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It's awfully hard making poetry out of paranoia (""The killers that run/the other countries/ are trying to get us/ to overthrow the killers/ that run our own"") or narcissism (""Come down to my room/ I was thinking about you/ and I made a pass at myself"") or even out of what perhaps may be truth (""I am no longer at my best practicing/ the craft of verse/ I do better/ in the cloak-room with Sara""). So it's jolly good, friends, that Canada's Leonard Cohen had made his innings elsewhere, both as a pop balladeer (""Suzanne"" still seems one of the best songs of the '60's) and as the author of Beautiful Losers, a novel notable for its tidal wave of language (mostly Joycean) and feeling (mostly -- and terrifically -- Krafft-Ebing). As for The Energy of Slaves -- well, it's funny in a sly sepulchral way, the funniness mostly in the blithely unhappy voice and its snatches of saturnine wit: ""the 15-year-old girls/ I wanted when I was 15/ I have them now/ it is very pleasant/ it is never too late/ I advise you all/ to become rich and famous."" But what ultimately dulls the effect of Cohen's lines is the simple fact that Cohen is a success, so his confessions of impotent rage and prophetic disgust never quite ring true. He's a tired Jeremiah here, but one who leads, we're sure, Billboard and keeps his eye on the changing fashions even as he damns them. The Energy of Slaves is Halloween honesty: when Cohen says ""This is war/ You are here to be destroyed,"" don't let him fool you, folks. He's really just that kid at the door demanding Trick or Treat.

Pub Date: Jan. 30th, 1972
Publisher: Viking