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Re: New Leonard Cohen biography by Sylvie Simmons (Fall 2012

Posted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 11:02 am
by francis
Dear all,

I wrote a review of "I'm your man" for the music website "Consequence of Sound".

http://consequenceofsound.net/2012/11/t ... ard-cohen/

Francis

Re: New Leonard Cohen biography by Sylvie Simmons (Fall 2012

Posted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 4:55 pm
by jarkko
Polish translation of Sylvie's book will be published by Wydawnictwo Marginesy, http://www.marginesy.com.pl,
the same company that also put out Sylvie's book about Serge Gainsbourg.

The Norwegian translation will come from Cappelen Damm, http://www.cappelendamm.no/main/katalog.aspx

Re: New Leonard Cohen biography by Sylvie Simmons (Fall 2012

Posted: Wed Nov 28, 2012 11:54 am
by DBCohen
I wrote a review of Sylvie Simmons’ book for the Forum & Files.

Jarkko had kindly posted it here:

www.leonardcohenfiles.com/doronsylvie.pdf

If you have any comments, please post them here.

Thanks,

Doron

New Leonard Cohen biography by Sylvie Simmons (Fall 2012)

Posted: Wed Nov 28, 2012 4:52 pm
by Jeremy
Hi Doron (or should I call you DC :) ). That's a very interesting and stimulating review. Many thanks.

I have the book beside me as I write this and I'm about a third of the way through, which is not enough, obviously, to pronounce on the whole but sufficient, I hope, to have a reasonable handle on the manner in which the book has been written. I'm really enjoying it.

You mention, as others have before, that the book may seem to lack a bit of critical "bite" as regards the subject - that, in effect, Leonard is being treated with kid gloves. I agree that there is little overt criticism, but may I say that reading between the lines I do think there are more than one or two commentaries which might suggest our hero is not without flaws. It would be strange if he were as perfect as his music (I'm no poet, I'm afraid) and personally I find it reassuring to find the younger Cohen lacking commitment (and fidelity) in relationships, having a tendency to keep moving both physically and geographically to maintain his interest levels and - I think this is particularly important, given his lovely manners and deportment - possessed of a fiercely competitive & perfectionist streak that seems to have tended towards mania on occasion. He may be a perfect gent in many ways, but he's certainly not a wuss (ask a Brit for a translation of that if you need one!). I'd love to know what he looks and sounds like when he's really cross.

I absolutely adore the man and his music, and the concerts I got to from 2008 onwards had me, like so many others, moist-eyed and grateful. The songs are jointly and severally a treasure. But the man himself is all human (thank goodness), and I just loved the point SS makes when she says Leonard was able to "... float contentedly on a sea of praise while all the time shrugging contentedly." His apparent modesty is one of his most endearing qualities, but I reckon he knows how good he really is!

Finally, there's a brilliant sentence which will surely resonate with anyone who's seen Leonard interviewed. "The film is full of the grand, ironic, playful and deflecting statements of the kind Leonard would come to employ in interviews throughout his career." Or as my partner (also a big fan) put it recently as a BBC radio interviewer commenced talking to Leonard, "I feel sorry for the guy. Mr Cohen's not the most helpful of interviewees, is he?" Well praise be, I say. Keep the faith - and the mystery!

Re: New Leonard Cohen biography by Sylvie Simmons (Fall 2012

Posted: Wed Nov 28, 2012 7:47 pm
by dick
Thanks for the thoughtful review Doron. Glad you liked the book.

Re: New Leonard Cohen biography by Sylvie Simmons (Fall 2012

Posted: Wed Nov 28, 2012 10:17 pm
by MaryB
Doron,

I read your review with relish. I thoroughly enjoyed this book of 500+ pages. At some point, listening to SS speak, I got the feeling that she was almost apologetic for the length of her book. From your first statement of, "The fact that I am still left with a taste for more does not detract from the author's achievement.", and I think, you made the same sentiment another couple of times, just reinforced how I felt about this book also.

This did not feel like a book of 500+ pages, more like 100, and at the end, because of how well it was written, it left me wanting more.

Thank you for your excellent review!

Warmest regards,
Mary

Re: New Leonard Cohen biography by Sylvie Simmons (Fall 2012

Posted: Wed Nov 28, 2012 10:28 pm
by MaryB
Jeremy,

I also greatly enjoyed your review - thank you!

You mentioned the fact that she is not overtly negatively critical of LC. I agree with you and others on this. What she has done is given us the facts and has left it up to the readers to form their own opinions of LC's actions thoughout his life.

