Private Stock: Christgau's Favorites

I took the liberty of naming only items I hadn't already swooned for at column length, particularly Brad Paisley's American Saturday Night and Leonard Cohen's Live in London.

 

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Junot Diaz

 

Pop and political, fantastical and learned, hilarious and goofy and brutally depressing, the novel of the decade passes its tale of death and bicultural self-creation between characters it transforms from intruders into admired confidants as its heightened demotic, incomprehensible Spanish included, flips off the well-made sentence.

 

 

 

 

 

Francophonic, Vol. 2

Franco

 

The 1977-1989 half of the magnificent restoration Sterns Africa's Ken Braun has hammered into existence for the great abettor, scourge, and escape artist of Mobutu's Congo was born of equal parts luxury and suffering. Singing and grooving of nights untold, its 13 long tracks constitute some of the 20th century's most intoxicating dance music.

 

 

High Wide & Handsome--The Charlie Poole Project

Loudon Wainwright III

 

The revival this generously packaged two-CD tribute achieves for mountain songster Poole extends to its instigator. Wainwright has never cut as loose as on these breakdowns and blues or sung with more body and emotion than on the parlor ballads. Superb new songs chronicle Poole's hard-drinking life. Old jokes live again.

 

 

 

 

The E.N.D

The Black Eyed Peas

 

The energy never dies, but its elements need defending--not as individual songs, especially with six here already hits of one sort or another, but as parts of a whole. Two decades from now, album revivalists won't worry about will.i.am's crass motives or obvious samples. They'll hear ebullience beginning to end, and envy us our sense of closure.

 

 

 

In Plain Sight

 

Cop shows are soap operas with puzzles attached--character interactions are what bring you back. The witness protection program premise here guarantees a better class of perp and greatly reduces silly murder plots. Protagonist's a wise-ass blonde with entertaining family issues, but I prefer her sidekick, an uptight guy who reads a lot. Plus it's set in Albuquerque.

 

July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).