A sensitive portrait of a sly, charming, complicated man.



Singer, songwriter, and poet Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) wanted to be remembered above all as a good father.

In an affectionate, closely observed memoir, novelist, screenwriter, and film producer Lerner (Pinkerton’s Secret, 2008, etc.) recounts a friendship that began in 1977 and lasted until Cohen’s death. At the time they met, Cohen “was already intent on keeping his private life as far removed from the limelight of his career as possible.” In fact, his career was not flourishing: He wanted to be acclaimed as a serious poet or literary novelist but instead performed as a singer to support himself, his ex-wife, and two children. Lerner describes Cohen as “an ethereal being” whose “vital energy resided above his shoulders.” The men shared a two-family house for many years, and despite decades of difference in their ages, became confidants. “Somehow,” Lerner writes, “he determined that I could understand him without explanation.” And Lerner felt equally understood: “he knew I was heading into the same difficult waters he was treading, fighting the riptide and the undertow.” Those difficult waters included professional obstacles (Cohen “tried to hold his life together with chewing gum and Scotch tape”), disappointments in love, and a deep spiritual quest. They both sought guidance from Japanese-born Rinzai Zen master Joshu Sasaki Roshi, engaging in ritualized practices and periods of meditation known as sesshin. A shared desire to understand their true natures, plumb the depths of their souls, and find enlightenment recurred in their ongoing conversations, which Lerner presents verbatim. They also discussed Cohen’s frustrated efforts to further his career; only after his manager embezzled all his money did he launch a tour that met with wild enthusiasm. More than performing, though, Lerner says that for Cohen, fatherhood “defined his life.” When he was with his children (who lived mostly with their mother), he didn’t try “to entertain, amuse, or distract” but instead “to enchant. That’s the kind of father Leonard was.” More than once, he told Lerner “on his gravestone they should just put: Father.

A sensitive portrait of a sly, charming, complicated man.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-306-90270-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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