Friday, November 11, 2011

The Favorite Game/Leonard Cohen/245 pp.

I've always thought of Leonard Cohen as a songwriter and poet first (Every time I hear his name I get his song "Hallelujah" stuck in my head) so I was surprised to see that he'd written a novel. The Favorite Game was actually written and published clear back in the early 1960s, so it's not like Cohen just recently turned away from poetry to start writing straight prose. And, to be honest, in a lot of ways this book reads like poetry. Cohen's descriptions of scenery, a lover's body, even scenes of laborers in a brass foundry, are almost musical.
The Favorite Game is the story of Lawrence Breavman, a young Jewish-Canadian poetry writer who resembles Cohen in many ways. He avoids crowds and social situations; he wins a scholarship for his writing, but turns it down to work in the brass foundry at menial labor. He has trouble committing to one lover; when he finally finds a woman who not only arouses him physically, but also intrigues him emotionally, he leaves her to return to Canada to visit friends, and breaks up with her over the phone. Breavman's problem is that he creates ideal backgrounds for the people in his life; when the everyday or mundane intrudes on that ideal or fantasy it destroys his interest in the people and he separates himself from them. This book is partly about Breavman's struggle to realize that the ideal and mundane are both part of what makes up these people.

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