New York Times Review of "I'm Your Man"

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New York Times Review of "I'm Your Man"

Post by lightning » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:51 am

This is a very important place to be reviewed. The reviewer seems absorbed by the book's content instead of passing judgement on the author, the prose, the material as some critics do: ... s.html?hpw
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Re: New York Times Review of "I'm Your Man"

Post by lizzytysh » Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:09 am

I'm so excited for Sylvie, reading this review [along with the others].
Such a dream come true for her I'd think.
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Re: New York Times Review of "I'm Your Man"

Post by comehealing » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:27 pm

Thanks for sharing this enchanting review.

This is a blessing to read on a breezy Friday morning
in Wales.
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(Oscar Wilde)
"That love is all there is" (Emily Dickinson)
"A miracle, just take a look around: The inescapable earth" (Wislawa Szymborska)
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New York Times Review of Sylvie Simmons new biography

Post by KenKurzweil » Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:22 pm

Searching the Soul of a Soulful Singer
‘I’m Your Man,’ Leonard Cohen Biography by Sylvie Simmons
Published: September 13, 2012

Writing about a living subject, Sylvie Simmons says, means having “to immerse yourself in that person’s life to a degree that would probably get you locked up in any decent society.” It can also mean abandoning all hope of objectivity. But despite her simpatico feel for the life and work of her subject, Ms. Simmons’s “I’m Your Man” is the major, soul-searching biography that Leonard Cohen deserves.

As recently as this January, when his “Old Ideas” album arrived, an idiotic news release described Mr. Cohen as “a spiritual guy with a poetical streak.” So even now, nearly 45 years after the release of his first record (“Songs of Leonard Cohen”) and a week before his 78th birthday, Mr. Cohen is not universally understood. Neither is the need for a biography as thorough as this one, perhaps — but Ms. Simmons doesn’t care, and neither will her readers. “I’m Your Man” is a mesmerizing labor of love.

She may be a fan, very conversant with the most devoted of her subject’s fan sites. But she is no pushover. Ms. Simmons, a seasoned rock journalist whose warm-up to writing about Mr. Cohen was a book about that other grand lady-killer, Serge Gainsbourg, is careful to incorporate the many facets of Mr. Cohen’s complicated story.

“Darling, I was born in a suit,” he tells her, alluding to his prosperous, scholarly Montreal family with garment-business connections. He showed early talent as a hypnotist; obviously, it has never left him.

In his teens he was a plumpish fraternity president and cheerleader who played in a country and western trio. “A square-dance band?” Ms. Simmons inquires, in one of their conversational volleys that she injects throughout the book. “What possessed you?” Well, he seems to have enjoyed playing “Turkey in the Straw.”

Mr. Cohen was a man of letters, both poet and novelist, long before he set words to music. His fellow Canadian Michael Ondaatje was one early, attentive critic of his work. “The gospels diverge on exactly when and where Leonard decided to become a singer-songwriter,” Ms. Simmons writes, but she credits Judy Collins, in her early days as “an aristocrat of the Greenwich Village scene,” as the person most responsible for paving his way to a musical career.

Ms. Collins, one of many trenchant interviewees, says she fell not for him but for his songs. (“That was enough trouble.”) She appreciates “the fact that a Jew from Canada can take the Bible to pieces and give the Catholics a run for their money on every story they ever thought they knew.”

“I’m Your Man” goes on to provide glimpses of a well-chosen few of Mr. Cohen’s relationships with women (that’s all, because this isn’t an encyclopedia); his search for spiritual enlightenment; the experiment in terror that was his collaboration with Phil Spector on “Death of a Ladies’ Man”; the extravagant drug and alcohol use that explains some of his stranger recordings; the financial scandal that robbed him of his savings; and his miraculous comeback — an unexpected fringe benefit of that larceny — as a septuagenarian live performer.

Best of all, there is the wild tale of how “Halleluljah” became his biggest hit, though it has been interpreted as everything from raw erotica to Christmas carol to elevator music, depending on who performs it and how much it is altered. There are so many twists to this story that a whole book about “Halleluljah” is due late this year.

