Inventive and quirky, but promises more than it delivers. The narrator's final swim through the underground reservoir above McGill campus is a metaphoInventive and quirky, but promises more than it delivers. The narrator's final swim through the underground reservoir above McGill campus is a metaphor for a quest that never arrives at any conclusion. Still, you could build a course around the many brilliant threads that Farah weaves into this narrative. Like the history of the Allan Memorial, a frustrating trail of dead ends....more
I am finally getting around to reading this biography which I was asked to review when it first came out in 1996. At the time I was distracted by seveI am finally getting around to reading this biography which I was asked to review when it first came out in 1996. At the time I was distracted by several factual errors that jumped out at me when I started reading it -- and which caused me to doubt the value of the whole book. I felt it was a staid rehashing of the already well-known (at least to me) facts of Leonard's career and life, by someone who didn't really "get" him, i.e. Nadel did a workmanly job of presenting the material, often without comment, as if he neither particularly liked nor disliked his subject. This time around, I'm impressed mainly by the quantity of his research, e.g. his quoting from Cohen's letters during his the early part of his career when he was struggling to make a name for himself and carve out a position in Canadian literature. In retrospect, his efforts to be taken seriously as a novelist and poet seem almost futile, given the hidden background, and what he was up against. I still see Cohen as a serious writer, whose novels and poems can be read as a multi-faceted assault on the society he had grown up in - but were marred by a kind of narcissistic self-obsession that was probably a cover for some real wounds that few could have fathomed back then.
I've written my own memoir of Cohen: The Man Next Door (available at Lulu.com). It deals with some of my own experiences with Cohen, on the streets of Montreal as I was coming of age, and later on Hydra and Mount Baldy as I got drawn deeper into the mystery religion that he seemed to embody. Since it ends on a bizarre note, I'm now the process of adding more chapters that are based on later realizations, some of which I've been posting at my blog (http://lunamoth1.blogspot.ca) since Leonard's death last November.
Re: Various Positions: one thing that makes it stand out is the raw objectivity some readers complain about. In particular, the chapters about life on Hydra, and Cohen's letters to friends and publishers, reveal sides of him that would shock a lot of his current fans and devotees. I think they probably shocked even Ira Nadel, who serves them up without comment. In fact, the young Cohen was often an obnoxious, self-obsessed megalomaniac who took drugs to deal with his frustrated ambitions. Nadel's biography at least makes it clear why Cohen was both envied and disliked in Canada: he was a braggart addicted to self-aggrandizing hyperbole. Somehow, Europeans were able to overlook this and focus on his songs, some of which were major works of art.
A whole fetishistic cult has lately grown up around him that is often based on trivia, and borders on sanctification -- especially at sites like Cohencentric.com where you can waste hours browsing through old photos, napkins and witty remarks to visited journalists. No singer has ever been more interviewed in his lifetime, and since his death no detail about Cohen's life is too boring to share with his legions of would-be lovers who never had the opportunity in real life to get to know him. But the real Cohen was a puzzle.
He also left behind an unfinished career as a writer -- choosing to reinvent himself in New York, London and Paris, where he could hide behind his image as a sophisticated, likeable iconoclast.
It's the Canadian chapters that are painful to read. I believe Cohen had a message for Canada that he found too overwhelming - which is one reason he had to write Beautiful Losers while high on amphetamines. I don't think anyone ever really penetrated to the core of his fiction, what it was actually about, what it was a screen for - not even Cohen himself. Canadian critics like Northrop Frye liked to suppress the ugly truths in the early poems and novels, calling them 'mythopeic' when in fact they were often closer to straight reportage about a country that was harbouring Nazis and engaging in secret genocide. Those were the real, deep reasons Leonard Cohen felt driven to write -- but Canada didn't really want that kind of writer.
I have to thank Ira Nadel for bringing some of the guck to the surface. In a few years, Cohen's handlers will probably have managed to bury most of it - and with it, the true story of Canada....more
I've become interested in what this first collection might have to say about the young Leonard Cohen, including his alleged "fascination with violenceI've become interested in what this first collection might have to say about the young Leonard Cohen, including his alleged "fascination with violence" -- there is certainly plenty of violent imagery in the poems I've read so far, including An Halloween Poem and Ballad, both of which appear to describe ritual killings. I sometimes wonder why critics never take Leonard literally, which would be a way to take him more seriously as a witness to actual events happening in his immediate environment when he was growing up.
