Paper Thin Hotel

Debate on Leonard Cohen's poetry (and novels), both published and unpublished. Song lyrics may also be discussed here.
User avatar
mat james
Posts: 1748
Joined: Sat May 27, 2006 8:06 am
Location: Australia

Paper Thin Hotel

Postby mat james » Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:26 pm

Paper Thin Hotel

The walls of this hotel are paper-thin
Last night I heard you making love to him
The struggle mouth to mouth and limb to limb
The grunt of unity when he came in
I stood there with my ear against the wall
I was not seized by jealousy at all
In fact a burden lifted from my soul
I learned that love was out of my control
A heavy burden lifted from my soul
I heard that love was out of my control
I listened to your kisses at the door
I never heard the world so clear before
You ran your bath and you began to sing
I felt so good I couldn't feel a thing
I stood there with my ear against the wall ...
And I can't wait to tell you to your face
And I can't wait for you to take my place
You are The Naked Angel In My Heart
You are The Woman With Her Legs Apart
It's written on the walls of this hotel
You go to heaven once you've been to hell
A heavy burden lifted from my soul
I heard that love was out of my control


Leonard Cohen ( Death Of A Ladies Man )




On one level, of course, it is an interesting version of a love song; or perhaps an anti-love song.
But I always look for that other level, so:
A possible Mystical/Spiritual interpretation:


Argument: Leonard recognizes that his soul is not his; it merely resides within him.
His body is a “paper thin hotel” and one night he listened as his Soul made love to God (holy communion, Songs of Solomon-esq).

His soul was singing and bathing in god;
"I listened to your kisses at the door
I never heard the world so clear before
You ran your bath and you began to sing
I felt so good I couldn't feel a thing
… You are The Naked Angel In My Heart
You are The Woman With Her Legs Apart
It's written on the walls of this hotel
You go to heaven once you've been to hell"

The “Naked Angel” is his Soul.
He defines this Naked Angel as the “Woman” who is that Soulful Dweller within him which is capable of luring and accepting (legs apart) God.
The analogy of an unfaithful lover; based upon perhaps an experience of some actual unfaithful lover, brings Leonard to this moment of sublime understanding.
The Soul; (his Soul) is an alien, a free spirit who occupies and experiences time/space through the “paper thin hotel” of individualized humanity; in this case Leonard, the human being.
Life is suffering and in that crucible of pain; he/we learn... In this case; we learn that we have little or no control over love
and no control over our Soul.
But if we listen through those "paper thin walls" of the sleeping ego, we may learn from that mystic woman; our Soul, (who is God's Lover and ours; she is a two-timer! :) )

“It's written on the walls of this hotel
You go to heaven once you've been to hell
… A heavy burden lifted from my soul
I heard/learned that love was out of my control.”

(http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/album6.html#41)
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ij1Mxgv-MAI) (This lady needs a little practise, but she is onto it!)

As always, I suggest you hang onto your own interpretation. My view of Leonard's writing is usually a little tao-tangential.
( ...a Way-ward Sun-of-a-One ;-) )

Mat James.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
User avatar
TineDoes
Posts: 218
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:48 pm
Location: Holland

Re: Paper Thin Hotel

Postby TineDoes » Thu Apr 28, 2011 5:53 pm

mat james wrote:The “Naked Angel” is his Soul.
Hi Mat,
Yes I will hang onto my own interpretations.
Much as I love reading your ‘mystical’ explanations of many of Leonard Cohens songs. In this song I cannot really read that ‘the naked Angel’ is analog for Leonard’s soul.
‘The struggle mouth to mouth and limb to limb’ tells me about very earthly scene. I don’t see that this song can have been written as an analogy for a struggle Leonard Cohen has with God or with the soul. It is, as I see it, his struggle and confusion with his own feelings of love, pain and relief; the feelings as they manifest as part of the human condition so to speak :D .
Tineke
"There’s no forsaking what you love ...."

Rotterdam 2008; Antwerpen, Dublin 2009; Gent 2x, Lille , Las Vegas 2x 2010, Gent, Amsterdam, Dublin 2x 2012, Antwerp, Berlin, Rotterdam 2013
User avatar
mat james
Posts: 1748
Joined: Sat May 27, 2006 8:06 am
Location: Australia

Re: Paper Thin Hotel

Postby mat james » Fri Apr 29, 2011 6:14 am

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.”
(Song of Solomon, 1. 1)

“By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth.
Song of Solomon, 3. 1”

“Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.”
Song of Solomon, 4. 1” 8) :D

…and so on.


