Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday's Forgotten Books, August 15, 2014

B,V, Lawson will take the reins next week and Evan Lewis the week after. Also I will be gone from 8:30 until 2 today so latecomers will be seated after 2. 

From the archives:

Deb was a technical writer in the financial and software industries for the better part of two decades. Then, after being a stay-at-home mom for several years, she went to work in the public school system and currently works with autistic students in a special ed classroom. She loves to read across all genres, but mysteries are her favorite.

Leonard Cohen was born in Montreal in 1934, which makes him the same age as my mother. I don’t quite know how that happened, because he always seemed so much younger than my parents when I was a teenager obsessively listening to “The Songs of Leonard Cohen” LP. Today Cohen is best known for his vast catalog of music, including “Suzanne,” “Joan of Arc,” “First We Take Manhattan,” and the beautiful “Hallelujah,” which seems to have been covered by every singer with a recording contract. However, in the 1960s (after graduating from McGill University in 1955 and trying law school and some other career paths), Cohen published several volumes of poetry and two novels: THE FAVOURITE GAME (1963) and BEAUTIFUL LOSERS (1966). I discovered these books in the 1970s; I enjoyed THE FAVOURITE GAME, but it was BEAUTIFUL LOSERS I read repeatedly during my teen years.
BEAUTIFUL LOSERS begins with an unnamed (and undoubtedly unreliable) narrator who is living in utter squalor, unwashed and filthy. Despite his living conditions, the narrator is a scholar, a historian whose major field of study is a luckless Indian tribe whose name has historically been translated as “loser.” The narrator tells the story of a love triangle involving himself, his late wife Edith (one of the last members of the aforementioned tribe), and F, the domineering man loved by both the narrator and Edith. When the novel begins, F, like Edith, is already dead—although a “Long Letter from F” forms the middle portion of the book. Intertwined with the hallucinatory story of spiritual and sexual love, betrayal, drug abuse, mind games, religion, philosophy, politics (especially the Quebec independence movement), mental illness, and suicide, is the story of Catherine Tekakwitha, a 17th century Mohawk who converted to Catholicism, lived a post-conversion life of intense self-denial (one would be tempted to say masochism), died at a young age, and became a saint.
This brief summary does not do justice to the profound depth of the novel, the various voices within it (comic, tragic, learned, foolish, yearning, interrogatory), the richness of its language, the rapid shifts in perspective. Yes, it is a sixties time-capsule: veering wildly in tone, leaving so much ambiguously half-said, containing simultaneously so much intellectual heft and so many intensely-detailed descriptions of sex and torture; it seems to epitomize a certain sixties outlook and attitude. This is not a novel for the weak of heart, but if you know Leonard Cohen only from his music and you’re in the mood for a real change of pace, I highly recommend BEAUTIFUL LOSERS.
Incidentally, this is the novel which contains the passage that begins, “God is alive; magic is afoot,”
famously used in a chant/song by Buffy Ste. Marie.

Sergio Angelini, PRISONER'S BASE, Rex Stout
Joe Barone, FUN HOUSE, Chris Grabenstein
Brian Busby, STARMAGEDDON, Richard Rohmer
Bill Crider, THE TIME TRAP, Henry Kuttner
Martin Edwards, CORPSE IN COLD STORAGE, Milward Kennedy
Rick Horton, THE QUEEN PEDAUQUE, Anatole France
Jerry House, THE WEREWOLF IN LEGEND, Basil Copper
Randy Johnson, THE OWL, Bob Forward
George Kelley , 100 GREAT DETECTIVES, Maxim Jakubowski
Margot Kinberg, SALVATION OF A SAINT, Keigo Higashino
Rob Kitchin, LADY OF THE LAKE, Raymond Chandler; LITTLE CAESAR, W.R. Burnett
B.V. Lawson, A GENTLEMAN CALLED, Dorothy Salisbury Davis
Evan Lewis, SHARPE'S WATERLOO, Bernard Cornwell
Steve Lewis/Allen J. Hubbin, THE BURNED WOMAN, Edward Mathis
Todd Mason, NOT AT NIGHT, edited by Herbert Asbury
J.F. Norris, OBIT DELAYED, Helen Nielsen
James Reasoner, THE MONEY GUN, Robert J. Randisi
Kelly Robinson, PULP FICTION, Robert Turner
Gerard Saylor, THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH, Ariel S. Winters
Ron Scheer, THE PHANTOM HERD. B.M. Bower
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergant, DRUM-BEAT MADRID, Stephen Marlowe 
TracyK, LOOT, Aaron Elkins
Prashant Trikannad, A WOMAN ON THE ROOF, Doris Lessing


J F Norris said...

It's 10:15 AM and all is well. Here's my contribution for this week:

Obit Delayed by Helen Nielsen

Charles Gramlich said...

I read Beautiful losers a number of years back. Didn't find it all that compelling but it was interesting.

Kelly Robinson said...

I've got one, if you can add it this afternoon.

Pulp Fiction by Robert Turner

neer said...

Here's mine:

The Man above Suspicion by James Mayo.


Todd Mason said...

Still swimming in a sea of obligation, and things do come slow at times:

FFB: NOT AT NIGHT! edited by Herbert Asbury (Macy-Masius 1928)

Anonymous said...

Thanks as ever, Patti :-)

Ron Scheer said...

Somehow Leonard Cohen also ended up on the soundtrack of McCABE AND MRS. MILLER.