Like Madonna's, the brutal tenacity of Iggy Pop's longevity is most immediately legible in the crags and canyons of an otherworldly musculature. As goes the body so goes the body of work -- the erstwhile Material Girl has staved off geezer oblivion by giving herself over as a rock-hard machine to niche European producers seeking aerobic Confessions on a Dance Floor. The more you know about supposed Godfather of Punk Iggy Pop, at 62 even gaunter than Madonna, the less surprising it should be that his path to late-career creative surprise turned out to be through the work of novelist-provocateur Michel Houellebecq. You needn't read, or care about, Houellebecq's self-seriously ugly fiction to appreciate the incongruous pulp genius of Préliminaires, Pop's first album of new material since the inconsequential Skull Ring (2003); said to be inspired by La Possibilité d'une île, it's mercifully more interested in spinning its own minor-key possibilities than dwelling on the barren symbolic island of Houellebecq's nasty little book. The result is a woozily mature record that opens with Pop covering -- you can't make this up -- "Les feuilles mortes," the Edith Piaf standard. His French baritone is more than serviceable and sets the stage for the (English-language) originals to come, which range across languid torch song, ominous spaghetti-western spoken-word, and dinner-concert jazz and blues; its eclecticism above all suggests the lost world of vocal pop, a halcyon pre-rock catholicity that Pop excavated to great effect on his 1977 post-Stooges debut, The Idiot. But if Préliminaires necessarily lacks the vitality of youthful abandon, as 36 jaunty minutes of graceful songcraft, it is a wizened work in unusually good shape.

April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

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.