where did the pampered rich kid acquire his conviction that the world is a place of spectacular cruelty? who taught him this lesson at a time when the European holocaust was barely acknowledged to have happened?...more
Utterly devastating, unbelievable and yet totally convincing. When I read this in 2002, I was researching the MKULTRA program and had already absorbedUtterly devastating, unbelievable and yet totally convincing. When I read this in 2002, I was researching the MKULTRA program and had already absorbed hundreds (if not thousands) of pages of testimony corroborating Cathy O'Brien's painstakingly detailed recollections of being sold by her father into a program that turned her into a mind controlled sex slave and "Presidential Model" to a series of world leaders including Gerald Ford, Dick Cheney, GHW Bush, Pierre Trudeau and Hillary Clinton. Not for sissies or the politically naive...more
IN LIEU OF AN ACTUAL REVIEW, I'M POSTING BITS OF MY RECENT EMAIL CONVERSATION WITH AUTHOR MICHAEL LAWRENCE: On Jim's paranoia? and the interrupted carIN LIEU OF AN ACTUAL REVIEW, I'M POSTING BITS OF MY RECENT EMAIL CONVERSATION WITH AUTHOR MICHAEL LAWRENCE: On Jim's paranoia? and the interrupted career of Michael's father, actor Marc Lawrence, known for playing gangster heavies in Hollywood movies like KEY LARGO and MARATHON MAN, to name just two of 175 --
Reading your book, the scene in Venice, CA, where you run from the cops, and later on the roof of Jim's apartment as a police helicopter circles overhead: i had the feeling that something was after Jim -- in those early chapters where you just describe what happened - the other recurring theme was drugs, LSD -- and then the larger world of art, the art world, art studies, film, Hollywood, Italy, and your dad -- your dad is his own mystery -
Dear Ann, I think Jim was tormented. Could be that he felt trapped as a human being, an insite I once felt! A sense of being locked into your body!
Or could also be a sense of not being gifted with the power to change the world, to open the flood gates of truth, love, sex, intelligence! There is a sense of touching on these issues in his poetry and not revealing this desire! This made his as you say, his mask as an artist, mysterious and compelling!
My view is simply that no one has examined the genius, merely the persona!
Re: My father Marc Lawrence: On Youtube you can see 'Pigs' a film he stars in along with my sister! 1971/Acting very interesting....also Shepard of the Hills 1940's, Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum....And about 175 others!
Only fragments from The Asphalt Jungle....but start there!
Dear Michael, I ended up watching the first few scenes of "Johnny Cool' it gave me some insights. I think the website said the film was a kind of personal statement about his life in exile --I was struck by the backstory: Italy during the war and 20 years later, when young Gio has grown up, and particularly the "fascist" presence and how it's portrayed, ie first we see the Nazis, later unidentified helmeted troops in a helicopter - was this Operation Gladio ?- information has come out about it in recent years - the fascist "stay-behind armies" that were connected to the P-2 Masonic Lodge and wreaked havoc in Europe throughout the post-war period and ongoing today. "Strategy of Tension" - The scene where Johnny Collini (Marc Lawrence) meets his future double, seems to happen in a church, but then Collini is not a priest - although he seems to belong to some hierarchy, so I'm guessing it's a reference to the ultra-powerful P-2 Lodge -- Sicily - the Mafia -- most of this is implied rather than spelled out or maybe some of it went over my head --
I'm wondering about your father's career, and how it must have influenced your life. One thing you left dangling in your book was exactly how your dad's testimony at HUAC affected his career -- and your future life in Italy. It seems there were other American exiles in Rome - what were they fleeing?
Dear Ann, Of course my father's career and persona greatly affected my life!!!! First playing bad guys and then the whole entanglement of the McCarthy period created my extreme alienated mental island. As Marc Lawrence's son a sort of atmosphere of suspicion towards me, as there was never clarity about that period for most people accept those that were blacklisted...which included my Uncle, who was a television writer! My dad who was terrified by the ordeal used alcohol and the creation of a Damon Runyon character who "learn't nothing and just went to meetings to get close to the 'broads'. There was a blond piano player....in a sense he made fun of the whole procedure! This infuriated the 'serious' liberals, made the Senators laugh....but dad played the part all the way! Some Republicans, like John Wayne, who admired my father as an actor took his performance for what it was worth....a kind of way to get through! He had been a member! For a short time! He tried to get out of the ordeal as playing gangsters in the films and being identified as an evil communist was a verisimilitude that he realized would damage his career....it did!
