Tag Archives: leonard cohen

Kateri Tekakwitha Already Canonized!

Reid Dickie

On Sunday, October 21, 2012, the Catholic Church will canonize to sainthood Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th century Mohawk converted to Christianity by the Black Robes. She will be the first North American aboriginal to attain such eminence.
Clueless as ever, our mainstream media is making claims that she was “Canadian” while US media claim her “Americanism.” Both wrong! Neither Canada nor the United States existed in 1680, the year of her death. Her nation was and is Mohawk. Besides, she has already been canonized!

Huh? Yes, canonized in Canadian literature by no less a figure than Leonard Cohen. Kateri Tekakwitha is one of four central characters in Leonard Cohen’s second novel, Beautiful Losers, published in 1966. In addition to Cohen himself, the book’s characters include Cohen’s wife Edith, a native of the same tribe as Tekakwitha, his radical friend F and our martyr, Kateri.  Revolving around a statue of her Cohen sees in Montreal, Kateri’s life and martyrdom are described in graphic terms.

Cohen retreated to Hydra, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, for two eight-month periods in 1964 and 1965 to write the novel, largely inspired by fasting, amphetamines and hashish. This is a shot of Leonard at his Olivetti writing Beautiful Losers.

In retrospect Beautiful Losers is the first truly postmodern Canadian novel. History, culture, sex and politics commingle in an uneasy relationship topped with large dollops of absurdity. I read this as a teen and have lived with its images ever since. Particularly memorable are the indoor fireworks scene and the scene where Cohen and F masturbate in the car while driving to Ottawa after F gets elected to Parliament. The novel hasn’t, as yet, been made into a movie but its time is right!

Full of grace and humility, this is the preface Cohen wrote for the Chinese translation of Beautiful Losers in 2000. He describes how the book feels to him forty years after its conception.

Dear Reader,

Thank you for coming to this book. It is an honor, and a surprise, to have the frenzied thoughts of my youth expressed in Chinese characters. I sincerely appreciate the efforts of the translator and the publishers in bringing this curious work to your attention. I hope you will find it useful or amusing.

When I was young, my friends and I read and admired the old Chinese poets. Our ideas of love and friendship, of wine and distance, of poetry itself, were much affected by those ancient songs. Much later, during the years when I practiced as a Zen monk under the guidance of my teacher Kyozan Joshu Roshi, the thrilling sermons of Lin Chi (Rinzai) were studied every day. So you can understand, Dear Reader, how privileged I feel to be able to graze, even for a moment, and with such meager credentials, on the outskirts of your tradition.

This is a difficult book, even in English, if it is taken too seriously. May I suggest that you skip over the parts you don’t like? Dip into it here and there. Perhaps there will be a passage, or even a page, that resonates with your curiosity. After a while, if you are sufficiently bored or unemployed, you may want to read it from cover to cover. In any case, I thank you for your interest in this odd collection of jazz riffs, pop-art jokes, religious kitsch and muffled prayer æ an interest which indicates, to my thinking, a rather reckless, though very touching, generosity on your part.

Beautiful Losers was written outside, on a table set among the rocks, weeds and daisies, behind my house on Hydra, an island in the Aegean Sea. I lived there many years ago. It was a blazing hot summer. I never covered my head. What you have in your hands is more of a sunstroke than a book.

Dear Reader, please forgive me if I have wasted your time.

Los Angeles, February 27, 2000

Leonard Cohen

Hear Leonard read from Beautiful Losers

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Filed under Old Souls, Spirit

Victoria, My Father and All of His Tobacco, They Loved You

Reid Dickie

Today is Victoria Day in Canada, a national holiday celebrating the life of Queen Victoria and her huge contribution to Canada! Okay…ummm.

