Yet another biography - but which is best?

Ask and answer questions about Leonard Cohen, his work, this forum and the websites!
Post Reply
cpl593h
Posts: 176
Joined: Mon Feb 11, 2008 1:27 pm

Yet another biography - but which is best?

Post by cpl593h » Tue Jul 06, 2010 1:21 pm

As another LC biography is published (The Remarkable Life...) i was wondering which of those available is the best. I have not yet read an LC biography and want to start with the most authoritaitve/accurate.

Any opinions/advice please?

Andy
User avatar
lightasabreeze
Posts: 601
Joined: Fri Jul 17, 2009 6:55 pm
Location: London

Re: Yet another biography - but which is best?

Post by lightasabreeze » Tue Jul 06, 2010 7:25 pm

Only Leonard could tell us that, I would think!!
Somebody must have died for you
A Thousand Kisses Deep

London 02 x 3..... Radio city New York... Wet Weybridge..... Wembley Arena... Brighton..
holydove
Posts: 1573
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:38 pm
Location: Connecticut

Re: Yet another biography - but which is best?

Post by holydove » Tue Jul 06, 2010 9:16 pm

I would recommend Leonard Cohen: Prophet of the Heart, by Dorman & Rawlins. It was published in 1990, so recent years are obviously not covered, but the authors delve very deep into The Man & his work (they had 60 hours of interviews with him) - IMHO, it's the best one so far -( you can probably get it at abebooks.com). Various Positions by Ira Nadel (1996) is also really good (it's my second favorite - & not quite as long & complex as Prophet. . ., & easier to read - depends on what you want). Enjoy!! (I know you will, whichever you choose). . .
User avatar
Alsiony
Posts: 708
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 4:02 pm
Location: Answers on a postcard please

Re: Yet another biography - but which is best?

Post by Alsiony » Tue Jul 06, 2010 10:45 pm

So far, I have only read Various Positions as Holydove has made mention of, but I have the University of Texas Press edition (2007) isbn 978-0-292-71732-9 , which has an extra chapter added to the end, making it a bit more up to date than the edition before. I recommend it.
Happy reading whatever book you choose to go through first :)

A
x
Weybridge MBW 11th July 2009

'All I know - and you must listen very carefully to this... All I know - is that I know absolutely nothing' - Frank

'Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?' - Christopher Marlowe

Much misunderstood... was the 'Hippie' with a reality fixation...
User avatar
tomsakic
Posts: 5252
Joined: Wed Jul 03, 2002 2:12 pm
Location: Zagreb, Croatia
Contact:

Re: Yet another biography - but which is best?

Post by tomsakic » Thu Jul 08, 2010 1:02 am

OOPS... Below is my (Jarkko's) message, in reply to Tom - I somehow managed to replace Tom's contents with my answer. Tom mentioned that Nadel's book is authorized, and he also referred to to Dorman & Rawlins who in their first book mention several times that they will be writing one more about Leonard.
There are NO authorized bios - Nadel's book is pretty close, it was described as "tolerated", or something like that, by Leonard (Nadel was able to use L's whole archive and had long interview sessions with him, so the book is at least semiofficial!)

Dorman & Rawlins are rumoured to be working now on the 2nd book. Let's see if it ever will see the light of the day.

The most long-awaited biography is in progress - Sylvie Simmons, the MOJO editor who lives in SF, is writing a very ambitious and comprehensive new biography. She has had interview sessions with a lot of people around Leonard, from his teenage years to the present day, and I know that the book will include many details and happenings that we did not know previously.
Jarkko
cpl593h
Posts: 176
Joined: Mon Feb 11, 2008 1:27 pm

Re: Yet another biography - but which is best?

Post by cpl593h » Thu Jul 08, 2010 12:08 pm

thanks tomsakic

i forgot about the sylvie simmons one.

does anyone know when that's due to be published?

Andy
User avatar
DrHGuy
Posts: 311
Joined: Fri Dec 28, 2007 1:37 pm
Contact:

Re: Yet another biography - but which is best?

