Interview with Sylvie Simmons

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jarkko
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Interview with Sylvie Simmons

Post by jarkko » Fri Sep 07, 2012 9:39 pm

Image

I have posted an interview with Sylvie Simmons, the author of the new LC biography "I'm Your Man - The Life of Leonard Cohen".
Go to http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/sylvie-iv.html to read how and why she wrote the book.
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LisaLCFan
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Re: Interview with Sylvie Simmons

Post by LisaLCFan » Fri Sep 07, 2012 9:58 pm

Very interesting, thanks! I look forward to the book.
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Re: Interview with Sylvie Simmons

Post by B4real » Sat Sep 08, 2012 2:58 am

Thanks Jarkko,

Great interview! And from that it would appear for the first time since the early bios were done at last a significant book on LC.
I can appreciate Sylvie's approach to how she decided to write this book. It sounds like it's done with much integrity. I am also liking her sense of humour too :)
I will be buying it.
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Re: Interview with Sylvie Simmons

Post by AlanM » Sat Sep 08, 2012 3:25 am

You asked all the right questions, Jarkko.
Any idea when this book will be published outside North America?
Too much Leonard Cohen is never enough.
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Re: Interview with Sylvie Simmons

Post by lizzytysh » Sat Sep 08, 2012 5:36 am

I'm thrilled no end to see and read your interview with Sylvia, Jarkko! So glad you decided to do it.
You did such a splendid job of interviewing her... and she did an equally splendid job of being interviewed.
Love all the photos of her... and happy to see the one with you two together.
This is going to be such a substantive, insightful, and interesting book that it will quickly morph into a "must have"!
Sylvie is very consistent, too, being as delightful on paper as she is in person.
If anyone interested in Leonard Cohen needs a Christmas present, people might as well order multiples up front.
It is GUARANTEED to inform and delight... and for its comprehensiveness [and thank you for your focus on Leonard's muses, Sylvie], this could easily end up the quintessential book on Leonard.

Laughed out loud at several of her comments. Her sense of humour sparkles and ignites seemingly out of nowhere like a 4th of July sparkler once lit.


~ Lizzy
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Re: Interview with Sylvie Simmons

Post by jarkko » Sat Sep 08, 2012 9:14 am

I have every reason to believe that this will be THE Leonard Cohen biography. So many interesting recollections never before told!
Any idea when this book will be published outside North America?
We have another thread about the book itself at viewtopic.php?f=3&t=32726&
I am copying from Tom's informative post:
US publication Date: September 18, 2012 (Harper Collins)
Canadian publication date: October 23, 2012 (McClelland & Stewart)
UK publication date: November 1, 2012 (Jonathan Cape / Random House)

US publisher's link: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Im-Y ... m+Your+Man
UK publisher's link: http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/editions/i ... 0224090636
M&S link (Canada): http://www.mcclelland.com/catalog/displ ... 0771080401
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dick
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Interview with Sylvie Simmons

Post by dick » Sat Sep 08, 2012 5:42 pm

Thanks both Sylvie and Jarkko. Great interview.
Hoping my preorder from Amazon arrives early.
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Wybe
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Re: Interview with Sylvie Simmons

Post by Wybe » Sat Sep 08, 2012 7:56 pm

The Dutch version you can order here.

http://www.bol.com/nl/p/i-m-your-man/9200000006516879/

Or here

http://www.vanstockum.nl/boeken/romans- ... 038896298/
Sylvie Simmons in Las Vegas December 2010
Sylvie Simmons in Las Vegas December 2010
Wybe
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Re: Interview with Sylvie Simmons

Post by MaryB » Sun Sep 09, 2012 12:02 am

Jarkko,

Thank you for interviewing Ms. Simmons and posting your interview - good questions/good answers.

In Madison, listening to her talk in her formal presentation and personally, I couldn't wait for this book to become a reality.

I am embarassed to say that I have never read any LC biographies, probably because this forum and your website give me so much biographical information. But, today, I have pre-ordered my copy of her book and am so looking forward to reading it and seeing all the photos she talked about that she was given access to that had not ever been seen before.

Oh my, all the stories that she was privy to that will not be included in her book. They will probably go to her grave with her, as they should, given her ethics and high moral writing standards.

Anyone who has not pre-ordered (more than likely a first edition) at the reduced rate, will probably have regrets later on not doing so (as is the case with with the CD boxset 'The Complete Columbia Albums', which to the best of my knowledge is no longer in production).

Warmest regards,
Mary
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Re: Interview with Sylvie Simmons

Post by dick » Sun Sep 09, 2012 12:08 am

I think that's good advice Mary. This should be a very valuable addition to any fan's collection. Sylvie is a great writer, a fine uke player and songwriter, and fortunately, a delightful person!
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Re: Interview with Sylvie Simmons

Post by dick » Sun Sep 09, 2012 12:46 am

Advance word from book industry critics:
Kirkus Reviews

I'M YOUR MAN (reviewed on September 15, 2012)

An elegant, deeply researched life of the Canadian musician, poet and novelist.

