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Book of Longing Hardcover – Apr 25 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: McClelland & Stewart; 1 edition (April 25 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771022344
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771022340
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.1 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #642,343 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Renowned singer-songwriter Cohen also boasts a reputation as a writer for the printed page, especially in his native Canada. This capacious collection (his first since 1993's Stranger Music) compiles musings, jottings, quatrains, brief lyrics, prose meditations and offhand epigrams, along with Cohen's ink drawings and work in his own handwriting. The melancholy Cohen displays both a surface humility and an underlying self-confidence as he reflects on women (as when recalling his seduction of "the most beautiful girl/ on the religious left"), Zen doctrine, his own advancing age (Cohen turned 70 two years ago) and the legacy of the '60s. Many poems feel like his song lyrics: "Sometimes just a list/ Of my events/ Is holier than the Bill of Rights/ And more intense." The volume will get a boost from Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man, a documentary scheduled for theatrical release. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.


“[Book of Longing] is not so much an illustrated collection of poems as it is a shaped autobiography.”
— Globe and Mail

“It reaffirms Cohen’s mastery in the domain of desire, and devotees will not be disappointed.”
— Austin Chronicle

“Tenderness may have replaced passion, but Cohen’s ability to capture this shift makes it poignant and meaningful. . . . Cohen has taken what his friend Irving Layton called ‘the inescapable lousiness of growing old’ and has given it, in its waning days, a profound romantic dignity.”
— Montreal Gazette

“He’s shown an uncanny knack for expressing the changing Zeitgeist.”
— Toronto Star

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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By Simon R. Brown on July 25 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It lived up to all expectations I loved it
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 80 reviews
118 of 122 people found the following review helpful
Action and Contemplation, Cigarettes and Asceticism, Clutching Fast and Letting Go May 31 2006
By Andrew Schonbek - Published on
Format: Hardcover
These are just some of the themes explored by Leonard Cohen in this very excellent volume of verse.

But hold on - how do cigarettes qualify as a theme? Well perhaps they don't quite make it to the thematic level, but they do put in enough appearances to be seen as noteworthy.

Here is an excerpt from a poem entitled "The Cigarette Issue":

But what is exactly the same
is the promise, the beauty
and the salvation
of cigarettes
the little Parthenon
of an unopened pack of cigarettes

and Mumbai, like the Athens
of forty years ago
is a city to smoke in

Cohen manages to weave a smoke into his deft handling of the tension and attraction of opposites in "What Did It", which follows in its entirety...

An acquaintance told me
that the great sage
Nisargadatta Maharaj
Once offered him a cigarette,
"Thank you, sir, but I don't smoke."
"Don't smoke?" said the master,
"What's life for?"

And so it goes, dealing with life and death, love and lust, spirit and truth, and the path the author has walked in his quest for God, or G-d, as he chooses reverentially to refer to him.

While Cohen's wry humor and self deprecating detachment are at times in evidence, some verses are almost terrifying in their seriousness and immediacy. The following is from "By the Rivers Dark" which makes up the lyrics of a song by the same name on the excellent CD "Ten New Songs"...

then he struck my heart
with a deadly force
and he said, "This heart
it is not yours."

Interspersed throughout the volume is a series of self portraits of the artist as an apparently angst filled old man, juxtaposed against his arresting sketches of a number of exceedingly voluptuous women.

But in the end this is a wistful book and it is appropriate that it is entitled "Book of Longing".

Here is "Nightingale", in its entirety:

I built my house beside the wood
So I could hear you singing
And it was sweet and it was good
And love was all beginning

Fare thee well my nightingale
`Twas long ago I found you
Now all your songs of beauty fail
The forest closes `round you

The sun goes down behind a veil
`Tis now that you would call me
So rest in peace my nightingale
Beneath your branch of holly

Fare thee well my nightingale
I lived but to be near you
Though you are singing somewhere still
I can no longer hear you
77 of 78 people found the following review helpful
Confessional poetry and writings from a wise and humorous soul.... May 30 2006
By Laurie Eckhout - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is Leonard Cohen. You get tongue-in-cheek self portraits dispersed amongst words that are sometimes funny, sometimes shocking, sometimes brilliant observations and sometimes self depricating honesty that reveals the always human-ness and always unique voice of this living legend of a song writer, writer and poet, Mr. Leonard Cohen.

