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susan smitten

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Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen [Apr. 11th, 2003|01:03 am]
susan smitten
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Okay, forgive my total inability to write book reports. Beautiful Losers is the first-, second-, and third- person memoir of a soul-searching, saint-seeking historian who has let slip away everything that was important in his life: his childhood friend and fellow orphan, F., and his late wife, Edith. He desperately clings to the pursuit of knowledge while fighting with his memories; specifically, he thirsts for knowledge of
an Iroqois saint with whom his wife had identified. Reading over his shoulder was F., who appeared disinterested and seemed to devote most of his energy to teaching our protagonist his lecherous ways, when he's not busy being lecherous or playing in the political arena. The actual events of the book center around the romantic and erotic history of the bittersweet love triangle, but you get the feeling that these encounters are beside the point, as their bond grows dangerously strong. As the narrator gets closer to the truth (and farther from resolution), he begins to unravel, and the reader is removed more and more from the nature of his thoughts, until we don't recognize him as himself any longer.

This story is told beautifully, with no word out of place, even if it DOES help if you can read French. (I can't.) I was turned inside out by sadness and longing, every moment I was reading it, but reading it was a tremendous reward in itself. Despite the cool, dark atmosphere and settings (a basement, a forest), there are rays of sunshine cutting through between the lines. I forgave the imagery and metaphors light-years beyond me and (I think) most of his audience, out of pure enjoyment - even if it doesn't make sense, it SOUNDS really good, right? I agree with Ben that Cohen's writing resembles Henry Miller's. I hadn't any idea Leonard Cohen was a top-five sort of writer who can adeptly switch styles (nearly every segment is written differently than the one before) and carry a story that won't disappoint you. If you're smarter than I am, then you REALLY should read this book - maybe you'll get it, and you can explain it to me.
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Comments:
From: (Anonymous)
2009-03-27 05:50 pm (UTC)

Norwegian Wood

I love Leonard Cohen, and I think you've written a very sensible review of this book. You're probably the only person besides myself who's read it, or even heard of it. It's so hard to find people outside of Norway who care about Leonard Cohen.

This may seem trivial, bud did you ever notice braod similarities between Beautiful Losers and Norwegian Wood?
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[User Picture]From: chu_hi
2009-03-29 12:10 pm (UTC)

Re: Norwegian Wood

Last night, in Beijing, I found *Waiting for the Miracle* on the ipod of the room party host. He didn't even know what it was, or how it got on his ipod. (He was Estonian, not that it matters.) I spent about four minutes going, "Leonard Cohen! Leonard! Cohen!" and him not understanding. Leonard Cohen!!!

I finally got my own copy of Beautiful Losers (my mom helped me find it), so I can reread it any time. This is Peter, right? You threw me off with the "Norway" remark. Of course there are similarities between Norwegian Wood. The tragedy scenario where you can see the tragic character spiralling toward despair, but in these two novels, the tragedy happens at the front of the book. Those two books inspire me to keep my main characters away from the brink of suicide.
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