With the resurgence of his career in the last decade, Cohen has been the subject of several new books, but it’s hard to imagine a better one than veteran music journalist Simmons’ (Neil Young: Reflections in Broken Glass, 2001, etc.) work. Born into a wealthy family of Jewish clothiers in Montreal, Cohen became one of Canada’s leading young literary lights with his early volumes of poetry and two well-received novels. He was already in his early 30s when he became a professional musician, after folk singer Judy Collins brought his songs to the world’s attention with her cover of “Suzanne.” Beginning in 1968, the globe-trotting, seemingly driven Cohen recorded a series of wise, dark albums that made him a star in Europe and brought him a far smaller but devoted following in the United States. He was enjoying renewed commercial and critical success in the mid-’90s when he withdrew into a Zen Buddhist monastery for more than five years. Upon his return to the world, he discovered that his longtime manager had embezzled millions; his unexpected penury prompted a wildly received 2008-2009 world tour that grossed $50 million and finally lifted him, as a septuagenarian, into the top echelon of international stars. Simmons follows every step of Cohen’s peripatetic artistic journey with acuity and no small measure of poetic observation. Drawing on interviews with Cohen and most of his important collaborators and paramours, she paints a deep portrait of a man seemingly torn between the spiritual and the worldly, deeply gifted but plagued by abiding depression and frequent self-doubt. Simmons offers an abundance of revealing stories about Cohen’s ardent womanizing, restless pursuit of enlightenment through sex, drugs, alcohol and spirituality, and sometimes excruciating artistic perfectionism. He emerges in his full complexity, brimming with both seemingly boundless brilliance and abundant human imperfection.

Taking on a looming subject with intelligence and wit, Simmons manages to take the full measure of her man.
________________________________________
Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-199498-2
Page count: 576pp
Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28th, 2012
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2012


Publishers Weekly –“ I’m Your Man” by Sylvie Simmons

In this vibrant and enthusiastic chronicle of Leonard Cohen's life, music critic Simmons (Neil Young: Reflections in Broken Glass) draws extensively on interviews with Cohen's friends and associates, as well as on his private archives, his unpublished writings, and his published stories and poetry. The author narrates Cohen's life from his childhood and youth in Montreal--where he started writing poetry and stories when he was 15--through his aborted college career to his move to Manhattan in pursuit of music; his rise to fame with such songs as "Suzanne," "Bird on a Wire," and "Hallelujah" (one of pop music's most recorded songs); his often difficult relationships with women; and his search for tranquility and order in his embrace of Buddhism. Carefully weaving the threads of all of his songs and albums through the patterns of his life, Simmons craftily explores the themes that regularly mark Cohen's work: desire, regret, suffering, love, hope, and hamming it up. Cohen emerges from this definitive biography as a sensitive and intensely serious artist whose reverence for the word and deep love and respect for his audiences continues "to dissolve all the boundaries between word and song, between the song and the truth, and the truth and himself, his heart and its aching." (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/27/2012

Other Formats
Hardcover - 352 pages - 978-0-7710-8040-1
Ebook - 576 pages - 978-0-06-209691-3
Paperback - 978-0-224-09064-3
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Re: Interview with Sylvie Simmons

Post by lizzytysh » Sun Sep 09, 2012 4:44 am

I'm over the moon happy for Sylvie 8) .


~ Lizzy
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Re: Interview with Sylvie Simmons

Post by dick » Sun Sep 09, 2012 5:28 am

More Advance

Downtown, NYC

http://downtownmagazinenyc.com/im-your- ... nds-peace/
‘I’m Your Man Book’ Review: Tortured Poet Endures, Finds Peace
– AUGUST 31, 2012

The tortured artist is as clichéd and yet paradoxically admired a figure as ever existed. The love-scorned country singer, the acid-tripping painter, the hard-drinking novelist. More than a few college freshmen have decided to become writers after reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. One of the most beloved authors of the 20th century is a man who illustrated the idleness and disillusionment of the Lost Generation and then, 30 years later, ended his own despondency with a shotgun in Ketchum, Idaho. Not to mention Joplin, Morrison and the rest of the 27 Club.

It seems that depression and longing and restlessness and insecurity and the remedying effects of drugs spur creation, enhance the creative mind. (Or maybe artists are more prone to depression and drug addiction.) At the very least, many aspiring artists and impressionable fans believe that is the case.

But the tortured artist’s most unfortunate attribute—of which there are many—is that the narrative arc often concludes in tatters. The resolutions of the aforementioned writers and rockers are the same: tragedy. Rarely do the stories end with a completed search for spirituality, contentment, hope, confidence or the acceptance of aging and dying.

