Winner of the 2019 Gournay Prize
“What are these fragments we’ve Jersey Shored against our ruin?” asks M. I. Devine, remixing T. S. Eliot, in this dizzying collection of essays that pays homage to the cultural forms that hold us steady. These fragments are stored in Warhol’s Mother’s Pantry, which takes us deep beneath the surfaces of pop to explore our shared quest for meaning today. Julia Warhola, an immigrant who arrived as the US was closing its borders a century ago, is the muse of reuse in these essays that cross boundaries—between now and then, high and low. She is the mom in pop who cut tin cans into flowers and taught Andy (and us) how to reshape and redeem our world. In essays as lyrical, witty, and experimental as the works they cover, Devine offers a new account of pop humanism. How we cut new things from the traditions we’re given, why we don’t stop believin’ (and carry on, wayward sons) when so much is stacked against us. Here are Leonard Cohen’s last songs and Molly Bloom’s last words; Vampire Weekend’s Rostam and Philip Larkin too; Stevie Smith, John Donne, and Kendrick Lamar; sonnets and selfies; early cinema and post–9/11 film, pop hooks, and pop art. In Devine’s hands, these literary and cultural artifacts are provocatively reassembled into an urgent and refreshing history that refuses to let its readers forget where pop came from and where it can go.