The Flame

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 02 Oct 2018

Member Reviews

This book, the last by Leonard Cohen, is a compilation of his poems, drawings and song lyrics spanning decades.  Cohen writes his poetry in an easy-to-read style that is a delight to read .  His drawings are mostly self-portraits and he obviously doesn't believe in making himself look better than he does.  His song lyrics are poems in themselves and will live on.  

This book is a must for Cohen fans and a good read even for casual fans.
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Mad respect for the artist, but this collection seems timed to cash in on his death, not so much to reflect his gifts.
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“So I’ve come here to revisit

What happens to the heart”

The Flame is Leonard Cohen’s final work, a collection of poems, musings from his personal notebook, self-potraits intimately drawn by his own hand and more. It’s a walk through Cohen’s mind and heart, writing until his final breath, because those who make magic out of their words rely on them to make sense of this human experience. Cohen’s revelations were always in his poems, lyrics more than in any private diary.  When your heart leans towards poetry, you take every emotion and release it to a rhythm of your own. Cohen doesn’t need any flames fanned from lil’ old me, he has his following already, and each generation discovers him for themselves.

I wonder what would have become songs, had he been able to stick around with the rest of us a bit longer. Creative minds never cease as they reach the end, always self-aware, wide awake and being awake in this sometimes ugly, sometimes beautiful world is bittersweet. I find myself with different emotions with each page, this tickled me, for oh so many reasons.

“If there were no paintings in the world,

     Mine would be very important.

     Same with my songs.

     Since this is not the case, let us make haste to get in line,

    Well toward the back.”

 

Oh Leonard, you were never toward the back and your songs are lovely.

For fans and anyone that likes to take the time to ponder life and love. This is what is left of Cohen’s remaining days, with his burning need to always scratch the surface of his innermost thoughts and understand the world around him.

Publication Date: Out tomorrow October 2, 2018

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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This is one of the first books I have read by this author.  I enjoyed it, not as much as one  of his other books but that is how it is with poetry I think.  You need to find what speaks to you and there wasn't enough of that in here but still a good book.
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This book gathers together previously unpublished notes, speeches, sketches (mostly self-portraits) and potential lyrics of the late Leonard Cohen. Obviously many of these pieces are incomplete, ideas rather than works. Several of Cohen’s classic themes appear, especially romance as a kind of war. Must read for Cohen fans, maybe not the place to start for newcomers.
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Legendary musician and poet Leonard Cohen is celebrated for his raw and intimate words and The Flame is his final masterpiece, finished just days before his death in 2016; a collection of poems, drawings, and lyrics spanning decades that show him at his best and his worst.

"To the young let me say:
I am not sage, rebbe, roshi, guru
I am Bad Example.
To experienced persons
who have characterized my life work
as cheap, superficial, pretentious, insignificant:
    you do not know
    how Right you are"

Packed with the wisdom acquired over a lifetime, Cohen shares insight into almost every topic imaginable including depression, love, religion, aging, and death.  His writing across the decades remains brutally honest and confessional and even startled me with its humor at times, especially on fame and current events:

"I am the Kanye West of Kanye West
The Kanye West
Of the great bogus shift of bullshit culture
....
I am the Kanye West Kanye West thinks he is
When he shoves your ass off the stage
I am the real Kanye West"

While I appreciate every word shared by Mr. Cohen, the poems were not in any sort of order (no theme, pattern, or chronological order though many are dated) and no notes were included explaining what was going on his life at the time which could've shed light on his state of mind. Many poems offer insight based on the subject/story alone but others left me scratching my head because they were so vague and there isn't a way to understand the context without some background.  For that reason, I felt intermittently disconnected from the book.

Overall,  The Flame reminds people of Cohen's incredible talent that will never be forgotten and is a celebration of his passions and his fears.

"I pray for courage
Now I'm old
To greet the sickness
And the cold

I pray for courage
In the night
To bear the burden
Make it light

I pray for courage
In the time
When suffering comes and
Starts to climb

I pray for courage
At the end
To see death coming
As a friend"

Many thanks to Farrar, Straus, and Giroux and Netgalley for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.  The Flame is scheduled for release on October 2, 2018.
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This book of poems and sketches was the last thing Leonard Cohen was working on prior to his death in 2016.   His prolific output continued throughout his life, and he was forever sketching and jotting ideas down.  It is really uncertain whether or not he had a book in mind -- some of the poems are dated much earlier, but they carry his trademark rhythms and I enjoyed envisioning him reading them with his world weary but warm and distinctive style.  Several even made me laugh out loud (particularly when he takes a swipe at the vainglorious Kanye West), but several others brought tears ("I loved your face, I loved your hair/Your T-shirts and your eveningwear."  "Now the angel's got a fiddle And the devil's got a harp.  Every soul is like a minnow.  Every mind is like a shark."  and my favorite of all:  SICILY CAFE, written in 2007, in which he encompasses his themes of regret and the elusiveness of memory.)  Most of the sketches are of his most dependable model, himself.  I met a woman once who had written a biography of him and had been granted access over a period of years.  She said he continued creating even while they were just chatting, and that he loved to cook for people.  Loved food, its preparation, presentation, and sharing.  Several poems address this topic.  Thanks to his sons who compiled these materials and allowed us to enjoy Leonard Cohen's company once again.
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The decades of material, from poems to self portraits are a window into the mind of a lost poet. It also inspired me to get out my pen and journal to jot down a few verses of my own.
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