Hi Tine,
Yes, my interpretations are somewhat adventurous and it is also hard to believe that Solomon was singing about his Lord above, but that is a common interpretation.
I suggest that Leonard often writes in a Solomon-esq manner; and therefore my rather odd interpretation.
(and I, rightly or wrongly, always read Cohen as a modern day Solomon-ish poet)

“And I can't wait to tell you to your face
And I can't wait for you to take my place (where Leonard's soul takes the reins and moves out to union with his Lover, lover lover come back to me)
You are The Naked Angel In My Heart (Leonard's women transmute to "muse"; igniting his soul to take flight to his God)
You are The Woman With Her Legs Apart” (Soul is then able to do what man cannot; absorb God; the "grunt of unity as you (his God) came in)

The capital letters in lines 3 and 4 above are not mine; and I suggest they may be there for a reason; hinting to a sonnet-like shift in the direction of the object (the girl) of the poem/song like Solomon’s lover shifts to Lover.
Because Leonard has such a habit, in my opinion, of transmuting his object of love, from "man and woman" to "soul and God", I have the evergreen problem of interpreting his work this way. It is always rewarding for me when I do. It somehow renews my passion for the "quest"; for divinity.
Who knows; but it is fun to explore the possibility.

Thanks for your opinion/feedback, Tineke. I am positive that most lovers of Cohen would agree with the interpretation that you flesh out! ;-)
I’m just lost in the Night somewhere. 8)

Mat.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
User avatar
Diane
Posts: 3559
Joined: Fri Apr 08, 2005 9:41 pm
Contact:

Re: Paper Thin Hotel

Postby Diane » Mon May 02, 2011 3:02 pm

Mat your posts are always entertaining but this really is a mystical interpretation too far:-)!

I can't say I like this song - the melody doesn't appeal - but it did once hold a lot of resonance for me when I was in the unhappy situation of being in love with someone who was with someone else. It was actually this song that first made me think of LC as someone who tells it like it is.

And pondering whether everything LC ever wrote could be interpreted as having a spiritual element (I think not) does remind me that the personal and the spiritual are on a continuum. Those who examine the inner world fearlessly, and continue to do so, finish up in a spiritual place, as Mr Cohen has done. He is an outstanding role model in that respect.
User avatar
mat james
Posts: 1748
Joined: Sat May 27, 2006 8:06 am
Location: Australia

Re: Paper Thin Hotel

Postby mat james » Mon May 02, 2011 4:25 pm

Yes
I'm a worry;
even to me.

misguidedmat :cry:
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
User avatar
Diane
Posts: 3559
Joined: Fri Apr 08, 2005 9:41 pm
Contact:

Re: Paper Thin Hotel

Postby Diane » Mon May 02, 2011 5:26 pm

don't ever stop though... :-) !
beatingthelilies
Posts: 26
Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2010 5:19 am

Re: Paper Thin Hotel

Postby beatingthelilies » Mon May 23, 2011 8:33 am

Mat, really enjoy reading your posts and your choice of songs to dissect is very interesting and refreshing! Paper Thin Hotel helped me a lot during a recent break-up. Mr. Cohen's words are great healing tools.
User avatar
mat james
Posts: 1748
Joined: Sat May 27, 2006 8:06 am
Location: Australia

Re: Paper Thin Hotel

Postby mat james » Fri Jun 03, 2011 4:43 am

Thanks, beatingthelilies. I appreciate that you hang in there on these intrepid journeys I saunter on through Leonard's songs.
Mr. Cohen's words are great healing tools.
That's good, for you.

I don't think I use his work quite in that way, but I understand your point.
Generally, I simply nod at his perspectives as I devour the beauty of it all; music, mystic intercourse and carnal pleasure....well maybe you are spot-on btlilies...maybe that is a great "healing tool(s)".

Yes, I have changed my response to your comment. It is "healing" in a siblingly-spiritual way.
He has "made it to the forward deck" and through his songs, sometimes we "set out one night" and are also sailing up front there with him, "light as a breeze" with a begging bowl full of love and a happy,"unified heart".

Mat.
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
holydove
Posts: 1535
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:38 pm
Location: Connecticut

Re: Paper Thin Hotel

Postby holydove » Fri Mar 28, 2014 11:42 pm

This song has kind of taken hold of me lately & I love it. So although it's been almost 3 years since the last post, here is my perspective on it.

It's in the category of "sex as a gateway to transcendence". The intriguing twist is that the Voice in the song is using a rather unconventional type of sexual practice, i.e, listening to his lover making love with someone else (a practice that I would think is not unheard of in the world of BDSM); but instead of producing feelings of anger, pain, or jealousy, it induces a transcendent & liberating state of bliss, or euphoria, for the listener. Or perhaps, the pain, after it reaches a certain point, transmutes into bliss. Either way, that is the experience which, at some point, arises for him, & I see these lines as the indicators: "I felt so good I couldn't feel a thing"; "I never heard the world so clear before"; "a heavy burden lifted from my soul"; & "you go to heaven once you've been to hell". The hotel could be a physical place or it could be a state of mind that the narrator induces within himself to do the practice - it doesn't really matter which it is, but I'd guess it's probably more along the lines of the latter.

