rarely the celebration that queer people claim it to be?
- Singer-songwriter Wrabel on his music being used as a tool for queer activism
- Tom Daley: ‘For people around the Commonwealth, seeing that Pride flag is a sign of safety’
- Pride at 50: ‘What has been kept alive is the spirit of fun that marked out that first march’
Throughout eight essays, all of which are entertaining and enlightening, Brazil attempts to subvert this narrative, focusing on the people and reasons why queer art needs to embrace happiness. With essays on artists such as Wolfgang Tillmans and Derek Jarman, Brazil provides new analyses of their works and genuinely opens up their much-trodden oeuvres to new and exciting readings. The final essay in the collection, which is based around the set that the singer Robyn performed via livestream at the height of lockdown, is an utterly euphoric piece of writing. Having been part of the livestream at the time, it feels so invigorating to be able to relive it through the eyes and mind of Brazil, who treats it as a historic moment, a time when everybody got up and danced through our misery.
In many ways, this is not an essay collection but a manifesto, a rubric that all new queer art should follow. It’s a big ask, of course, but Brazil is entirely convincing throughout.
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