So what I am doing is listening to a lot of Leonard Cohen. New Skin For The Old Ceremony is definitely in my top-5-all-time-favorites list of albums. And it's been thunderstorming all day. And I just had a great dinner with a dear friend. So here's kind of a fluff list while I take it easy at the end of the day. Three of my favorite songwriters each happen to have a novel or two to their name. And they're all really fantastic books. I'd definitely advise you to pick them up.
Master of Reality, by John Darnielle
Yes, this is the umpteenth Darnielle shout-out on this blog. Deal with it.
|Deal with it.|
It's simple and it's powerful and it's true-- up until the release of We Shall All Be Healed, Darnielle worked as a nurse in a mental institution for young men. There's so much love in this book for the main character, so much contempt for the people who don't recognize the healing power of angry, bitter art. The voice of our narrator in particular is real and powerful, and I can't help but tremble sometimes at how much it made me think of the most miserable parts of my teenage experience. Besides the terrible haircut, I mean. It's about being 16 or 17 and getting up close and personal with the demons that are going to be inhabiting you the rest of your life, and about how Tony Iommi's guitar is sometimes the best weapon at hand for beating them into submission.
|Pictured: the brightest light in the world.|
And the Ass Saw The Angel, by Nick Cave
When I handed this book to my girlfriend and had her read the scene in which the main character, Euchrid Eucrow, is birthed with a dead twin in the back of a rusted-out car and sterilized with moonshine, her comment was "oh my god, it's like all the subject matter of Faulkner and O'Connor but with the language of Marquez!" And that's why you should read And the Ass Saw the Angel (and why I should marry this girl someday, but that's neither here nor there).
|"If you need more incentive, consider that I have a large collection of rocks, and some of 'em are killin' rocks."|
It treads a line between the Southern Gothic and Magical Realism-- think the lush textuality of Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the heat and the language of Absalom, Absalom!, and the shimmering madness of Wise Blood. It's definitely not a perfectly-constructed book (Cave was on a lot of heroin at the time and would usually write until he passed out facedown on the typewriter), but there's a relentless heat and force to it and the savage inevitability of its violence. It's also a beautiful spectacle, watching an Australian junkie living in London write about a South he only knows through Faulkner novels and bizarre stories.
|"Wait, Mississippi's a real place?"|
This one's kind of cheating: one, unlike the other two, Cohen was actually a novelist and a poet before he became a musician, and two, it's a much better-known book. Still though, it's a pretty astonishing and emotionally raw novel and it would be unfair to leave it out. Also, I can't have a list with just two points.
I would say that Beautiful Losers is about sex and Judaism, but, c'mon. It's Leonard Cohen. You know it's about sex and Judaism. So it's also about a love triangle between our narrator, his wife (who he fetishized because he was an anthropologist who specialized on her tribe), and their mutual friend and lover F. Its language is and rich and raw as anything else Cohen wrote, and the characters as wry, bitter, and loving as those of his songs.
|Not a particularly cheerful guy, as it turns out.|