It’s an intriguing intellectual exercise to analyze why depression and drugs so frequently conquer artists. (Although in the case of narcotics, the answer is apparent.) But it is heartening to instead discover a story that ends in the defeat of one’s demons. One such narrative belongs to Leonard Cohen.

In the forthcoming biography I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen (HarperCollins), prominent rock journalist Sylvie Simmons chronicles the iconic 78-year-old songwriter’s life in exhaustive detail. In 576 pages Simmons successfully depicts the man’s decades-long exploration of spirituality, God, morality, sex, love, depression, drugs, time, loneliness, poverty, obscurity, art, ellipses, false starts and conclusions. I’m Your Man, which is available September 18 for $28, is the portrayal of a poet. But its underlying theme is the investigation of the thoughts to which we all surrender when the lights are out and the bottle is empty—but never confess in polite company. Cohen’s life has yet to reach the last page, the final quotation; yet, Simmons suggests that his denouement is one of perseverance, relief and—at last—contentment with his life and existence. It is a conclusion all those with self-doubt strive for.

Describing Cohen’s stay in India to learn from Ramesh Balsekar, a spiritual leader, Simmons writes:
Something had happened to Leonard in India. Something—as he told [songwriter] Sharon Robinson—“just lifted,” the veil of depression through which he had always seen the world. Over the space of several visits Leonard would make to Mumbai over the next few years, returning to his room at the Hotel Kemps Corner and making his daily walk to satsang, altogether, he spent more than a year studying with Ramesh—“by imperceptible degrees this background of anguish that had been with me my whole life began to dissolve. I said to myself, ‘This must be what it’s like to be relatively sane.’ You get up in the morning and it’s not like: Oh God, another day. How am I going to get through it? What am I going to do? Is there a drug? Is there a woman? Is there a religion? Is there something to get me out of this? The background is very peaceful.” His depression was gone.

The Narrative of an Icon
In structure, I’m Your Man is a traditional biography. It runs straight through Cohen’s life, from his birth in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, to the January 2012 release of his latest album, Old Ideas. In this manner, the first few chapters feel like the sections of a comprehensively sourced Wikipedia entry: birth, adolescence, high school, college. But as the chronology of his life becomes defined less by the inevitable milestones of reaching adulthood and more by his literary career and social experiences, Simmons’ intensive research becomes increasingly evident, her writing more authoritative and her insight more explanatory.

Reflecting the talent of a reporter who has honed her skills over decades of magazine writing, Simmons fluidly weaves together facts and analysis into language that is, in expertly journalistic fashion, spare yet illustrative (albeit at times teetering on hagiography). In chapter five, for example, she traces the arrival in London of a 25-year-old Cohen:

It was a cold gray morning and starting to rain when Leonard walked down Hampstead High Street, clutching a suitcase and an address. It was just before Christmas and the windows of the little shops were bright with decorations. Tired from the long journey, Leonard knocked on the door of the boardinghouse. But there was no room at the inn. The only thing they could offer was a humble cot in the living room. Leonard, who had always said he had “a very messianic childhood,” accepted the accommodation and the landlady’s terms: that he get up every morning before the rest of the household, tidy up the room, get in the coal, light a fire, and deliver three pages a day of the novel he told her he’d come to London to write. Mrs. Pullman ran a tight ship. Leonard, with his liking for neatness and order, happily accepted his duties. He had a wash and a shave, then went out to buy a typewriter, a green Olivetti, on which to write his masterpiece. On the way, he stopped in at Burberry on Regent Street, a clothing store favored by the English upper middle classes, and bought a blue raincoat. The dismal English weather failed to depress him. Everything was as it should be …

I’m Your Man goes through each phase of his life: It describes his discovery of women as a boy, when he would spend time “cutting pictures of models from his mother’s magazines and gazing out the window as the wind whipped up the skirts of the women as they walked [by].” It tells the story of the relationship with his most powerful muse, Marianne Ihlen—who is the inspiration for “So Long, Marianne”—and the tale of his most famous one-night stand—a sexual encounter with Janis Joplin, which Cohen himself immortalizes in “Chelsea Hotel # 2.” I’m Your Man details each of his spiritual experiences, from his continuous devotion to Judaism to his experimentation with scientology to his deep involvement with Buddhism (eventually becoming an ordained monk). It also stops along each point in Cohen’s progression from poet and novelist to songwriter and singer. And it even analyzes his evolution from shy, unsure performer into a man who commands the stage.

But Simmons makes it clear, as does Cohen through a number of quotes, that his focus has always been poetry.
The Edge of Emotions
Most people will experience a particular set of emotions in a lifetime: misery, euphoria, love, hatred, lust, repulsion. But poets tend to live within the extremes of these emotions.

