The Lady and The Ladies’ Man
The Arts section of the 26 May 2007 Globe & Mail features Life of a ladies’ man, an extensive article about Leonard Cohen by Sarah Hampson.
One could argue – and I do – that a more accurate characterization would be “an extensive article about Leonard Cohen and Sarah Hampson by Sarah Hampson.” This excerpt contains the lede and second paragraph:
The park is like a poem: self-contained and spare. Smokers sit on benches in the morning drizzle. Pigeons swoop over a small gazebo, under the limbs of stately trees. There is a solemn-looking house, three storeys high with a grey stone facade. It’s the only one that faces this park in the east end of Montreal, and it’s his. There are two big front doors, side by side. No numbers. No bell. No indication which one is right. You just pick, and knock.
There is more than one way into the world of Leonard Cohen, and on this day in late April, they are all open.
The article continues like this for another 3531 words, if my word processor’s statistics function is accurate.
It seems like more.
The article is replete with Ms Hampson’s self-references, thinly and annoyingly veiled by the pseudo-second person voice the author affects, perhaps in a failed attempt to camouflage the narcissistic taint of her writing that would be blatantly apparent in a conventional first person narrative.
He [Cohen] will entrance you in the stillness of a moment that stretches to five hours, and in the end, because you happened to ask, playfully, he will say sure, come back any time for a soak in the claw-footed tub, one of several in his house, that sits in a closet of a bathroom under the slope of the stairs.
One can imagine my disappointment that the next paragraph did not, as I anticipated, begin “You feel pretty, Oh, so pretty, You feel pretty and witty and bright!”
The reader is treated to profundities such as
Every question, he greets like an invitation to make himself understood. Leonard Cohen, the icon, is a concept he likes to toy with, as if it is both him and not.
Translated into prose, these sentences (I think) become When asked what kind of person he is, Leonard Cohen responds with answers about what kind of person he thinks he is. And, he is willing to talk about the difference between the role he plays as a performer and his role as a private individual.
Allusions to a special, shared intimacy stud the paragraphs.
Don’t ask how the subject of casual sex in the sixties came up. It was part of the unfolding of the Saturday afternoon, the laziness of it, like an endless meal of many courses, which you keep expecting to end but never does. You cover one subject, and thank him for his time, thinking he may be tired of talking now, but he doesn’t take the opportunity to say goodbye. “Here, relax, eat,” he will say. “Have more wine. Would you like a piece of cherry pie?” And then the conversation continues.
I, for one, wasn’t going to to ask “how the subject of casual sex in the sixties came up,” rendering this instruction not only rhetorical but also superfluous – oh, and irritating.
I could go on; Ms. Hampson certainly does.
And perhaps I’m just cranky today. Others may enjoy the rococo prose that finds significance in every artifact observed and every name dropped:
Over a bottle of Château Maucaillou, Greek bread, a selection of Quebec cheeses and a fresh cherry pie, bought for the occasion from the local St-Laurent Boulevard merchants, you learn that he prefers to sleep alone; that he is no longer looking for another woman; the real reason he secluded himself in a Buddhist monastery for almost five years; and that a small, faded portrait of Saint Catherine Tekakwitha, the 17th-century native woman and heroine of his novel Beautiful Losers, hangs on the wall in his kitchen, above a table holding a fifties radio and a telephone with on oversize dial pad.
In any case, there are some interesting tidbits and numerous Leonard Cohen quotes that make feeling ones way through this barrel of stylistic molasses worthwhile.
Diabetics, however, may wish to increase their insulin dosage before beginning the piece.
Anjani and Anjani Thomas: An Aside On Names
Anjani and Anjani Thomas are, for the purposes of the Heck of a Guy blog, synonymous names, both of which refer to the exotically lovely, dulcet-voiced singer best known for her Blue Alert CD and her long-term relationship with Leonard Cohen. I include this clarification on posts about Anjani-Anjani Thomas in part for the purpose of what the folks at Wikipedia call disambiguation (i.e., to positively identify for the reader and remove any doubts the reader might have about which Anjani of all the possible Anjanis is being discussed) and in part to aid and abet the search engines. While a rose is, famously, a rose is a rose, a “tea rose,” for example, is not exactly the same as a “rose” – especially to a search engine. Searches that include “Anjani” as part of the search terms may not produce the same results as the same search terms other with “Anjani Thomas” substituted for “Anjani.” Should any other Anjani, say one who has not produced a CD called “Blue Alert” or one who has not been associated with Leonard Cohen for the decade, I promise to do my best to make that identification clear as well.