Among those heard from in Ms. Simmons’s book are the women who have found near-mythic status as muses to Mr. Cohen. By far the most gracious is Marianne Ihlen, the Norwegian beauty who met Mr. Cohen on the Greek island of Hydra and lived with him in a simple, serene style he would come to romanticize. (A ravishing photograph of her, wearing a towel and sitting at a typewriter, appears on the back of Mr. Cohen’s second album, “Songs From a Room.”)

“I feel very lucky to have met Leonard at that time of my life,” says Ms. Ihlen, who met him early in the 1960s and heard him singing “So Long Marianne” well before they actually separated. “He taught me so much, and I hope I gave him a line or two.”

The unstated price of such access to Mr. Cohen’s friends and lovers is a degree of discretion on Ms. Simmons’s part. So when it comes to Suzanne Elrod, the mother of his two children, Adam and Lorca, the author sits back and lets Ms. Elrod do the damage. Fifteen years his junior, she met him at a Scientology class in 1969 — the same year he would meet Joshu Sasaki Roshi, his future Zen master. (Mr. Cohen’s searches for enlightenment have been many and varied; this, too, could be the subject of a separate book.)

Soon enough, Ms. Elrod would be on Hydra, redecorating. “I kept the authenticity of the house,” she says, speaking highly of “its Greek peasant simplicity.” When the two of them wound up in People magazine (really?) she complained that she felt very alone because “the proof of the poetry just wasn’t there.”

The other Suzanne — Suzanne Verdal, she of the tea and oranges that came all the way from China — is in these pages too. Ms. Simmons found her in Santa Monica, where she was at work on her autobiography and still espousing unhappiness about the song “Suzanne” and its fallout.

“Leonard the poet transformed the physical Suzanne into the metaphysical ‘Suzanne’ and made her an angel,” Ms. Simmons observes. “Leonard the magician sawed her down the middle, then put the two parts of her back together — the carnal and the spiritual — and made her more perfect than before. Leonard the composer made a hallowed melody of her, both implausibly intimate and ineffably spacious.” And none of those Leonards saw to it that she benefited from the song’s vast commercial success.

Mr. Cohen did not safeguard his own rights to “Suzanne,” either. A good deal of this book is about the minutiae of his professional life, and arguably some of that material belonged in an appendix. But Ms. Simmons is stubbornly detailed about unpublished and unreleased work, alternative lyrics, studio personnel, tour musicians, documentary footage and musical arrangements.

The arrangements matter because Mr. Cohen fought so long and hard to get them right, particularly on his first album. ”Leonard, poor guy, would be, ‘We don’t want the glockenspiel’ — because on every one of those tracks it sounded like two orchestras and a carousel,” one participant says.

Ms. Simmons is very generous about Mr. Cohen’s recent career. But she is hardly alone in feeling that way; in the words of a recent reviewer in The Independent, “at least the old smoothie’s going down swinging.” When he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010, Mr. Cohen managed to look younger than he had at a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame event two years earlier. He claimed to have had “a sublime experience.” The old smoothie posed for a picture with his arm around Taylor Swift before moving on to the next of his overdue triumphs.
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Syvie's Heart

Post by lightning » Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:32 pm

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Re: New York Times Review of "I'm Your Man"

Post by yentek » Fri Sep 14, 2012 6:05 pm

This is a big-time review - starting on page 1 and taking up most of page 15, with 4 pictures.
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Re: New York Times Review of "I'm Your Man"

Post by linmag » Sat Sep 15, 2012 5:35 pm

What a lovely, entertaining, review. The reviewer has evidently read the book (which I gather is not always obligatory) and enjoyed it, and has the gift of being able to communicate their enthusiasm for the work.

I have only just discovered the threads about this biography, so am off to Amazon to order my copy now.

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Re: New York Times Review of "I'm Your Man"

Post by dick » Wed Sep 19, 2012 5:00 pm

Got my US edition last night -- so impressed that I ordered the UK version from Amazon UK this morning! Think there are more pictures, and they are interspersed throughout the book rather than grouped into one center section.

Sylvie done great!
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