Post by DrHGuy » Thu Jul 08, 2010 12:39 pm

cpl593h wrote:thanks tomsakic

i forgot about the sylvie simmons one.

does anyone know when that's due to be published?

Andy

Fall, 2011 was the original publication date
User avatar
DrHGuy
Posts: 311
Joined: Fri Dec 28, 2007 1:37 pm
Contact:

Re: Yet another biography - but which is best?

Post by DrHGuy » Sat Jul 10, 2010 10:36 am

cpl593h wrote:thanks tomsakic

i forgot about the sylvie simmons one.

does anyone know when that's due to be published?

Andy
I checked with Sylvie, who writes that she now has "over 80 interviews done and dusted. There'll be 100 or more by the time it's done, most of them done in person, in New York, London, LA, Montreal and all over" and that the anticipated publication date is indeed fall 2011.
John Etherington
Posts: 2587
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2004 10:17 pm

Re: Yet another biography - but which is best?

Post by John Etherington » Tue Jul 13, 2010 12:23 am

I'm very surprised that holydove rates Dorman and Rawlins "Prophet of the Heart" above Ira Nadel's "Various Positions". For twenty years, I had waited for a substantial biography of Leonard, and avidly seized a copy of "Prophet of the Heart" when it was published in 1990. At nearly 400 pages, with relatively small print, I found it to be one of the most tedious and boring books I have ever read (and I read every word)...full of long rambling sentences packed with unecessary words, and punctuated with exclamation marks throughout. To highlight what a scholar Leonard is, the authors list numerous books that were on his university reading list, with the assumption that he had read every one from cover to cover. I found the book extremely dull and overly reverential. I see that the one review on Amazon gives it one star and says it is one of the worst books the reader has ever read. To be fair, it was the first biography, and I must have gleaned some info from it...though it was certainly an endurance, and I fell asleep frequently.

To the contrary, Nadel's "Various Postions" (1996)is scholarly, beautifully-written, and extremely lucid. It's a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I couldn't put it down. I felt I had a comprehensive picture of Leonard and his life when I had finished reading it. Yet, it seemed to reveal even more, when I read it again. I think Leonard's comment that the book was not authorized but "benignly tolerated" showed a genuine affection for the project. At nearly 300 pages with a nice type-face it felt just right. Nadel's "Leonard Cohen - A Life in Art" is also good, but shorter and written two years before "Various Postions".

Jim Devlin's book "In Every Style of Passion" (also 1996) is good, but not exactly a biography. Jim outlines Leonard's career, and puts the main focus on Leonard's music, and his own perception of it. He aims at factual accuracy throughout. It's hard for me to be objective about this book, because Jim and I had a brain-storming weeekend in Sheffield when he was writing it. Thus, as I read the book, part of my concern was how the things we had discussed had been presented.

I haven't read "Hallelujah", but will get round to it...possibly when it's remaindered?! The forthcoming "Remarkable Life..." book sounds more interesting, and like others, I am particularly looking forward to Sylvie Simmons' book, when it finally appears.

All good things, John E
Last edited by John Etherington on Tue Jul 13, 2010 2:27 am, edited 2 times in total.
User avatar
sturgess66
Posts: 4110
Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 2:50 pm
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Re: Yet another biography - but which is best?

Post by sturgess66 » Tue Jul 13, 2010 2:26 am

John - I think you mean Jim Devlin's book "LEONARD COHEN - IN EVERY STYLE OF PASSION" (1996)

~ Linda
John Etherington
Posts: 2587
Joined: Sat Sep 18, 2004 10:17 pm

Re: Yet another biography - but which is best?

Post by John Etherington » Tue Jul 13, 2010 2:28 am

Well-spotted, Linda!...I've corrected it above.
cpl593h
Posts: 176
Joined: Mon Feb 11, 2008 1:27 pm

Re: Yet another biography - but which is best?

