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Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen (1966)

  1. 00
    The Favourite Game by Leonard Cohen (Bridgey)
    Bridgey: My Favourite Game & Beautiful Losers are the only 2 novels by Cohen. Both confusing, but Beautiful losers doesn't seem to have too much in the way of a plot.

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A strange and difficult book, I confess that oftentimes I didn't really know what I was reading about in Beautiful Losers. Perhaps this is my fault, but it is certainly not a book that is easy to truly engage with. It veers wildly in style and substance; it varies from steady prose to experimental ramblings, from intensely eloquent poetry to crude imagery and vulgar language. Obtuse and borderline impenetrable, it occasionally introduces passages in untranslated French and Greek. Consequently, it is hard to really get a grasp on it. Cohen himself, in a 'Note to the Reader' at the end of my 2009 Blue Door edition, describes it, in his endearingly modest, self-deprecating way, as 'the frenzied thoughts of my youth' and 'more of a sunstroke than a book'. These are apt descriptions, and there is no sure way of determining whether prospective readers will enjoy it (though surely devoted Cohenites like myself will have patience with it). For my part, I enjoyed having Cohen's prose swimming around in my head, even though the larger picture failed to manifest itself. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
Well what to say about this book. One of the dirtiest books I've read in a long time. Some pearls of writing to be found, but to have wade through all the crap and other human fluids. M. Cohen should perhaps stick to song writing. ( )
  charlie68 | Oct 23, 2014 |
Beautiful losers - Leonard Cohen ***

Leonard Cohen is a man of many talents. I consider him the greatest songwriter (second only to Dylan) in the world, an amazing and thought provoking poet and accomplished artist. The man oozes charisma and intelligence from every pore and attending his live concerts has ranked amongst some of the best moments of my life. However, Cohen is less known as a novelist and has published two novels (My Favourite Game & Beautiful Losers) very early on in his career.

I first discovered Beautiful losers around 10 years ago and after sitting there for over a hour and found that I couldn't even get through the first 30 pages. It was then duly placed to one side and forgotten about. I have always wished that I had persevered as I was sure that I was missing something. With this in mind I picked it up again and settled down for a read.

The novel is split into 3 parts, the first part is told through the eyes of an anonymous narrator and details his bizarre relationship with his wife (Edith) and best friend ('F'), interwoven into this is the story of Catherine Tekakwitha a 17th Century Saint. As the narrator recounts past events (whether real or imagined we are never totally sure) it becomes apparent that out of the group he is the only one left alive. All sounds a little bizarre? That's because it is. Although the previous sentence may indicate that there is some sort of plot to the novel you would be extremely hard pressed to find one. What about themes I hear you ask? Well for me the only really apparent theme was that of sex. Graphic descriptions on practically every page (I am sure that this book must hold some sort of record for using the c*** word) that would give even Richard Laymon a run for his money. I am no prude and this sort of thing really doesn't bother me in the slightest, but it just gets very tiresome after the first 100 or so times. I understand that this was written in 1966 during the 'sexual revolution' and maybe this had some sort of influence on Cohen, although he has admitted himself that it was produced under the influence of 'fasting and amphetamines'.

The second part of the book follows much the same as the first, only this is written in the form of a letter to the narrator. The 3rd part is much briefer and I really hoped for some kind of epiphany moment whereby I would put my finger in the air and declare 'So this is what it was all about!', it never happened.

However, despite all the various illogical ramblings there are some moments of brilliance to be found within the pages. We all know the wit and insight that Cohen is capable of and it is well worth wading through the endless nonsense. Such highlights as:

"What is most original in a man's nature is often that which is most desperate. Thus new systems are forced on the world by men who simply cannot bear the pain of living with what is."

Are accompanied by such drivel as:

"Edith Edith Edith long things forever Edith Edie cuntie Edith where your little Edith Edith Edith Edith Edith stretchy on E E E octopus complexion purse Edith lips lips area thy panties Edit Edith Edith Edith knew you your wet rivulets Eeeeddddiiiittthhhh yug yug sniffle truffle deep bulb bud button sweet soup pea spit rub hood rubber knob girl come head bup bup one bloom pug pig yum one tip tongue lug from end of bed of lips multiple lost sunk gone rise girl head small come knob splash sunk lostlick search nose help wobble hard once more lurk up girl knob bob bubble sunk in normal skin folds lab drowned lady labia up up appear pea bean..."

I keep wanting to love the book and really tried to love it. It appears on Amazon that a number of people do, but an almost equal number don't. Maybe I will revisit it one day in the future again and once more hope for the 'epiphany' moment. But I wonder if this was uncredited work how many of those raving reviews would remain. ( )
1 vote Bridgey | Jul 14, 2014 |
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. ( )
1 vote 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 |
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"...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)
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Catherine Tekakwitha, who are you?
Information from the Norwegian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:37 -0400)

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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)

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