Dear Heather & The Favourite Game

Leonard Cohen's recent albums - share your views with others!
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tom.d.stiller
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Dear Heather & The Favourite Game

Postby tom.d.stiller » Thu Dec 16, 2004 9:21 am

Who the hell is Heather?

Asking questions like this certainly is one of analysts' "Favourite Games". Doing a quick search with this forum's search engine I found some answers. My favourite answer, of course, is that Leonard dedicated this album to our friend heatherly, as a pars pro toto for this whole site. Less probable is that the Master wanted to dedicate his latest work to the actress "Heather Locklear".
Tchocolatl wrote:For the body of Heather, which slept and slept.
For the body of Bertha, which fell with apples and a flute.
For the body of Lisa, early and late, which smelled of speed and forests.
For the body of Tamara, whose thighs made him a fetishist of thighs.
For the body of Norma, goosefleshed, wet.
For the body of Patricia, which he had still to tame.
For the body of Shell, which was altogether sweet in his memory, which he loved as he walked, the little breasts he wrote about, and her hair which was so black it shone blue.
For all the bodies in and out of bathing suits, clothes, water, going between rooms, lying on grass, taking the print of grass, dancing discipline, leaping over horses, growing in mirrors, felt like treasure, slobbered over, cheated for, all of them, the great ballet line, the cream in them, the sun on them, the oil anointed.
A thousand shadows, a single fire, everything that happened, twisted by telling, served the vision, and when he saw it, he was in the very center of things.
This is from "The Favourite Game", IV, 30". Unfortunately this passage doesn't exactly answer the question.

In I, 27 of the same novel I found this:
Is there anything more beautiful than a girl with a lute?

It wasn't a lute. Heather, the Breavmans' maid, attempted the ukulele. She came from Alberta, spoke with a twang, was always singing laments and trying to yodel.

The chords were too hard. Breavman held her hand and agreed that the strings were tearing her fingers to pieces. She knew all the cowboy stars and traded their autographs.

She was a husky good-looking girl of twenty with high-colored cheeks like a porcelain doll. Breavman chose her for his first victim of sleep.

A veritable Canadian peasant.

He tried to make the offer attractive.

'You'll feel wonderful when you wake up."
I'm sure someone else will have posted this reference before me, so I won't go into more details right now. I just recommend to re-read "The Favourite Game". I have this on my agenda for the next few weeks.

(So much homework!)

Tom

PS: "Dear Heather" is (at least the beginning of) a letter. Perhaps it's one of those
You never liked to get
2004-12-17 edit: twice corrected some minor typos in the quotations
Last edited by tom.d.stiller on Fri Dec 17, 2004 6:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby tom.d.stiller » Thu Dec 16, 2004 9:42 am

Breavman, in 'The Favourite Game', on a napkin wrote:Jesus! I just remembered what Lisa's favorite game was. After a heavy snow we would go into a back yard with a few of our friends. The expanse of snow would be white and unbroken. Bertha was the spinner. You held her hands while she turned on her heels, you circled her until your feet left the ground. Then she let go and you flew over the snow. You remained still in whatever position you landed. When everyone had been flung in this fashion into the fresh snow, the beautiful part of the game began. You stood up carefully, taking great pains not to disturb the impression you had made. Now the comparisons. Of course you would have done your best to land in some crazy position, arms and legs sticking out. Then we walked away, leaving a lovely white field of blossom-like shapes with footprint stems.
And then, I'd think, they'd have their
... legs all white
From the winter
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Postby tom.d.stiller » Thu Dec 16, 2004 10:48 am

Another reason for legs to be "all white / From the winter":
Breavman and Tamara were white. Everybody else on the beach had a summer's tan. Krantz was positively bronze.

'I feel extra naked,' said Tamara, 'as if I had taken off a layer of skin with my clothes. I wish they'd take off theirs.'

The Favourite Game", II, 13
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Postby tomsakic » Thu Dec 16, 2004 2:06 pm

Well, I like that. Great job, man :!:
I wrote somewhere else, so copying here:
Her name wasn't Heather, but it's on her based character name Heather in the novel. Now, I forget the name of real maid.

