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Leonard Cohen's 1966 Beautiful Losers is ambitiously filthy. Few Canadian novels before or since are as sexual, but there's more filth here than just squirming bodies. It is in fact the novel's psychological intimacy that will make you want a long, hot shower with astringent soap. Beautiful Losers is devoted exclusively to four characters, three of them points in a love triangle--the scholarly narrator, his Aboriginal wife Edith, and his lifelong "friend" and mentor F.--and the fourth a 17th-century Iroquois saint whose life the narrator obsessively researches. The protean, mercurial, and intense F. is a kind of artist of existence, one hopefully found more often in fiction than in reality. Though capable of buying a factory or winning an election, F. is often destitute and glad to rob sustenance and sex from his friends. He has taken the narrator as a protégé (or a victim) of his increasingly dangerous tests of desire. Surviving the hedonistic, self-destructive deaths of F. and the unfaithful Edith, the unnamed scholar even seems humiliated as narrator, as if he's cleaning up his own apartment after a party he didn't plan.
Canada has had a bumper crop of poet-novelist switch hitters: Margaret Atwood, Robert Kroetsch, Anne Michaels, Michael Ondaatje. Their novels are sure to dazzle with their language, but some readers may lower their expectations of plot and character. Similarly, Cohen the poet will snare you with his introverted, confessional prose, so easily lent to the aphorism. "Grief makes us precise." "What is most original in a man's nature is often that which is most desperate." "I am not enjoying sunsets, then for whom do they burn?" These dagger-like pensées, along with the sheer inscrutability of F., will sustain those readers who don't like sunshine (again, it's very claustrophobic inside this book), while plot purists may find the masturbatory plot, well, masturbatory. --Darryl Whetter --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Dubbed "an unstructured, free-form, irreverent novel" ( LJ 4/1/66) by LJ 's reviewer, Beautiful Losers seemed too strange even for the Sixties. Nevertheless, the book went on to become a cult hit, selling more than 400,000 copies before going out of print. The novel is now being reissued to coincide with the upcoming publication of Cohen's Stranger Music. With its gay relationships, homages to Canadian Native Americans, and search for the meaning of life, this may now find wider acceptance in the mainstream. For public libraries.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
I could not get through this book. I picked it up for a book club, but it was definitely written for the 60s.Published 17 months ago by Christine
Funny, I was reading this book. I was dating a girl that looked like Catherine Tekakwitha, as described by Cohen. Might have wanted to live the same experiences. Did not. Read morePublished on Oct. 31 2012 by Marc-Andre Sharpe
Written more like poetry then a novel, Beautiful Losers was for me a very good book but also not very easy to read. Read morePublished on Feb. 2 2010 by tiziana
I bought this book out of reverence for the man who wrote Bird on a Wire and so much other incredible, passionate music. Read morePublished on Aug. 23 2001 by TomTommyC
While his songs and poetry are among some of my favorite, I must say I wish Cohen had written more novels. Beautiful Losers is brilliant in both conception and structure. Read morePublished on July 16 2001 by Okla Elliott
The language in Beautiful Losers may not be as prolifically dirty as it might first appear and once again we bow our heads to James Joyce but only for a second as we attempt to... Read morePublished on May 22 2001 by Paul Escu
I've been listening to Leonard Cohen for about a year. Yesterday I saw his book at Barnes & Noble and started reading. Read morePublished on July 16 2000 by James Pendley
I have seen images in this book I will never, ever forget. This book takes you places you never knew a mind could take you. Read morePublished on June 20 2000 by D. Harrison