Re-reading Favourite Game

Debate on Leonard Cohen's poetry (and novels), both published and unpublished. Song lyrics may also be discussed here.
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david birkett
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Re-reading Favourite Game

Postby david birkett » Sat Nov 16, 2013 2:05 am

Although, on a second reading, I enjoyed this more than I remembered doing the first time, I still found the style too full of naive, self-conscious mannered writing and characterisation that became pretentious too often, and I still think Beautiful Losers is a much better book. I was delighted to rediscover, however, a passage describing buying stationery for school that describes, like no other piece of writing I've found, the mysterious and irresistible allure of pencils, rubbers, paper etc. for those of us dwelling in the sad hinterland of stationery fetishism.
The Ogre does what ogres can,
Deeds quite impossible for Man,
But one prize is beyond his reach:
The Ogre cannot master speech.
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mnkyface
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Re: Re-reading Favourite Game

Postby mnkyface » Sat Nov 16, 2013 3:40 am

I'm re-reading it too. The scenes of animal cruelty really effected me more this time - the drowning rat and the man who bashes the cat's head. :(
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Re: Re-reading Favourite Game

Postby Athnuachan » Thu Nov 21, 2013 5:33 pm

mnkyface wrote:I'm re-reading it too. The scenes of animal cruelty really effected me more this time - the drowning rat and the man who bashes the cat's head. :(
Me too, mnkyface, and don't forget the frog whose heart is removed and beats for a while on a plate in a restaurant!
It's a juvenile work, with a juvenile desire to shock.
I still prefer it to that drug fuelled mess "Beautiful Losers", though.

I once read a comment that Joyce was wise to switch from music to prose, and Cohen was wise to switch from prose to music.
Agreed!
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Re: Re-reading Favourite Game

Postby david birkett » Fri Nov 22, 2013 12:24 am

Interesting comments, but I thought Beautiful Losers was a much more coherent and satisfying work. One person's tofu is another's veal, I guess.
The Ogre does what ogres can,
Deeds quite impossible for Man,
But one prize is beyond his reach:
The Ogre cannot master speech.
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Re: Re-reading Favourite Game

Postby LisaLCFan » Fri Nov 22, 2013 1:15 am

david birkett wrote:One person's tofu is another's veal, I guess.
I love both tofu and veal (although I've never felt guilty eating tofu).

As for Leonard's novels, I love The Favourite Game, and I enjoy re-reading it from time to time. There is such lovely poetry within its pages, and an almost sweet innocence at times. And of course, being Cohen, there is cynicism, misogyny, and the occasional sensationalistic shock, just so we don't become too complacent in the beauty of it all, and forget that there is ugliness in the world, too.

Beautiful losers is, to me, disturbing. I can't say that I ever enjoyed reading it (I think I've read it twice, and may never read it again). There are lovely and poetic elements to it, but it is not my thing.

Above all, I love Leonard's music!
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Re: Re-reading Favourite Game

Postby david birkett » Fri Nov 22, 2013 1:21 am

Amen.
The Ogre does what ogres can,
Deeds quite impossible for Man,
But one prize is beyond his reach:
The Ogre cannot master speech.
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Re: Re-reading Favourite Game

Postby Athnuachan » Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:47 pm

david birkett wrote: I thought Beautiful Losers was a much more coherent and satisfying work.
Fascinated that you find "Beautiful Losers" coherent and satisfying, David. I have re-read it several times, in case I missed something, and find it more incoherent and unsatisfying each time!
With you all the way on this one, Lisa. Much prefer " The Favourite Game", and I think LC has retained something of that "sweet innocence" even into old age.

Still, makes life interesting that we can react so differently to the same book!
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Re: Re-reading Favourite Game

Postby david birkett » Wed Nov 27, 2013 11:59 pm

One might almost say we find ourselves on different sides of some lines somebody wrote.
The Ogre does what ogres can,
Deeds quite impossible for Man,
But one prize is beyond his reach:
The Ogre cannot master speech.
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Re: Re-reading Favourite Game

Postby LisaLCFan » Thu Nov 28, 2013 12:11 am

david birkett wrote:One might almost say we find ourselves on different sides of some lines somebody wrote.
8)
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Re: Re-reading Favourite Game

Postby holydove » Sat Jan 25, 2014 2:52 am

I read something today, in a little article in the files, that I never knew (or knew but had forgotten). Leonard had to cut The Favorite Game in half to get it published. His Canadian publisher refused to publish it at all, at first. Leonard signed contracts with publishers in England & America, but they wanted a shorter version, so he cut it in half. It was published in those 2 countries, & a couple of years later, the shorter version was also published in Canada. I always loved the book, but did think it was kind of skeletal for something written by Leonard Cohen. Leonard wrote to Irving Layton, "anyone with an ear will know that I've torn apart orchestras to arrive at my straight, melodic line". How sad that he had to do such drastic surgery on it, in order for the world to get a glimpse of it. I imagine Leonard probably still has the full version somewhere, & I think it would be great if someone would publish it again, in its true wholeness, with all parts intact - I know that I, for one, would purchase it in a minute.
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Re: Re-reading Favourite Game

Postby HelenOE » Sat Jan 25, 2014 3:00 am

I wonder if the full version is in the University of Toronto archives.
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Re: Re-reading Favourite Game