As his son I sensed things were wrong! And my father who could be extremely moody wasn't given to conversation! So a heaviness was apart of the household environment! Naturally kids at school and through university days and beyond....including the art world had a certain resistance to accepting me seeing themselves as liberal and progressive...except when it comes to the actual realities of career mobility! It is complex! Why be associated with the son of a Communist! On the other hand my dad had many admirers who, accepted his terror and decision to verify a few names of people whom he saw at cell meetings but added he not know if indeed they were members of the Communist party! Or were they just pretending? Hard to know! He did direct TV when we returned from Europe! Lee Marvin hired dad to direct most of the M-Squad Series! He came over once for breakfast! Years later I went out with his x Betty Marvin who was an artist! A lovely woman! My dad spent about ten yrs. Writing a book basically about how he felt and the choices he made and the pain he suffered! He self- published the book...Confessions of a Hollywood Gangster! Amount others Richard Burton very much liked the book and felt it should be read! My grandfather thought my father should have just denied his involvement! Well, all of this has given me a rather odd education! Seems finally that career and selfish behavior has no limits! Trump is a great example! There were of course many lovely times that I spent in family! While my father could be verbally abusive, he never slapped me down! He was actually a very gentle soul and loved beauty! Sadly he was trapped by the parts he was cast in and certainly could and should have been more focused and generous with himself! But he couldn't truly forgive himself and witnessing the sense of abandonment from much of his peer group! His life is a kind of tragedy....but he was proud of me and there is much of his spirit and energy in my nature! Well, I cover some of this in my other book Loaded Brush more fully! We had adventures with antiquity, acting seeing theater together, his visit to me in Paris! Attending an Andy Warhol party in LA! And other art events! My mother mostly stayed home! Dad and I had a certain deep rapore emotionally, more than intellectually! That was more in my mother's department! I miss them both! They did have the opportunity of reading the original manuscript of Tripping.... Each made suggestions! They were there for me on many levels! It might have been more expansive but each had strong and singular opinions.... Most of the time I would have to agree with them! Well, I know this is only a glimpse!
Hi Michael Thanks for clarifying all that! It's really fascinating. I sense your dad was very complex, like the environment you grew up in, aand your own response growing up in the 1950s... I can sense in "Johnny Cool" a great desire for justice and even revenge for damage inflicted ... I wasn't sure if your dad was actually a communist, or possibly an informer - and was afraid to ask. I knew two daughters of fathers who were blacklisted.. I can imagine your dad facing difficult choices, with unknown consequences - and also his role as a movie heavy had to have coloured his world, populated by some real gangsters, since the film industry was of great interest to the Mafia, and began to reflect the values of organized crime after the war (if not earlier). It's interesting to see this repeated mantra (spoken by Bogart in Key Largo, and also by Lawrence in Johnny Cool) about how the war was fought to defeat an enemy that still runs the world and calls the shots -- so evil has a whole new face, while good men have to adopt the ways of criminals -- the whole film noir tradition feeds on that history.
REVIEW OF ‘A CERTAIN GIRL’ (Rover Arts) Ms. Diamond s writing is by turns lyrical and engaging, brutally direct, sinister and unsettling. The narrative REVIEW OF ‘A CERTAIN GIRL’ (Rover Arts) Ms. Diamond s writing is by turns lyrical and engaging, brutally direct, sinister and unsettling. The narrative explores how ordinary parents driven by self-interest and naive patriotism - unwittingly enrolled their children in a covert eugenics agenda that posed as a program for "gifted children." Following the trail of clues, Diamond uncovers the roots of the program, in the Second World War when Nazi scientists and physicians performed bizarre experiments upon concentration camp prisoners. After the war, many Nazi engineers were brought to the US to work at NASA. Throughout the Cold War, extra-legal and cynically immoral activities were undertaken by Western governments to outpace the Soviets in intelligence gathering. A CERTAIN GIRL is a condensation of MY COLD WAR, a longer book that details the compelling process of how Diamond comes to realize how much of her childhood was missing, or hidden behind a curtain of trauma-based amnesia. (reviewer: Neil MacRae) ...more
Someone just gave me a copy of the first paperback M&S edition (copyright 1959) and, feeling guilty for not having read this Canadian classic decaSomeone just gave me a copy of the first paperback M&S edition (copyright 1959) and, feeling guilty for not having read this Canadian classic decades ago, I started it last night. I'm rating my "enjoyment level" although I'm only on page 30 and already frustrated by the spareness of the story, way too narrow and controlled for my taste.
I've lived in the Cariboo and just found out (from other reviewers here) that The Double Hook is set in Cariboo country. Really, it's the sort of thing I'd like to have gleaned from the narrative. Well, the prickly pears were a clue... Funny, when I lived in Kamloops, I met many talented writers but nobody mentioned Sheila Watson or praised her novel.
Is it too much to ask of fiction that characters should take on form in the first few pages, instead of remaining shadowy ciphers? Yes, I appreciate the surprising nouns: "The white bulls of the sky shoulder to shoulder." But these seem like skimpy rewards for the effort of squinting through the murk. Must I endure the whole 136 pages to find out if I agree with the nameless critic that this is "a book of rare beauty, artistry and power" -- ?
Another reviewer clarifies what we're up against: "She is concerned with the response to life of homo sapiens... What is present is life itself, and we must fit the pieces together ... She will find her audience among those whose reading muscles are capable of exercise and development..."
Toronto publishers' blurbs were less sophisticated back then. Grit your teeth, this is Canada, they seem to be saying: you're about to undergo surgery without anaesthetic....more
As I read this I couldn't shake off the feeling that these events were happening now, today, in our world -- which is insane because the Argo sailed 3As I read this I couldn't shake off the feeling that these events were happening now, today, in our world -- which is insane because the Argo sailed 3500 years ago. Maybe it's because I've been living on the island where it all began, oblivious to most of the history. Why did i wait so long? A subject for a short story... ...more