Post by cpl593h » Tue Jul 13, 2010 11:22 am

thanks for your help and advice. as i live just outside sheffield i ought to get the Devlin book...but i am leaning towards the Nadel at least until Simmons publishes.

Andy
holydove
Posts: 1573
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:38 pm
Location: Connecticut

Re: Yet another biography - but which is best?

Post by holydove » Tue Jul 13, 2010 6:29 pm

John Etherington wrote:I'm very surprised that holydove rates Dorman and Rawlins "Prophet of the Heart" above Ira Nadel's "Various Positions". For twenty years, I had waited for a substantial biography of Leonard, and avidly seized a copy of "Prophet of the Heart" when it was published in 1990. At nearly 400 pages, with relatively small print, I found it to be one of the most tedious and boring books I have ever read (and I read every word)...full of long rambling sentences packed with unecessary words, and punctuated with exclamation marks throughout. To highlight what a scholar Leonard is, the authors list numerous books that were on his university reading list, with the assumption that he had read every one from cover to cover. I found the book extremely dull and overly reverential. I see that the one review on Amazon gives it one star and says it is one of the worst books the reader has ever read. To be fair, it was the first biography, and I must have gleaned some info from it...though it was certainly an endurance, and I fell asleep frequently.
Hi John,
I would agree that there are some grammatical issues with Dorman & Rawlins, & some paragraphs containing info that was uninteresting to me (but might be interesting to someone else), but I found myself forgiving/overlooking the grammatical issues & the less relevant (to me) paragraphs, because I feel that the content & the deep perception these authors offer of Leonard Cohen, The Man & The Artist, not to mention "The Prophet", override whatever issues exist pertaining to sentence structure. I feel that these authors were brave enough, curious enough, & devoted enough to explore layers of The Man's vision of reality that other authors have not approached.


I'd say about 90% of the book was very far from boring, & I never fell asleep even for an instant. But I would agree, as I indicated previously, that it is not particularly easy to read (some sentences don't seem to make much sense at all - lol), but my experience was that it was worth the effort.

And I must say, I don't think there is any such thing as "overly-reverential" when one is talking about Mr. Leonard Cohen!
User avatar
graham.putt
Posts: 52
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2009 8:02 am
Location: Hamilton, New Zealand

Re: Yet another biography - but which is best?

Post by graham.putt » Wed Aug 18, 2010 7:19 am

I laughed when I saw the 'overly reverential' comment, that is not a usual accustation on this site that is for sure. But I do agree it is possible to be a bit OTT....

I read this with interest and have ordered Various Positions online and look forward to reading that. I have also just found Hallelujah for 20 Aussie dollars and have enjoyed the first few chapters. It seems quite light in tone and is proving an enjoyable read which some bios are not. It also references his background to themes in his work which are probably not new to a lot of readers here but I am enjoying.

graham
If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn
They will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem


Sydney Jan 09, Las Vegas Nov 09, San Jose Nov 09, Auck Oct 10, Wgtn Nov 10, Chch Nov 10, Syd Nov 10, Auck Dec 13
nlamont
Posts: 14
Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2008 3:33 pm

Re: Yet another biography - but which is best?

Post by nlamont » Tue Nov 02, 2010 1:36 am

I read 'Prophet of the Heart' when it came out and, although I can't remember much about it now, two impressions were left with me. One that it had lots of detail and seemed to be full of interesting factual information but also adulation and hero-worship of the type normally found only on the extremes of this forum. (So yes I agree with the verdict 'over-reverential'). Two, that it had a very strong agenda to portray Leonard as a Jewish prophet, a very strong pro-Israel bias which got to the annoying and even ludicrous stage of referring to Roshi as 'JOSHUA Sasaki Roshi' instead of 'Joshu'. So while I enjoyed reading stuff I didn't know before, I thought if they could get something like that so wrong, what's the credibility of the rest? Finally I do remember enjoying a detailed room by room description of Leonard's house in Montreal. But again, how true was it?
Post Reply

Return to “Comments & Questions”