Postby B4real » Sat Jan 25, 2014 3:08 am

Rachel and Helen, this should throw some light on the subject :)
http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/intheirwords.html
Interviewers: What did you mean when you said that The Favourite Game was a third novel and not a first?
Cohen: I had written a first novel, The Ballet of Lepers, and had written a lot of short Stories and long pieces and I completely overhauled the various versions of The Favourite Game. There is another Favourite Game that exists in the Thomas Fisher Library at the University of Toronto which is radically different from the one I published. I had done at least four versions of The Favourite Game so by the time the final novel came out it wasn't a first novel.
For those who like details, click on the image below :)
Thomas-Fisher-Rare-Book-Lib.jpg
This quote below is in the same linked article as above and has absolutely nothing to do with The Favourite Game but I couldn't resist posting it :razz:
Interviewers: You were recently in Australia. How were the audiences there?
Cohen: Australia is a wonderful country. Sometimes I think if I was twenty years old I'd go there. It's very beautiful. It's an island in the South Pacific where everybody speaks English and they have electricity. (Laughter.) I was surprised with the audiences and the familiarity with my work.
8)

There appears to be no reference as to the identities of the interviewers (I think they are French, at least French speaking) or who wrote this article or when it was published. Leonard was first in Australia in 1980 so it would possibly be not too long after that date. They discuss a song The Lost Canadian (Un Canadien Errant) on his latest album (which was Recent Songs 1979) so that would correlate to maybe early 1980's. The interview was at LC's Montreal duplex-studio.
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Re: Re-reading Favourite Game

Postby godnose » Sat Jan 25, 2014 1:23 pm

I just read it. I really liked the first section and the last, got a little lost in the middle. Would be good to do a re-read.

I really liked the boy at camp who was a little off-beat and enjoyed killing mosquitos. A sad story, I wonder how autobiographical it is.

I didn't like the frog killing either. Thought it was quite beautifully written though.
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Re: Re-reading Favourite Game

Postby holydove » Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:10 pm

B4real wrote:Rachel and Helen, this should throw some light on the subject :)
http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/intheirwords.html
Interviewers: What did you mean when you said that The Favourite Game was a third novel and not a first?

Cohen: I had written a first novel, The Ballet of Lepers, and had written a lot of short Stories and long pieces and I completely overhauled the various versions of The Favourite Game. There is another Favourite Game that exists in the Thomas Fisher Library at the University of Toronto which is radically different from the one I published. I had done at least four versions of The Favourite Game so by the time the final novel came out it wasn't a first novel.
For those who like details, click on the image below :)
Thomas-Fisher-Rare-Book-Lib.jpg
Interesting interview & details - thanks for the links, Bev.

It sounds like the four versions of Favourite Game that Leonard refers to in this interview, were revisions he chose to do. But the article I'm referring to states that the "cutting in half" of whatever version he submitted for publication, was forced upon him by the publishers, because they wanted a shorter book. I find that disturbing (though not quite as disturbing as McClelland's total rejection of it), & while, of course, I'd love to see everything Leonard has ever written, I'd especially love to see the full version of this book, that Leonard would have liked to publish (though I'm aware there's not much hope for that to ever happen). Here is an excerpt from the article, that describes the issue (it doesn't seem possible to give a specific link to it - the address that shows up when I click on it is just leonardcohenfiles.com):

"Cohen had been awarded a $2,000 Canada Council grant. He used it to live cheaply in London and even more cheaply on the Greek island of Hydra while working on the novel, then titled Beauty at Close Quarters. But when he returned to Canada in November, 1960, it was rejected by McClelland & Stewart. Jack McClelland objected to Cohen writing prose. He found the novel tedious, egotistical, disgusting and morbid in its preoccupation with sex. McClelland worried about the autobiographical content and suggested radical revisions without guaranteeing publication once those changes were made.

Cohen signed contracts with English and American publishers, who wanted a shorter version, so he cut the book in half. He wrote Irving Layton, 'anyone with an ear will know I've torn apart orchestras to arrive at my straight, melodic line.'"

If you want to see the entire article, it's in the "analysis" section of the files, & the title of the article is "Rigelhof on The Favourite Game", by T.F. Rigelhof, & it's an article he wrote for the Globe & Mail, Jan. 22, 2000.

But it does seem that the full version of the book (along with several other versions of it, as well as many other versions of other books, poems, etc.!) is probably there at the Thomas Fischer Library; so if I ever have the opportunity to go there, & the time to sit there long enough to read a whole book (I don't think one can take things out of that library) - my wish could come true! :D
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Re: Re-reading Favourite Game

Postby B4real » Sun Jan 26, 2014 2:22 am

Thanks for that info Rachel,
As I understand it, you can't take anything out of that library. You have to sit under supervision in a reading room, but there are limited things you can photocopy.

Remember this, posted some time ago on the forum by Arlene -

Image
Glimpse of the Leonard Cohen archives
Photo posted on twitter by Matthew Kirschenbaum,
Associate Professor of English and Associate Director of MITH, University of Maryland


It would be interesting indeed to be able to read The Favourite Game in all its various forms. But there are so many other books, documents, photos etc – including an ink sketch by Leonard relating to DOALM that I’d love to see! Those able to get to Toronto and are fortunate enough to have access would be in for a real treat to begin a new LC adventure now! (except for box 13 which is sealed until after his death and the authors of the letters).

When Leonard was asked if there was anyone in particular he envisions studying his literary material at this library he replied, “Anyone with the capacity to forgive”. Hmmmm .....
Be for real. Free yourself to find the real Self ~~ Me
Happiness is like learning the violin, the more you practice it the more it comes to you ~~ Me
Without the heart, there can be no understanding between the hand and the mind ~~ Gore Vidal

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