Sunday, June 16, 2013

Various Positions

In the building excitement to finally see Leonard Cohen live after decades of listening to his music and reading his poetry, I find my thoughts swirl toward the insights the quiet Canadian provides those who look deeply into his poetry. My obsessive personality irritates many people, and I always retort, imagine living with it 24/7? I spent several hours yesterday listening to one song in particular, a song that I consider I finally understand - 'Heart with no Companion'.

Cohen may well be the poet of the melancholic, tackling many aspects of life and reality – but if you look closely to his lyrics you will find both an existential air as well as some wickedly dark humour. The first piece of music I sent Muriel, the woman who became my wife, was the Jennifer Warnes ‘Famous Blue Raincoat : The Songs of Leonard Cohen’ album [on tape] from when I worked in Saudi Arabia in the 1980’s.

I spent several hours last night listening to live versions of his track “Heart with no Companion”, from his CD ‘Songs from the Road’ as well as various gonzo-filmed clips at YouTube. Though dating from 1984’s ‘Various Positions’ Album / CD, the live version[s] are enlightening. Using contrast, we have a very upbeat, tempo tune sung cheerfully but featuring some dark insights into the tragedies that life can provide, but the narrator explains that it will all work out fine in the end. Not one to understate tragedy, Cohen’s narrator greets the listener from surviving his own despair, which was so awful that it shattered him and so he can reach out to everyone and tell them that is survivable. 

He warns of unrequited love, loneliness, unfulfilled aspirations that can lead to ‘the days of shame that will follow, and wild distress’

Never one to hold back [Cohen doesn't indicate that it will be bad, but uses the term wild distress]; the up-tempo rhythm allows these troubling insights to cheerfully seep into your consciousness. Reminiscent of Bobby Darren’s upbeat tune ‘Mack The Knife’ hiding the sinister tale of a serial killer, or Olivia Newton-John’s reworking of ‘Banks of the Ohio’ another dark tale masked by a cheerfully upbeat tune.

Like much of Cohen’s work, there are existential insights into our plight, as well as a calming, almost soothing edge to the melancholia, even when the apocalyptic visions he details in The Future as sung in a cheerful and amusing manner. When he confronts his topics, including the awareness of our own doom, what we term Mortality Salience and Terror Management, he does so with insight, as well as wink with his golden voice. Remember he is after all an ordained Zen-Buddhist Monk. 

So with 'Heart with no Companion', Cohen warns that trouble is coming and it is terrifying, and related to human nature - but take heart as he will see you on the other side; because you will survive, but you will need to hold firm as it will result in nights of wild distress.

Heart With No Companion by Leonard Cohen

I greet you from the other side
Of sorrow and despair
With a love so vast and shattered
It will reach you everywhere

And I sing this for the captain
Whose ship has not been built
For the mother in confusion
Her cradle still unfilled

For the heart with no companion
For the soul without a king
For the prima ballerina
Who cannot dance to anything

Through the days of shame that are coming
Through the nights of wild distress
Tho' your promise count for nothing
You must keep it nonetheless

You must keep it for the captain
Whose ship has not been built
For the mother in confusion
Her cradle still unfilled

For the heart with no companion ...

I greet you from the other side ...

Melancholia was seldom so wonderfully [and cheerfully] presented by anyone, apart from Mr. Leonard Cohen.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

King’s Joyland lands 7th June

Well it’s close to release day for Stephen King’s Joyland, from Charles Ardai’s Hard Case Crime [an imprint of Titan Publications of Great Britain].

I've read it and will be releasing a feature length review shortly, but the first cab off the rank is from Bill Sheenan of The Washington Post who describes the book as -

“Joyland” is the second paperback original that Stephen King has released with Hard Case Crime, a small publisher specializing in new and vintage crime fiction of the classically hardboiled variety. The first was “The Colorado Kid” (2005), which serves, somewhat loosely, as the basis for the TV series “Haven.” A slight but memorable departure — for King and for Hard Case Crime — the novel offered a gentle, character-driven narrative notable for its deliberate lack of resolution.
“Joyland” is, in many respects, a different sort of book, but it, too, depends on King’s typically unerring sense of character for its deepest effects. The narrator is Devin Jones, a 60-something writer looking back on the summer of 1973, when he was 21 years old. Devin spent that summer as an apprentice carny at Joyland, a family-owned amusement park struggling to survive in a rapidly changing world. Within that Bradbury-like setting, King has created a moving, immensely appealing coming-of-age tale that encompasses restless ghosts, serial murder, psychic phenomena and sexual initiation

Read the full feature here

Here’s a couple of videos to get you in the mood for this books release -

Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever. 

"I love crime, I love mysteries, and I love ghosts. That combo made Hard Case Crime the perfect venue for this book, which is one of my favorites. I also loved the paperbacks I grew up with as a kid, and for that reason, we're going to hold off on e-publishing this one for the time being. Joyland will be coming out in paperback, and folks who want to read it will have to buy the actual book." Stephen King

And you can read the first chapter here

And following in the path of Joyland comes King’s sequel to The Shining Dr Sleep from Hodder and Stoughton in September.