Pop Song is a book about love and about falling in love—with a place, or a painting, or a person—and the joy and terror inherent in the experience of that love. Plumbing the well of culture for clues and patterns about love and loss—from Agnes Martin's abstract paintings to James Turrell's transcendent light works, and Anne Carson's Eros the Bittersweet to Frank Ocean's Blonde—Pham writes of her youthful attempts to find meaning in travel, sex, drugs, and art, before sensing that she might need to turn her gaze upon herself.
Pham is valiantly candid and philosophical about her 'displacement' as the American-born daughter of Vietnamese parents, her eating disorder and sexuality, pain and trauma, and racism public, private, and entangled with misogyny ... Pham brings intellectual power, sensuousness, and psychological astuteness to her encounters with art ... A thrillingly frank and incisive self-portrait of an exceptional young writer coming into her own.
... stunning, vulnerable ... Using work by artists like Louise Bourgeois, Nan Goldin, and Yayoi Kusama as a prism, Pham shares her experiences with, and thoughts about, pain and trauma, sex and obsession, crushes and breakups, and intimacy in all its forms. Within these topics, Pham also crafts a vulnerable, nuanced story about the nonlinear process of overcoming heartbreak and letting go. Like your favorite song or first love, Pham’s words won’t just get stuck in your head. They’ll stay there.
... a masterclass in the art of looking closely. Pham’s attention is delicate and lucid, cleaving to her subjects like film. Through her prose we see objects not only for what they are, but for what they represent – the emotions and memories they bear ... These subjects are not ornamental to Pham’s interests, but the very tools with which she is able to excavate her personal and romantic history ... There is a magnetic quality to the way Pham narrates the course of the relationship, seducing us toward collapse with increasingly lush passages about love and lust, and the landscapes over which they are draped. Often, I felt the catch of breath in my chest – an echo of the longing that Pham so expertly renders, and the dread of knowing that to journey through longing is to arrive at loss ... It is an especial pleasure to receive this book at a time when the type of relationships that Pham describes feel like the product of a bygone era. Cloistered at home, Pham’s descriptions pinched at my sense of nostalgia ... As I turned the pages of Pop Song I was transported to the same state of total, thrumming presence that I once had in front of works of art. In these moments, I felt that Pham and I were no longer author and reader, but companions in gaze. How delightful, to return to the quiet comradery of mutual consideration ... Like the music from which it takes its name, Pop Song is alchemical, broadly appealing. It is as accessible as it is smart. Pham’s introspection is never solipsistic, but rather an insight into a mind tuned to life’s minute rhythms. 'What if, I wondered, I could stop reacting so much to the world…' Pham questions early in the collection. I hope that she never finds out. Pop Song is an extraordinary reaction, surely the first of many to come.