cover image Pop Song: Adventures in Art & Intimacy

Pop Song: Adventures in Art & Intimacy

Larissa Pham. Catapult, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-646-22026-7

Pham reinvents the memoir in a stirring debut that explores the power of language, art, and love. As an Asian American woman who felt alienated early on in her life, she poured herself into studying art and poetry to reconcile her need for closeness. In 11 essays, she interrogates desire in all its forms, beginning with an evocative piece about finding solace in the act of running. She aspires to the “affable stride” of fellow runner and novelist Haruki Murakami, but instead she runs “as if trying to lose my mind.” Throughout, Pham examines the emotionality of other artists’ and writers’ work and lives—from Barthes to Georgia O’Keeffe to Louise Bourgeois—as a way to better understand her own. In “Blue,” she reflects on escaping mental burnout in New Mexico, and remembers the painter Agnes Martin’s flight from New York, after a schizophrenic episode: “Agnes’s voices and visions didn’t inform her art-making process, but... dictated her actions—where to be, what to eat, what to own.” Ever-present, too, is the haunting of past lovers and her own sexuality, captured in prose that’s both beautiful and gutting. “If I could own it... become a woman with agency. It wouldn’t matter if I still hurt. At least I’d be able to describe it.” This is a masterpiece. Agent: Monika Woods, Triangle House Literary. (May)