The revival by Two Dollar Radio of Rudy Wurlitzer's first novel, Nog (1969), with a fresh introduction by Erik Davis, introduces a lucky new generation of readers to an essential piece of '60s literature that remains as crunchy and toothsome yet unsettling a nonpareil as it registered upon its debut. It seems likely that Wurlitzer, a screenwriter of note, derived his inspiration and narrative template not so much from other tripped-out novels of the era -- think The Crying of Lot 49 and Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me -- as he did from avant-garde cinema, particularly the French New Wave. The dislocated, seemingly patternless comings and goings of a nearly memoryless man, possibly named Nog, can be mapped in spirit and almost on a literal level to a film like Luc Moullet's The Smugglers. Toss in a soupçon of realism and romance from Jules and Jim and a healthy dash of Godard, and you have the essential game plan for Nog. But Wurlitzer's book is able to display a rich interior life in a manner cinema struggles to replicate. Nog's deadpan first-person narration is autistic, cubistic, and shamanic, using incantatory lists and anally compulsive powers of observation as his magical barriers against the dissolution of the self. His psychic geography recalls Ballard's wandering, self-destructive prophets of paradigm shift, and space time itself becomes a living threat that must be wrestled into submission -- or at least a stalemate. Yet Wurlitzer entertains on the level of sheer plot as well. Nog's capricious West Coast encounters with a host of American purebreds, from the hippies Lockett and Meridith to the right-wing gun nut Bench, all couched in droll vernacular, provides a constant impetus to turn page after page in this surreal California phantasmagoria.

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.