Margot Mifflin
October 25, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Leonard Cohen, Ira B. Nadel
publisher
Pantheon
genre
Music, Biography, Nonfiction

We gave it an A

A folk lothario and professional pessimist with two celebrity-studded tribute albums in his honor, singer Leonard Cohen, 62, is a shoo-in for patron saint of the Prozac nation. Ira B. Nadel’s Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen is a surprisingly revealing bio of this famously private romantic. Nadel, a Canadian book critic and English professor, writes with equal dexterity about Cohen’s poetry and music (including his mid-’80s comeback), his private demons and public image, his many love affairs (he’s been linked with everyone from Joni Mitchell to Rebecca DeMornay), and his Jewish-Buddhist spiritualism. He offers plenty of the artist’s acidic bon mots, including an early reference to ”the diseased adolescents who compose my public.” The book falls short only in the where-are-they-now department: Cohen’s sister is abandoned mid-book and his twentysomething children don’t even make the index. That said, this is a critically sharp, information-rich biography of an artist who makes, in the well-chosen words of one critic, ”music to slit your wrists by.” A

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