Books Read in 2014 – 2. Beautiful Losers – Leonard Cohen

Genre – Erotica, Experimental

Date of Publication – 1966

Narrative Style – stream of consciousness. Non-chronilogical

Format: Paperback

Published: 1966

Synopsis – A three part story about three friends / lovers – the first part is a first person narrative after the death of his wife and his lover, F, the second part is a letter from F to the first narrator and the third part is a thrid person summing up of their stories. 

Rating: 3/5 047533-fc222

I’m a big fan of Leonard Cohens music but I hadn’t read any of his fiction before this one so I was quite excited when I got Beautiful Losers for Christmas. Certainly, I wasn’t expecting to read something quite so erotic and quite so experimental.

One of the things that is immediately apparent about this book is that it is written by a poet. Quite often the language and the rhythm take precedence over meaning which leads to some beautiful imagery but like a lot of poetry, I didn’t always understand what was going on.

This is an intensely erotic book. Indeed, one of the original reviews called it ‘verbal masturbation and another suggested that it was the ‘most revolting book ever written in Canada’. There is more than one love triangle in this book as the three lovers experiment. However, it is never merely sex for the sake of it. Quite often it is described in an oblique way or involves body parts that aren’t necessarily thought of as erotic.

What I found more difficult to deal with were the long passages about the Catherine Tekakwitha and her religiosity. I didn’t find the historic information as interesting as the events in the present day, maybe because I have very little sense of religion myself. Also, I have a low tolerance of miracles and pilgrimages.

There seemed to be a preoccupation with ownership, with occupation of lands and with colonialism – the Indians by the Catholics, the French presence in Montreal, for example. I must admit to a lack of knowledge of the history of Canada but this book did make me think I might like to know more.

Finally, I found it a little unsatisfying. I was reminded of reading Joyce or Amis, maybe. Masters of language and they may be but they left me feeling a little lost and disappointed with myself. I don’t like to feel I may have missed the point.

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