Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Leonard Cohen: A Remarkable Life

June 29, 2016

Anthony Reynolds' Leonard Cohen: A Remarkable Life. Omnibus, 2010.

Leonard Cohen has been my passion since before I was an adult. I've attended two concerts, the first at university in Winnipeg in 1966 or '67. I have the novels, much poetry, the collected songs, CDs, DVDs, clippings, e-notifications. Yet it is never enough. And there are still bios I have not read. More reason to live.

This one, Leonard Cohen: A Remarkable Life by Anthony Reynolds, is aimed at musicians. The emphasis is on the recordings and recordings sessions. Less about the origins of the songs. Although we are told of the two Suzannes, that "Democracy" was in response to the Berlin Wall, and that Field Commander Cohen was more about himself, volunteering to entertain troops, than about his father who was a World War I veteran. It's these tidbits which interest me more than the names of behind-the-scenes artistic collaborators.

Unfortunately, there are too many things about this book that irk me. I even checked to see whether it is self-published as there seems to be a total lack of both line editing and copyediting. There is an abundance of quotations but absolutely no citations, especially for the words put into Cohen's mouth. I cannot believe that the writer actually interviewed his subject. Aside from the technical issues of punctuation and grammar, what annoys an old and loyal fan is the seeming lack of understanding of so many things which inform the artist and his music. With the exception of a bit about the record-making business, there is nothing here about context. Jewishness or Jewish humour. Nothing about Montreal, or Quebec, or French-speaking Canada, or Canada itself.

Reynolds is identified on the book jacket as "born in the early 1970s" and "living in Wales." I can forgive the condescension of youth, and the fact of a European ignorance of "the other side" of the world. I can forgive that he doesn't get the sense of humour until it is much too late. I choose not to forgive the ageism. Search the text for the term "geezer" and you'll understand what I mean.

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