"You go to heaven once you've been to hell" might indicate either that the initial feeling induced was pain, or it could mean that he's done this practice (perhaps many times), in the past, & it was painful in the past, but this time it's different; the line "I was not seized by jealousy at all", might also indicate that he's done this before, & in the past, the result was jealousy, but now the result is something else. Mirror-like clarity (as in, "I never heard the world so clear before") is said to be the ultimate nature of all sentient beings (in Buddhism), & the experience/recognition of that clarity is said to be an element of enlightenment. "I felt so good I couldn't feel a thing" indicates that he is experiencing something beyond ordinary emotion. "I learned that love is out of my control", suggests that the experience has liberated him from needing to believe that he is in control of anything, which is an element of unity with the Divine, or Mirror-like Clarity. Also, to my ear, the music has a rather other-worldly quality to it, which is suggestive of the heavenly, blissful state experienced by the narrator.

My impression is that he's not hearing this by accident; the whole event is deliberate & the narrator & his lover might have even pre-planned it. It's similar to people who like to watch their lovers making love with someone else, but instead of watching, he is listening through the wall, which perhaps makes it more exciting because it adds a clandestine element. "I cannot wait to tell you to your face/ I cannot wait for you to take my place" - this could be an indication that the narrator & his lover have set up the scenario together, & now he wants his lover to listen to him making love with someone else, so that she can experience the transcendent bliss that he has experienced. "You are The Naked Angel In My Heart/ You are The Woman With Her Legs Apart. . ." - his lover is The Angel because she has been the catalyst for his transcendent experience, & the capitals indicate that he sees the whole thing as something sacred - the practice is sacred, his lover's body is sacred, the experience induced by the practice is sacred - Sex as a Gateway to the Divine.
User avatar
mat james
Posts: 1748
Joined: Sat May 27, 2006 8:06 am
Location: Australia

Re: Paper Thin Hotel

Postby mat james » Wed Apr 02, 2014 12:44 am

Love your post holydove. I'm in there with you all the way!
It is a catchy tune with a rare perspective.
"sex as a gateway to transcendence"
(listening to his lover making love with someone else)
"I learned that love was out of my control." is perhaps what is most liberating and frightening in life, for many of us, anyway.

cheers to you!
MatbbgJ
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.
holydove
Posts: 1535
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:38 pm
Location: Connecticut

Re: Paper Thin Hotel

Postby holydove » Sat Apr 05, 2014 9:32 pm

mat james wrote:Love your post holydove. I'm in there with you all the way!

"I learned that love was out of my control." is perhaps what is most liberating and frightening in life, for many of us, anyway.

cheers to you!
MatbbgJ
Thank you for being in there with me, Mat - you are very kind.

What you said about ". . .what is most liberating and frightening" - it is so true. I have this impression that the narrator of the song might deliberately put himself in a very painful situation, with the purpose of stirring up the agonizing emotions, in order to confront them & thereby transcend them. And along with giving rise to joy through transcendence, it seems possible that the pain, in itself, can be a source of pleasure or joy. . .But the most intriguing thing is that, in my perception, this narrator (I don't want to get too presumptuous or personal by naming names. . .) will do anything that has the potential to bring him closer to the Source, & what he is doing in this song is, for him, one of those things. . .(maybe I'm just making up stories here, but that's my impression. . .)
UrPal
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Sep 17, 2004 7:43 pm
Location: Manchester
Contact:

Re: Paper Thin Hotel

Postby UrPal » Sat Apr 05, 2014 11:10 pm

That video captures a suitably discomforting performance of a suitably discomforting song. Thanks for posting it.
User avatar
mat james
Posts: 1748
Joined: Sat May 27, 2006 8:06 am
Location: Australia

Re: Paper Thin Hotel

Postby mat james » Thu Nov 02, 2017 3:10 pm

"Under the same roof
We all slept together,
Concubines and I _
Bush-clovers and the moon."

(Basho, From his haibun book, "Narrow Road to the Deep North",( or inner self).

Basho, the Japanese poet, 1644-1694, stayed in a paper thin hotel and listened to the laments of two young girls who were transient concubines, staying in the room next to him. A bit like Leonards song...and I wonder if there may be a connection here with the title of his song?

As I read the poem above, I notice that he ends up connecting the beauty of these young women (bush clovers) with the divine (moon).
...very Leonard.

MatbbgJ
"Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart." San Juan de la Cruz.

Return to “Leonard Cohen's poetry and novels”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest