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Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen

Beautiful Losers (original 1966; edition 1993)

by Leonard Cohen

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1,216None6,543 (3.45)28
Title:Beautiful Losers
Authors:Leonard Cohen
Info:Vintage (1993), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Fiction, Read but unowned
Tags:Canada, Gone to charity, 1960s

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Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen (1966)



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A novel of beautiful passages and long, quasi-interesting metaphysical mumbo-jumbo befitting an experimental novel from the late-60s. A lot of Cohen's most famous scenes of love, betrayal, cuckoldry, desperation and sexuality appear here in various degrees of perfection.

All the passages about emotion, love and sex---about ownership in the age of free love---are beautiful and arresting. The narrator's love-triangle relationship with F., his swashbuckling companion, and Edith (his deceased wife) is truly powerful stuff.

It is Cohen's insistence of making the novel Metafictional, and historical, that really chunks the narrative down to a dulled pace. A lot of his points about history, story, and memory are made more powerfully thru the interactions of the novel's main characters than thru the narrator's often longwinded ramblings about Katherine and Canada.

Stylistically, Cohen is a genius, and his composition is virtually flawless on a sentence-by-sentence basis. However, sometimes beautiful prose and beautiful ideas are not enough to propel a novel's narrative and emotional weight.

A flawed, but beautiful novel, that always managed to make me bored after 20 pages, mostly because the scenes of emotional weight are pancaked between long portions of what seems to me like the sort of Academic pandering that has plagued Canadian writing for a while (OH, History is subjective! woop woop! Canadian Identity, woop!)

I struggled for years to enjoy this novel and eventually gave up around the half-way mark. This is upsetting since I am a HUGE Leonard Cohen mark and have always wanted to like his experimental writing. Unfortunately the novel is less enjoyable than the sum of its parts. ( )
  blanderson | Mar 4, 2014 |
Leonard Cohen walks a precarious tightrope balancing the sacred and the profane and, because he is *the* Leonard Cohen, doesn't fall from his great height. At the same time, it is very disjointed and a little unclear. It's an exploration of sexuality but way more than that. Though Beautiful Losers is perhaps Cohen's most well known and highly appraised novel, I liked "The Favorite Game" better. Some memorable quotes from this one:

"Jealousy is the education you have chosen"
"Ordinary eternal machinery like the grinding of the stars."

"You don't polish windows in a car wreck:

"I'm tired of facts. I'm tired of speculations. I want to be consumed by unreason."

"The hospitals have drawers of Cancer which they do not own."
"Nausea is an earthquake in your eye"
"Even the world has a body."
"We are all of us tormented with your glory."

"Steam coming off the planet, clouds of fleecy steam as boy and girl populations clash in religious riots, hot and whistling like a graveyard sodomist our little planet embraces its fragile yo-yo destiny, tuned in the secular mind like a dying engine."
(p. 150)

"In Montréal, spring is like an autopsy. Everyone wants to see the inside of the frozen mammoth"

"Above him on the electric wires perched the first crows of the year, arranged between the poles like abacus beads."
(p. 234)

"Quickly now, as if even he participated in the excitement over the unknown, he greedily assembled himself into-into a movie of Ray Charles. Then he enlarged the screen, degree by degree like a documentary on the Industry. The moon occupied one lens of his sunglasses, and he laid out his piano keys across a shelf of the sky, and leaned over him as though they were truly the row of giant fishes to feed a hungry multitude. A fleet of jet planes dragged his voice over us who were holding hands."
( )
1 vote kirstiecat | Mar 31, 2013 |
A tad more experimental, dare-I-say "jazzy" than his other prose (not that it has anything to do with jazz music.) Leonard Cohen always writes as Leonard Cohen - every word is a bit of himself - and in this book he's a little more free with his descriptions and metaphors, almost more poetic with pacing of words and sentences, and as always, tres sexy. ( )
  palaverofbirds | Mar 29, 2013 |
Obscure. ( )
  stephengal | Apr 13, 2012 |
I love Leonard Cohen's music, but I didn't like his book. I thought it was too angsty, and these days, most things where people shit themselves as part of some kind of social commentary remind me of books written for people who like Radiohead too much. ( )
  climbingtree | May 19, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
"...a lyrical dream of Montreal, combined with Canadian religious history and the nature of sainthood."
added by SaintSunniva | editWorld Book Encyclopedia, Laurie R. Ricou (Dec 30, 1999)
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Somebody said lift that bale.

-- Ray Charles singing Ol' Man River
for Steve Smith (1943-1964)
First words
Catherine Tekakwitha, who are you?
Information from the Norwegian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Bønn er oversettelse. Et menneske oversetter seg selv til et barn som ber om alt mulig på et språk det knapt behersker.
Er det kjøttet som straffer meg? Er det noen ville bølinger som har et skjevt øye til meg? Mord i kjøkkenet! Dachau-gårdstun! Vi oppdretter levende vesener bare for å spise dem! Elsker Gud en slik verden? For et nifst matsystem! Alle vi dyrestammer i evig krig! Hva har vi vunnet på det? Menneskene, matnazistene! Døden som matsystemets fundament! Hvem skal be kyrne om unnskyldning? Det er ikke vår feil, det var ikke vi som fant det på. Disse nyrene er nyrer. Dette er ikke en kylling, det er en kylling. Tenk på dødsleirene i hotellkjellerne. Blod på putene! Materie spiddet på tannbørstene! Alle dyr spiser, ikke for nytelse, ikke for gull, ikke for makt, men bare for å leve. For hvis evige Nytelse? I morgen begynner jeg å faste.
Jeg husker et av K'ungs ordtak som han var glad i: Når Mesteren spiste sammen med en mann i sorg, spiste han seg aldri mett. Onkler! onkler! hvordan våger en eneste av oss å spise?
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679748253, Paperback)

One of the best-known experimental novels of the 1960s, Beautiful Losers is Cohen’ s most defiant and uninhibited work. The novel centres upon the hapless members of a love triangle united by their sexual obsessions and by their fascination with Catherine Tekakwitha, the 17th-century Mohawk saint.

By turns vulgar, rhapsodic, and viciously witty, Beautiful Losers explores each character’s attainment of a state of self-abandonment, in which the sensualist cannot be distinguished from the saint.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:06 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The life of an Indian maiden, the course of a homosexual affair, and the tale of an old man are woven together in this bizarre religious epic.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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