SOMETHING FROM THE EARLY SEVENTIES: Leonard Cohen (The Book of Longing)
By and all, or by and large, as you say, the reading public’s disinterest in the novel of sensibility behooves itself very well. Or to put it differently, I am very different from most of you, and the older I get, the gladder. I should have come from a different country to entertain you with the horrors of my native land, but I didn’t. I came from your very midst, or you could say, your very mist. I am your very mist. But don’t be alarmed; you are not in the presence of a verbal fidget. If I strain too easily to push a pun into profundity, it is only because I am at the end of my tether. I’ve taken too much acid, or I’ve been too lonely, or I’ve been educated beyond my intelligence, or however you want to explain me away. It’s a pity if someone has to consider himself for the wreck of his days with the notion that somehow his voice, his work embodies the deepest, most obscure, freshest, rawest oyster of reality in the unfathomable refrigerator of the heart’s ocean, but I am such a one, and there you have it. It is really amazing how famous I am to those few who truly comprehend what I am about. I am the Voice of Suffering and I cannot be comforted. Many have tried but apprarently, and mercifully, I am immune to their shabby consolations. I will capture your tear without hardly trying, in the vast net of my idle prattle. I am going to tell you such a love story that you will make you happy because you are not me, but who knows, you may be sobbing behind your ecstasy, as I have hinted, or even promised. I think it’s a good story. I think it’s tough. I think it’s got fibre. I’ve told it to a lot of people and they all liked it. I am going to tell it to you. Among my credentials, I am the creator of the Black Photograph. Ask some informed commuter on the subway and he might growl scornfully: Oh yeah, he’s the guy who takes a lot of trouble setting up a picture and then holds his hands over the lens when he snaps it. I am truly amused by the fictitious traveller’s conversation and I will let his description stand for the process of my art. My art, my eternity. I will be the delight of future eyes when this grotesque parody of humanity has evolved into something no doubt, worse. These future monsters of the unborn seed will pass many excellent vacations of intensity immersed in the emanations of my colourless rectangles. A few years back a clever New York art dealer attempted to capitalize on the most obvious aspects of my eternity, and for a few months I was a figure on Tenth Street, and the darling of a small clique of curiously small and thin people, who were devoted to promoting a “new” form of human expression called ArtScience. Some of these fanatics tried to convince me that they understood what I was doing. Needless to say, they were barking, as was Adam of the fable, up the wrong tree. Nothing anyone has ever said about the Black Photograph has ever meant a fig to me, except, of course, to Nico. She could read them. She knew what I was doing. She knew who I was. And I long for her still. I will pick my way back through the boredom and irrelevance of the last few decades and tell you a time when I was truly alive, in the human sense, of course. In the other sense, in the realm of the Grecian Urn, in the annals of crystal and imperishable diamond. I have remained the Absolute Creator, life itself to whatever I touched, as immediate, as irresistible, as wild and and undeniable as a woman’s hand on the adolescent groin. I have been, I am, and I will remain the Ch—t of Matter, and the Redeemer of the Inert. Now you may have an inkling of the spirit in which I conceived for myself the challenge of the Black Photograph. Nico perceived me immediately through all my pathetic bullshit, as some would, and should, call it. My work, among other things, is a monument to Nico’s eyes. That there was such a pair in my own time, and that I met them, forehead to forehead,; that the Black Photograph sang to other irises, and yes, corneas, retinas and optic nerves, all the way down foul leather bag to Nico’s restless heart, another human heart; that this actually happened constitutes the sole assault or my loneliness that the Eternal has every made, and it was her.
Therefor I was in New York at a curtain time, in a certain place; actually it was The Chelsea Hotel. This clever art dealer, call him Ahab, possessed the sad misimpression that I would enjoy coming in and going through grimy lobby heaped and hung with the fashionable excrement of the ambitious hustlers in the studios above: enormous reproductions of cigar boxes; pillowlike canvases billowing over their innocent frames like so many beer bellies; infantile electromagnetic devices to advertise the artist’s acquaintance with technology; mobiles, so badly constructed, that they compounded their capacity for psychic offence with a physical hazard; cognac snifters of various size, painted red and enclosed in a glass cabinet; all in the name of some dreary change of perspective, as if that’s what humanity needs; and all these tricks, all these ugly motives, all this poisonous medicine chest of Gotham cunning, promoting itself as the urgent specific to a dying culture; all this profanity made flesh; quickly accumulating layer after layer of viscous grit generated on Twenty-Third Street, and in the low heavens of the neighbourhood; – a presage of the dirty treasure’s soon-to-be-unnoticed burial under the sands of the time. That’s the hotel he put me in. He thought I was one of them. Also Dylan Thomas sailed out from the lobby to pierce his eye on a rose-thorn and hence or thence to assume his rightful overstuffed easy chair in the crowded pantheon of flabby heroism. It can be quickly divined I am no friend of the age.
Found in ‘The Book of Longing’ by Leonard Cohen, can be found at http://www.bookoflonging.com
An interesting read, makes one want to wash their mind with sand and retain its message. If you understand the message of isolation, the pride associated in the isolation, the contempt for movements, I think you can understand his sentiments. It’s well written, the subject is not beautiful, and does not need to be treated as being beautiful – I appreciate it for that alone. He at once triumphs the arrogance of isolating yourself in such a way, but dismisses himself at the same moment.