I''ve considered myself a Leonard Cohen fan for many years now, but I often wonder why. I don''t appreciate or admire the famous "ladies'' man" aspect of his career, and don''t even enjoy listening to any of his music before the late 80''s, when his youthful,...
I''ve considered myself a Leonard Cohen fan for many years now, but I often wonder why.
I don''t appreciate or admire the famous "ladies'' man" aspect of his career, and don''t even enjoy listening to any of his music before the late 80''s, when his youthful, boyish voice seemed to have oozed (or cooed) this persona. This is unfair of me--he also wrote some wonderful songs and literature in that time. But I find his early career can''t compare with his later--confirming my growing hypothesis that artists generally improve with age (Beethoven with his Ninth Symphony, Bach with his Goldberg Variations and Art of Fugue, T.S. Eliot with his Four Quartets, etc.)--and I''m not really interested in his work published before "THE FUTURE". (And I for one prefer his aged, gravelly bass voice to his earlier, folk-singer treble.)
All that I write as a preamble to my review: This present book of poetry is a delight, and seems to get better each time I read it.
I recently re-read his "STRANGER MUSIC: SELECTED POEMS AND SONGS", which I remember liking much more some years ago, only to find myself questioning his powers of expression and articulation, in the past. (That collection includes pieces from the beginning of his career but only up to "THE FUTURE" album.) I seldom felt moved by or sympathy with the poems, songs, and prose in that collection; much of it seemed Dadaistic, even, whether Cohen intended such or not. And not in a complimentary way.
But "THE BOOK OF LONGING" is "an odd collection of jazz riffs, pop-art jokes, religious kitsch and muffled prayer," as he describes his novel "BEAUTIFUL LOSERS" apparently, in "A Note to the Chinese Reader" (somewhat enigmatically included in this present book). There are Cohen''s own drawings (in a variety of mediums) scattered liberally throughout the book, most of them poems in themselves (with script or text accompanying them). But the sheer variety of material is what makes this interesting. There are humor, pathos, romance, tragedy, optimism, pessimism, spirituality, respectful irreverence, clarity, obscurity, prose, poetry, and visual art in this book.
Perhaps most importantly: Cohen has developed a very smart sense of humor over the years, and does not spare himself. And these pieces showcase this. Whereas his past material frequently contained an often repugnant self-centeredness and vanity, his more recent works (such as this volume) are lighter (in the best sense of that word); he must''ve learned well from his Zen training, however much he himself would disagree (and does disagree, in some of these poems!)
I think that most of his best work is contained in this book. It is a sort of companion to his "TEN NEW SONGS" album, which features several of these poems set to music. Furthermore, his collaboration with Philip Glass and Glass''s singers and musicians on the "BOOK OF LONGING" album of music--featuring many more of these pieces set to music--is also very interesting.