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Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen

Book of Longing (2006)

by Leonard Cohen

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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836910,778 (3.9)18
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    The Passionate Eye: The Collected Writing of Suzanne Vega by Suzanne Vega (betterthanchocolate)
    betterthanchocolate: More pith and rage from another singer songwriter, with insights and language equally as satisfying.

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3 stars for the artwork....not the poetry. I am a big fan of his music, but the books of poetry, not so much. There are just a handful of poems I could appreciate....Guess I'm just not mystical enough. ( )
  untraveller | Aug 4, 2016 |
better than poetry
is my poetry
which refers
to everything
that is beautiful and
dignified, but is
neither of these itself."

-- 'Better', pg. 11.

I don't usually read poetry and so I don't really know how to review it, but I am a fan of Leonard Cohen's music and I can say that his work holds up as well on paper as it does on vinyl. From the very first poem of this modest collection, in which he proclaims "Desire the horse, Depression the cart" (pg. 1), Cohen is on top form. Of course, given his fame as a songwriter, it is easy to forget nowadays that Cohen started out as a poet, and so he is on familiar ground here. He still has great affection for music (see 'His Master's Voice' on pg. 3), but his skill with the written word ensures that many of the selections in Book of Longing are stand-alone poems that you don't dismiss as merely song lyrics without the beat.

The selections herein are also impressively diverse, being romantic, spiritual, humorous, profound, self-deprecating or erotic, sometimes all at once. Many of the poems deal with his experience with Buddhism and invoke such teachings though, as he amusingly notes, these lessons were "so imperfectly grasped that I cannot be accused either of stealing or absorbing them" (pg. 232). Indeed, his attitude towards spirituality is often grumpy and humorous, and one can detect a longing for materialism in 'The Lovesick Monk' (pg. 13). But whilst Cohen can be cynical ("The book of love I read was wrong, It had a happy ending" - pg. 191), most of his songs are positive ("When hatred with his package comes, You forbid delivery." - pg. 55), if not necessarily upbeat ("In spite of the ache in your heart about the girl you never found, and the fact that after years of spiritual rigour, you did not manage to enlighten yourself, a certain cheerfulness will begin to arise out of your crushed hopes and intentions." - pg. 66).

Cohen also warns us against reading too deeply into his words ("Do not decode these cries of mine - They are the road, and not the sign." - pg. 42) but simply enjoy them (Undeciphered let my song, rewire circuits wired wrong." - pg. 43). And enjoy them we do.

Personal favourites include: 'My Life in Robes', 'S.O.S. 1995', 'Seisen is Dancing', 'You Are Right, Sahara', 'My Baby Wasn't There', 'If You Knew', 'How Could I Have Doubted', 'The Paris Sky', 'The Faithless Wife', 'Suggestions' and 'Report to R.S.B.' Oh, and of course:

"You go your way
I'll go your way too."

-- 'The Sweetest Little Song', pg. 111." ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
I keep this one in the kitchen, where I can take a solitary moment during meal prep to enjoy a page again. Sometimes, rarely, I force my guests to read a passage aloud, but only on special occasions. Hey, they almost always enjoy it!
Next to it was [The Tent], Atwood's volume of very very short stories and some poems. I lent it out to a very good friend who I believed would understand how I treasured it and haven't seen it for near a year, even after hints. So Leonard Cohen's book is NOT leaving my house!
1 vote loosha | Feb 3, 2009 |
This was the first book of poems I read by Leonard and I found it to be truly inspiring. His writing draws you in and takes you places that you can only dream of being. He has had such an eventful life which makes me want to travel around the world.

I highly recommend it. ( )
  nearlycivilized | Jan 16, 2009 |
’m going to be honest. Poetry intimidates the hell out of me. It didn’t used to be that way. I used to like poetry quite a bit. I like the way that people played with words. I liked the rhythm. But then once upon a time someone told me that I wasn’t just supposed to enjoy a poem. I was supposed to dig into it and flesh out all the symbolism and hidden meaning and blah, blah, blah. I was reading poetry wrong.
Basically they sucked the enjoyment completely out of it.

I’ve been gradually attempting to work my way back into the whole poetry. But still, I find that often people are seriously well…serious about poetry. And I am not.

Which is why I enjoyed Leonard Cohen’s Book Of Longing. While reading it you do get the feeling that Cohen sees the whole poet status thing less than seriously and appears to encourage you to as well.

Read the rest here. ( )
1 vote sassymonkey | Dec 30, 2008 |
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» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Leonard Cohenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Angelskår, PålTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eldrid LundenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frode GryttenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Geir GulliksenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gunnhild ØyehaugTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hanne BramnessTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kari BremnesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lars Lillo-StenbergTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Linda Skårbrevik KlakkenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nils-Øivind HaagensenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pedro Carmona-AlvarezTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Per Ivar MartinsenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ragnar HovlandTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ruth LillegravenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Terje DragsethTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I can't make the hills / The system is shot / I'm living on pills / For which I thank G-d
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 006112561X, Paperback)

Leonard Cohen wrote the poems in Book of Longing—his first book of poetry in more than twenty years—during his five-year stay at a Zen monastery on Southern California's Mount Baldy, and in Los Angeles, Montreal, and Mumbai. This dazzling collection is enhanced by the author's playful and provocative drawings, which interact in exciting, unexpected ways on the page with poetry that is timeless, meditative, and often darkly humorous. An international sensation, Book of Longing contains all the elements that have brought Cohen's artistry with language worldwide recognition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:48 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"Internationally celebrated for his writing and his music, Leonard Cohen is one of the legendary writers, performers, and most consistently daring artists of our time. Book of Longing is his new collection of poetry - twenty years in the making - written on southern California's Mount Baldy and in Los Angeles, Montreal, and Mumbai. Following his acclaimed 1984 publication, Book of Mercy, and containing Cohen's own line drawings, Book of Longing brings together all the elements that have elevated Leonard Cohen's artistry to worldwide recognition."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141027568, 0141399406

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