With all the details and much new information, for me, this book was an eye-opener. I like that she allows me to form my own opinion of how I perceive LC as human being, not just as a poet, author, and singer.

Kindest regards,
Mary

Re: New Leonard Cohen biography by Sylvie Simmons (Fall 2012

Posted: Thu Nov 29, 2012 8:09 am
by DBCohen
Thank you all for your responses (Jeremy, others here have called me DB 8) ).

I agree that with close reading perhaps there is some more implicit criticism of LC’s character to be found in Sylvie’s book, but on the whole she tends to defend his cause in most cases. For example, when talking about his difficulty to commit to a woman, and the breaking up of several relationships, she emphasizes that he remained good friends with most of his former lovers, and that usually there were no hard feelings.

The character and the life are one thing, the work is another. Blond Madonna wrote here earlier that she is waiting “for a researched literary biography, hopefully not written by a 'fan'.”; also that she found the book boring. I did not find it boring, but I did express in my review the wish for a biography that would focus more deeply on the literary work and would be somewhat more critical. Such a biography may be written someday (that’s the “miracle” I was talking about, because the person who’d write it will have to be well informed in many fields, as well as be a good writer, and this combination is rare). Meanwhile I’m glad that we have this biography which puts the record straight on various matters which were put wrongly in earlier biographies. It would serve as an excellent basis for a future biography of a different kind.

As for length, Mary, I don’t see why Sylvie should sound apologetic; I’m sure she would have written an even longer book had the publishers allowed it (apparently they didn’t). For a person with such a fascinating life story and so much creativity, a biography even twice as long could have been – and still is – expected.

Re: New Leonard Cohen biography by Sylvie Simmons (Fall 2012

Posted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 1:04 pm
by usnicka
I ordered the US version from Amazon US 2 days ago, yesterday I got an e-mail that the book had been shipped :D It will be delivered on December 22nd. It will be great Christmas present for me :D . Can´t wait to read it. I only have listened to Leonard Cohen music so far and I am fascinated by his art. This biography is the first book about Leonard Cohen I am going to read, so I am looking forward to discovering more about him, his life and art.

Re: New Leonard Cohen biography by Sylvie Simmons (Fall 2012

Posted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:06 am
by cohenadmirer
!

Re: New Leonard Cohen biography by Sylvie Simmons (Fall 2012

Posted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:09 am
by cohenadmirer
http://arts.nationalpost.com/2012/11/30 ... e-simmons/

Caution: The contents of the above might make you a little angry !!

Re: New Leonard Cohen biography by Sylvie Simmons (Fall 2012

Posted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:40 am
by MaryB
cohenadmirer wrote:http://arts.nationalpost.com/2012/11/30 ... e-simmons/

Caution: The contents of the above might make you a little angry !!
Thanks for the link and the warning. But you know, I did enjoy reading his take on it :roll:

New Leonard Cohen biography by Sylvie Simmons (Fall 2012

Posted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 12:25 pm
by Jeremy
cohenadmirer wrote:http://arts.nationalpost.com/2012/11/30 ... e-simmons/

Caution: The contents of the above might make you a little angry !!
Thanks cohenadmirer. I'm with Mary on this - well worth the read.

The article does read a little like a lit grad essay in parts, but there are some fair points being made as well. I do think the amount of critical review this book is receiving is notweworthy in itself, and perhaps reflects its worth. It's a bit late in the day for a definitive primer to come along, but this is probably it.

You know - it's a good job there isn't a drinking game that triggers every time a writer quotes that line from Anthem. We'd be more wasted than even Leonard has ever been.....

Re: New Leonard Cohen biography by Sylvie Simmons (Fall 2012

Posted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 2:53 pm
by DBCohen
That article in the National Post is interesting only because the writer managed to lift every little piece of conceivable unpleasantness from Sylvie’s book in order to create a most unfavorable image of LC. It is interesting only because several people, including myself, commented on how Sylvie had done her best to sound positive about LC’s character and actions, although there may have been some critical hints. Well, those hints were put together and blown up out of proportion to suite the writer’s view of LC, which I believe is quite distorted (megalomania??). And anyhow, why take seriously someone who can admire only two of LC’s album (and who in spite of his favorable view of the “synthesizer albums” jumps from Various Positions to The Future, skipping inexplicably over I’m Your Man) and who declares that LC’s early albums “do nothing for me”? Well, this review doesn’t do much for me either.

Re: New Leonard Cohen biography by Sylvie Simmons (Fall 2012

Posted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 3:29 am
by alexandraleaving
Fantastic read!!! Now I will have the privilege of seeing him on Tuesday!!4th :D