This guy is Interesting with a capital "I." Reason enough to check out his long awaited book of poems, drawings and essays. Another reason is that unlike most books of poetry it is 'entertaining' without sacrificing intelligence. His wry humour is laugh out loud funny in the the short essay, "The Luckiest Man in the World" and poems such as, "Never Once."

He speaks of things that matter to him: his teacher, Roshi, pine trees, G-d, women, sex, laughter, mists, women and most of all from what I see the unending mystery of "self" (and women). When that self is Leonard Cohen it is worth stopping what you are doing and reading what he has to say.

Then, if you are not familiar with Cohen's music, you are missing some of the best written lyrics and music, ever.


26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Book of Longing, by Leonard Cohen March 8 2007
By Anne O. - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For anyone who loves Leonard Cohen's music, this book is a wonderful collection of poems, drawings, images, rants, recollections and celebrations. Some of the material is in the film called Leonard Cohen/I'm Your Man, and like the songs, the book speaks of love and loss, pain and sorrow in his inimitable, elliptical style. Fun to read and easy to pick up and put down at any point.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A Long Time Coming For Modern Poetry Feb. 16 2008
By Fixed Stars Govern a Life - Published on
Verified Purchase
Leonard Cohen's Book of Longing

Aside from being a creative genius in a multitude of artistic disciplines, Leonard Cohen is an old man. And with age comes wisdom. Take for example, this stanza from "Better."

better than art
is repulsive art
which demonstrates
better than scripture
the tiny measure
of your improvement

No dummy, this guy. But then, you knew that already.

Twenty years in the making, Book of Longing [Ecco/HarperCollins]was written on southern California's Mount Baldy and in Los Angeles, Montreal and Mumbai. The author of twelve books and seventeen albums of music, this collection of poems follows his highly acclaimed 1984 publication, Book of Mercy. Containing his own wonderful, playful and provocative line drawings, Book of Longing is a celebration of one of contemporary times' best and truest flesh-and-blood examples of unlimited artistic expression.

Leonard Cohen's poetry is loaded with Bukowski's truth and simple statements, but without the ugliness. There are tons of love poems, reflections on drinking and God (oops, I mean "G-d"--he's Jewish, you know), loneliness, philosophy, aging, friendships, food, sober highs, celebrations of the body and sex, sex, sex. But it's all done with manners--a classiness Bukowski never knew-- a masculine sensitivity that's never maudlin, and a ripe, heavy, juice-laden life that few words in print have ever had the strength to carry.

There are some moments when Cohen veers into classical meter and rhyme, but he pulls it off with the smart currency of the lyric, and yet somehow, even in the hipness, he can still manage to make the reader tear up:

And fragrant is the thought of you
The file on you complete
Except what we forgot to do
A thousand kisses deep

There is unresolved anger and hurt:

I could not kill
the way you kill
I could not hate
I tried, I failed


Fare thee well my nightingale
I lived but to be near you
Though you are singing somewhere still
I can no longer hear you

But mostly, in all its spiritual, physical and emotional forms, there is truth:

This is it
I'm not coming after you
I'm going to lie down for half an hour
This is it
I'm not going down
on your memory
I'm not rubbing my face in it anymore
I'm going to yawn
I'm going to stretch
I'm going to put a knitting needle
up my nose
and poke out my brain
I don't want to love you
for the rest of my life
I want your skin
to fall off my skin
I want my clamp
to release your clamp
I don't want to live
with this tongue hanging out
and another filthy song
in the place
of my baseball bat
This is it
I'm going to sleep now darling
Don't try to stop me
I'm going to sleep
I'll have a smooth face
and I'm going to drool
I'll be asleep
whether you love me or not
This is it
The New World Order
of wrinkles and bad breath
It's not going to be
like it was before
eating you
with my eyes closed
hoping you won't get up
and go away
It's going to be something else
Something worse
Something sillier
Something like this
only shorter

And when the reader gets to the last page, they know it can never be it. There is no choice but to turn back to the first page and start again.

O my love
don't you know that we have been killed
and that we died together
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Classic Cohen Nov. 5 2006
By F. W. Macneill - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Okay, it's a mixed bag, like most of Cohen's work - ranging from the confusing and chaotic through to the sublime. It's a bit like the curate's egg, only the other way around, in that it's mostly good, and even the bad bits are still pretty good. For me, part of the pleasure of Cohen is precisely the chaotic mass of material, from which many gems emerge, glowing into the strange half-light of Cohen's percetions and vision.

It's also filled with fundamental material for those with an interest in Cohen's life, evolving 'philosophies' and emerging opus.

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