Death of a Lady’s Man by Leonard Cohen - review by Lois Potter

Lois Potter

Cohen’s Shadow

Death of a Lady’s Man


Deutsch 216pp £4.95 order from our bookshop

These are public poems; some of them, like the title song, are available on record, sung by the poet. They are the work of a man who knows that he has a public voice, and that his fans are curious about the private man behind it.

And at first sight the collection seems to offer all that even the nosiest fan could desire: 'You might like to know what my wife said to me upstairs' ('I Like the Way You Opposed Me'); 'My son clapped his hands over the jam' ('Early This Morning'); 'My wife and I made love this afternoon' (My Wife and I'); 'Her buttocks relax in my hands/like meat fresh killed ('O Wife Unmasked'). These domestic revelations are interspersed with glimpses of other women, divided neatly into the 'fucked' and the 'unfucked'. There seem to be a great many of the former; the latter are mostly underage, foreign, or behind glass.

It soon becomes apparent, of course, that both sex and marriage are symbols. In 'The Idols of the Lord' Cohen equates 'This book, the romantic tantra, the mating of Adam and Eve in the venereal Kabala, the Korean flag'; the alchemical illustration on the cover depicts 'the spiritual union of

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

East of the Wardrobe

Follow Literary Review on Twitter