The reason for this very likely has to do with the hyper-awareness and proclivity to abstraction that creating a poem requires. Happiness and love are publicly endorsed emotions. The others, however, are best kept hidden behind a superficial smile and idle chitchat at cocktail parties. You cannot tell your attractive coworker what you’d like to do with her; you cannot go on a water-cooler diatribe about your rival. There are rules of conformity.

But poets cannot survive on niceties and platitudes. They must exist on the edges between the norm and the fringe, in search of something intrinsically honest. This partly explains why poets so often indulge in mind-altering substances. (Dylan Thomas once famously boasted that he drank 18 whiskeys in one sitting at the White Horse. Percy Shelley may have used opium. And many of the poet-rockers of the ‘60s, including Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison—and, yes, Cohen—used amphetamines or acid.) But it also explains the thought process that, in many artists, leads to depression, and feelings of loneliness and isolation. It helps explain Leonard Cohen.

Simmons writes of Cohen: “As a writer Leonard seemed to thrive on this paradox of distance and intimacy. As a man, it was more complicated. Often it seemed to make him wretched, and, as a wretch, he turned to God.” She says that Leonard’s depression would reappear in cycles. Cohen, the biography suggests, has spent his life in constant conflict with himself. And his songs often reflect this through a striking soberness and prayer-like quality, as I’m Your Man continually states.

In reference to Cohen’s paramount song, ”Hallelujah,” Simmons quotes him as saying it is about “total surrender [and] total affirmation. … This world is full of conflicts and … things that cannot be reconciled, but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess.”

It’s as if he is summarizing the theme that runs through the narrative of his own life and through I’m Your Man.
Cohen is a man who, like many of us, has experienced depression, anxiety, doubt, lust—both reciprocated and unrequited—devastating loss and debilitating internal pain. To cope, he at various times relied on drugs, sex, Judaism, Buddhism, attempted domestication and self-imposed exile. But unlike many of us, Cohen has an undying faith in poetry. He kept writing. And is still writing and singing and recording. Somehow, along the way Cohen accomplished what many of his 1960s contemporaries could not: he endured, survived and found peace.

Sylvie Simmons’ I’m Your Man tells the compelling narrative of a great artist who grappled with his demons and (painstakingly) won. But it also relates to anyone who may have spent a spell in the darkness of depression and isolation—or who perhaps is still in such a spell. And in sharp contrast to the sad tales of the tortured artist, Simmons’ portrayal of Leonard Cohen delivers a message of perseverance, hope and faith.

—Chris Haire

Downtown Magazine NYC (http://s.tt/1mcz6)
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Re: Interview with Sylvie Simmons

Post by lizzytysh » Sun Sep 09, 2012 4:21 pm

Will read that review later this afternoon, Dick.
I have every reason to believe that this will be THE Leonard Cohen biography.
So do I, Jarkko.
Was hesitant to step out there and just say that, but in my gut, it's how I feel.
Leonard's personhood really comes through in her accounts.
I'm wondering if his lack of questioning with her generated out of his having read her account on Neil Young... even the title she chose for that is revealing.
He appears to have simply gone with TRUST. The way she presented it to him would have generated that, as well.
An amazing accomplishment on Sylvie's part... all of it!
"Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."
~ Oscar Wilde
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dick
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Re: Interview with Sylvie Simmons

Post by dick » Sun Sep 09, 2012 4:53 pm

Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof -- Booklist

Issue: September 15, 2012



I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen.

Simmons, Sylvie (Author) Sep 2012. 576 p. Ecco, hardcover, $27.99. (9780061994982). 782.421.

As a teenager in Montreal, Leonard Cohen learned six chords on a guitar from a young Spanish teacher that would form the foundation for all of his songs. In this compelling biography, Simmons chronicles the career of the courtly, elegant—“I was born in a suit”—singer-songwriter, poet, and novelist, from his first band in Montreal (a country-and-western trio, no less) to his early days in New York, where he lived at the famous Chelsea Hotel, to his most recent world tour, during which the seventysomething Cohen literally skipped onstage.

Simmons includes fascinating anecdotes—Cohen meeting Judy Collins, who would later record one of his signature songs, “Suzanne”; encountering fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell in Greenwich Village (Mitchell’s “A Case of You” was inspired by Cohen); scary recording sessions with the gun-toting record producer Phil Spector, and spending time at a Zen monastery.

Simmons also discusses at length Cohen’s impressive body of work, including poetry and prose as well as songs (his iconic “Hallelujah” has been covered by more than 300 artists), mentions his numerous bouts of depression, and recounts his unfortunate financial difficulties when his former manager stole funds from his retirement account. A must for anyone interested in one of the most influential songwriters of our time.

— June Sawyers
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