More Of A Good Thing: Barbara Gowdy’s Interview With Leonard Cohen
Last week, Heck Of A Guy published Leonard Cohen On The Songwriter Submitting To The Anvil Of Rhythm And Rhyme, which featured a two minute video segment of an interview of Leonard Cohen by Canadian novelist and short story author, Barbara Gowdy (pictured below) held on November 19, 1992.1
Then, two days ago, a 19 minute video of the same interview, with higher quality video and sound, showed up TVO’s Public Archive.
It should be noted that even this longer video is edited and does not include the full interview as documented in the 1994 book “One on One: The Imprint Interviews” (edited by Leanna Crouch and published by Somerville House Publishing). The complete transcript is now available at the indispensable Speaking Cohen site: Leonard Cohen By Barbara Gowdy. For example, this description of Los Angeles is absent from the video:
Gowdy: You live in L.A. part of the year, don’t you?
Cohen: Well, I find myself down there a lot and I’ve been unable to develop a strategy of habitation. Sometimes I’m down there, sometimes I’m in Montreal.
Gowdy: When we up here in Canada think of being a writer in L.A., it seems as if there would be too many distractions, the glamour and the drive-by shootings. Does that affect your work?
Cohen: I think that L.A. has a very appropriate landscape for my work. It is really truly an apocalyptic landscape. Geologically, the place is about to fly apart. Socially and politically, we know that it’s erupting every two years, there is real social unrest, and many of the writers who’ve worked there have perceived that this is the place where the destruction of the American psyche is going on in a very discernible manner. I find it a very hospitable place to work.
Cohen: It seems to be true. The social contract is fraying. People are not quite certain how to behave with one another. It is up for grabs. I don’t like that part of it. Especially since my daughter’s been living with me, I really have felt that I’d like to get back to Canada.
Cohen Interview Features
The content covered includes Cohen’s self-casting as a prophet, his concern about the collapse of ” whole investment in private space that the West has painfully established over the centuries,” (remember, this interview took place more than 15 years ago), the “return to suspicion, superstition, return to the tribal paranoia,” the science and practice of poetics,2 “living with a kind of intolerable ambiguity,” and the failure of politicians to grasp the current state of real life.
Imprint 1993: Leonard Cohen
- The YouTube blub lists the date of the interview as 1993 but the 1992 date is provided by the York University archives as well as the Speaking Cohen site. [↩]
- I especially like Cohen’s explanation, “the reason I write is to discover the newness of my mind and the newness of my thought, and that can only be discovered when you submit yourself to this process in which you have to defend the words and the lines and the new ideas. Nothing new arises if you’re just allowed to unfold your thought with no tension.” [↩]