To celebrate the occasion, in my heading I slightly reword Leonard Cohen for dramatic flare. Treason, you say? Now do you see the extremes we will go to celebrate Queen Vickie’s influence on our country? For the record the first line of Cohen’s Queen Victoria from his album Live Songs, released on April Fool’s Day, 1973,  is “Queen Victoria, My father and all his tobacco loved you.”

And here’s the rest of the lyrics:

“I love you too in all your forms, the slim and lovely virgin floating among German beer, the mean governess of the huge pink maps, the solitary mourner of a prince.
“Queen Victoria, I am cold and rainy, I am dirty as a glass roof in a train station, I feel like an empty cast iron exhibition, I want ornaments on everything, because my love, she gone with other boys.
“Queen Victoria, do you have a punishment under the white lace, will you be short with her, will you make her read those little Bibles, will you spank her with a mechanical corset. I want her pure as power, I want her skin slightly musty with petticoats will you wash the easy bidet out of her head?
“Queen Victoria, I’m not much nourished by modern love, will you come into my life with your sorrow and your black carriages, And your perfect memories.
“Queen Victoria, the Twentieth Century belongs to you and me. Let us be two severe giants not less lonely for our partnership, who discolour test tubes in the halls of Science, who turn up unwelcome at every World’s Fair, heavy with proverbs and corrections, confusing the star-dazed tourists with our incomparable sense of loss.” Hear Cohen sing his dirge. Sing along.

That’s the view of our dear Queen Vickie from a straight Montreal Jew. Now let’s check in with a young British bisexual from North London, Ray Davies of the Kinks, for his take on Queen-Vic-Wah with the lead-off track from the Kinks 1969 concept album, the very brackety Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), called Victoria, a much less sombre ditty:

“Long ago life was clean. Sex was bad and obscene. And the rich were so mean. Stately homes for the Lords Croquet lawns, village greens Victoria was my queen Victoria, Victoria, Victoria, ‘toria
I was born, lucky me. In a land that I love. Though I am poor, I am free. When I grow I shall fight For this land I shall die Let her sun never set Victoria, Victoria, Victoria, ‘toria Victoria, Victoria, Victoria, toria
Land of hope and gloria Land of my Victoria Land of hope and gloria Land of my Victoria Victoria, ‘toria Victoria, Victoria, Victoria, ‘toria
Canada to India Australia to Cornwall Singapore to Hong Kong From the West to the East From the rich to the poor Victoria loved them all Victoria, Victoria, Victoria, ‘toria Victoria, Victoria, Victoria” Hear the Kinks sing it.

Rather than singing tributes to Miss Vickie, Canadians usually celebrate the first long weekend of the summer with beer, fireworks, the previously-mentioned mechanical corsets (available every summer weekend at the flea market in Watrous, SK) and blood rituals at sunset and sunrise.

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Filed under Humour, Idiots, Momentous Day, Music

Three Hallelujahs

THREE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SONGS WITH THE SAME NAME

FIRST THE SILENT MONKS SING THE HALLELUJAH CHORUS

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THOUGH I CONSIDER k.d. lang’s VERSION SEMINAL I CHOSE THE FOUR NORWEGIAN GUYS TO PERFORM LEONARD COHEN’S MONUMENT. THE BOYS ARE ESPEN LIND, ASKIL HOLM, ALEJANDRO FUENTES AND KURT NILSEN.

click pic to play

MARTIN SEXTON IS A MARVELOUS SINGER/SOMGWRITER WHO ADDS HIS OWN WRINKLE TO THE THEME

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AT LEAST TWO OTHER TUNES COULD HAVE BEEN ADDED TODAY. THEY ARE HARRY MCCLINTOCK’S 1928 HOBO CLASSIC HALLELUJAH I’M A BUM; AND RAY CHARLES’ HALLELUJAH I LOVE HER SO FROM 1956. NEITHER CONFORMED STRICTLY WITH THE NAMING CRITERIA BUT IF YOU WANT TO HEAR THEM CLICK ON TITLES. ENJOY!

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Filed under Music