Well, now I'm thinking: did I confuse maid and nanny. I don't think the name of maid is known. Nanny (Marie?) was the Catholic one, who took little Leonard with her in the Montreal church so that's how he got the Catholic upbringing also.
The maid is mentioned in the booklet of Mojo Presents CD, written by Sylvie Simmons. Leonard used her for his hypnosis experiments. That's how he get her undressed once - maybe after all he was hypnotized by her legs passing by (or was it the face; I really don't recollect "the legs" being metaphor for "the face" in Beautiful Losers, but that would indeed explain the legs in the song and the face on the front cover!) Maybe that's he trying to do: hypnotize us with "Dear Heather"
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Postby lizzytysh » Thu Dec 16, 2004 4:29 pm

What I really like about what Tchocolatl wrote [but I didn't see anywhere :shock: until here, now :? ~ what else have I missed :( ] is the way that these details stand to justify Leonard's love of the female form. When I read the list and the credits given to the various women, I contrast how many [most?] other men, who could be said to be female-body-obsessed, are not so likely to have ever even noticed these kinds of distinctions, much less retained them and held on to the recollections, for honouring their memory in the written word.

As I read through the list, I envisioned clearly different ~ and very appreciable ~ women, attractive in one physical way or another. In his overview, "felt like treasure" is made palpable. What a fleeting and evocative image this is ~ "going between rooms." When I read these, I don't feel that the 'rest' of the woman is being discounted, but rather that this is the facet on which he is currently focusing. Marianne, though seemingly sylphlike in her physical form, was not of the most beautiful of faces. Yet, other aspects of her being brought much to Leonard's life and she was clearly a profound muse for him. How can someone begrudge this man his honouring of the physical, when for him a woman's body is a living, breathing, art form. Well, maybe some. I'm sure not one of them.

~ Lizzy
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Postby Tchocolatl » Fri Dec 17, 2004 3:00 am

Quickly. Yes. I thought that when the first door were open, people would go for the rest by themselves.

They did in fact. Was it Margaret, Lingmag, Paula or Ligthning? (Well Anyone (maybe me later) who likes to play with the search engine could find it.)) And now you.

For the legs and the white (if you are not making fun of me with the snow) forget the snow. Think about a skin so white after the winter that the body glows in the dark! :D
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
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Postby Tchocolatl » Fri Dec 17, 2004 4:27 am

Clarification : In fact, I am under the impression that who ever was the person who came with the hypnotized maid in TFG she did not need me to open the door.
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
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Postby tom.d.stiller » Fri Dec 17, 2004 11:26 am

Tentative:

"Heather" (already abstracted from the Cohens' real maid at least as early as "The Favourite Game") is the original female body ("the ribbed original of Love" - Dylan Thomas), naked from head to toes (or from face to legs?).

The well-known obsession of the master with "naked bodies" (c.f. among other sources: "The Master Song", "Memories", "Tonight will be fine", the Heather sequence in TFG - we all could add lots of lines from poetry and prose...) is not content with "undressing". In DH the legs are "white from the winter": another layer has been taken off.

The original of Love splits - in life, in the novel - up into a lot of real (and / or fictitious) women. "The Favourite Game" names some: "Heather - Bertha - Lisa - Tamara - Norma - Patricia - Shell". Some will be related to real women in Leonard's life.

Maybe there is a connection here with the names of G~d in the cabbalistic tradition: Every aspect of "His Supreme Being" corresponds to a separate name. Again we see the parallel between romantic, even sexual love and G~d...

Returning to "nakedness": To the "extra-nakedness" of the bodies (Breavman's, Tamara's, everybody's) corresponds a "nakedness of the Spirit": exposing everything ("It is easy to display a wound, the proud scars of combat. It is hard to show a pimple." - TFG I,1 - who dares relate this to "The Day they wounded New York" ?), standing "naked before the Lord"...

I'll have to think some more about all this.

Now just an add-on from TFG ( IV, 18 ):
Dear Anne
I'd like
to watch
your toes

when you're
naked.
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Postby tomsakic » Fri Dec 17, 2004 12:02 pm

WHEN LEONARD COHEN WAS IN HIS early teens, he developed a keen interest in hypnosis. After studying a 19th century book, he tested his skills on his family’s maid and succeeded in putting her into a trance. After which he took her clothes off. Then, in a panic, he desperately tried to wake her before his mum came home.
Ancient wisdom, nakedness, sexual longing, angst, the imposition of will, the art of holding people spellbound – even if the story wasn’t true (and it is), it would have made a perfect allegory for Cohen’s musical output.
The beginning of Sylvie Simmons' introductionary note to Mojo Presents Leonard Cohen.
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Postby Rob » Fri Dec 17, 2004 12:21 pm

Lizzy wrote
"Marianne, though seemingly sylphlike in her physical form, was not of the most beautiful of faces"
For once Lizzy, I most definately have to disagree with you.

Rob.
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Postby lizzytysh » Fri Dec 17, 2004 5:04 pm

:lol: That's okay, Rob. Frankly, I'm amazed that you wouldn't even couch your disagreement in terms of, "For once . . . " :wink: .

I knew I risked 'much' by saying what I said, the way I said it. However, I stand with what I've said.....speaking strictly objectively, as 'objective' 'beauty' goes. I've always preferred character beauty over conventional beauty. However, without knowing the role that this woman has played in Leonard's life ~ without seeing what a lovely countenance she has at her current age ~ if one were to just come upon the photo of her in her younger years, I think most would/might say, "She's pretty;" "she's cute;" "she looks sweet;" "her expression is intrigueing;" or whatever ~ however, to say, "Oh, what a beautiful woman. She looks like she would be someone's muse" ~ I can't honestly say that I think she 'looks' these ways. For me, however, this 'fact' is a huge plus that bodes well for Leonard's reputation ~ that he's 'obsessed' with women's beauty.

To see that this face belongs to a woman who brought such sweetness and kindness into his life as to forever be evocative of those elements in his memory ~ that to me says a lot about where Leonard's true values reside. He wasn't infatuated with the face; he was in love with the woman.

~ Lizzy
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Postby Young dr. Freud » Fri Dec 17, 2004 7:57 pm

WHEN LEONARD COHEN WAS IN HIS early teens, he developed a keen interest in hypnosis. After studying a 19th century book, he tested his skills on his family’s maid and succeeded in putting her into a trance. After which he took her clothes off. Then, in a panic, he desperately tried to wake her before his mum came home.
That explains a great deal.

A pubescent experience where the male has total control over a silent, subordinant female. Combined with a fear of the mother's disapproval. No wonder he has always run from the women he has "loved." The chosen few are allowed to be his muse until they refuse to remain silent and naked.

Or more likely --start to age!
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Postby Tchocolatl » Sat Dec 18, 2004 3:46 am

Great job Tom&Tom. I enjoy all those quotes and links you make.

He practiced on little dogs and little cats around his house, before hypnotizing the maid. He did not undress her himself, right? He suggested only.

The point is that he discovered very early in life the power of his voice. (and the rush of power that came to him by the Beauty through female's body also) Bertha and the flute felt of the tree because of his voice, according to his child's memory. Later Lisa felt for him because of the power of his voice (singing for her).

There is enough comments that said "mesmerizing" about DH to give some credit to your "theory" Tomislav. :D
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers
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Postby tom.d.stiller » Sun Dec 19, 2004 8:47 am

Well...

I think we should look at DH as a whole. And there are dozens of aspects to be considered. If someone asked me to summarize DH in one sentence, presently I'd say:
He's reasoning with his God, and he's still undressing women - but I don't think there's much of a difference between those activities
The last time I read TFG I saw that he equated sexuality and religion. Now, as I'm just thumbing through the book in preparation for a reading, I'd say: "Listen to Dear Heather, and you'll see the same...."

The DH Heather definitely is not the TFG maid. But, as in TFG one woman was just another aspect of "Woman", "Heather" is beyond being a specific woman, she's "the woman"...

And I'm not talking about the title track. I'm talking about the album.

I'm not even trying to decipher one single "song", i'm looking for clues in the songs, clues for the meaning of DH as a whole...

All this is tentative...

Tom

Plus, of course, his hypnotizing voice...
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Postby Tchocolatl » Mon Dec 20, 2004 6:20 am

The record is distinctively Cohen, with rich psalm-like poems. The music has been stripped of layers to a simple almost lullaby format, making it a dreamy and hypnotic experience.
Angela Pacienza


:D ah! A music white from the winter, she meant.

Tom, many wise ancient spiritual traditions are saying that sexual energy and spiritual energy are using the same channel through human body (some say they are the same energy).

The way I see this female affair : It is almost like if Cohen is filling the missing part in Jewish, Catholic and Muslim male monotheist religion and world. Like if he was taking by the hand one by one all the godesses that was forced to go silent and, to remind veiled or in the dark, remoted, far away from us, and make them real again into our world, under the sun, making them shine of all their powers.

Cults of godesses included cult of gods (female and male principles where represented) and also the cult of Nature. It is said that maybe the way we are not respecting the Nature (nor the female aspects of life, often through the female body) has something to do with the denial of these old cults.

I am not sure of anything about the previous affirmations. Interesting, though.

This seems to have to do with the collective unconscious as artists are often more in touch (even without knowing it) than other people with it through the language of symbolism used by the uncounscious (the dreams are the royal way to the unconscious, while dreaming, we are connecting directly with this symbol language used by our unconscious).

One of the greatest archetype buried in the uncouncious is the Great Godesse - the Mother (of all things). The way you are talking about Heather reminds me of this archetype. I'm curious to know if you were aware of this when you wrote your comment? Or not? :)
***
"He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

Leonard Cohen
Beautiful Losers

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