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Tamara by Leonard Cohen (REVIEW)

Although Leonard Cohen was not particularly renowned for his literary contributions, prior to his transformation into the second-greatest singer-songwriter that...

5 months ago

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A Critic's Meta-Review: 4/5

A Critic's Meta Review: 4/5

Tamara by Leonard Cohen (REVIEW)

Although Leonard Cohen was not particularly renowned for his literary contributions, prior to his transformation into the second-greatest singer-songwriter that Canada has ever produced (Macky-poo still takes the cake), young Leo was a prolific writer of both short and long fiction. Or, I guess, regular-sized fiction. Novels, you know. Nothing too big - the man was not out here trying to be Leo Tolstoy.

Nope. Just Leo Cohen.

A-ha!

Anyways, I figured I would give one of his shorter stories a shot, since I am sort of attempting to carve out a similar lane for myself as a literary-inclined singer-songwriter. As I am not quite sure where I happen to stack up regarding either of those pursuits, surely taking a moment to study the ways of the wise is bound to have some type of positive influence on one of them - and, since Samuel Clemons never got around to dropping that long-awaited double album, I guess I will have to settle for the literary output of Canada’s nearly-premier songster (again...nothing on this guy).

Given that I was only just testing the waters with this cat, I went ahead and scouted out the shortest story he had written. The result was “Tamara”, at six pages in length (five if you take into account the fact that the entire second page is an illustration that contains only one written line, which appears later on in the story).

Published in 1963 - not too long after the Cuban Missile Crisis - this story is draped in Cold War regalia; indeed, within the first few sentences of the story, our main characters are already all in attendance at a meeting of Montreal’s Communist Club (super creative name by the way), scoping out sandwich-eaters and sexy-legged ladies.

At least, that is what one of the characters is doing: Larry Breavman, the one who we end up following for the remainder of this story, as he has his way with the titular character, coaxes the enigmatic admission of love out of her, and then splits after he has adequately satisfied his desire to control the poor gal. She ends up so mystified by the whole encounter that she has to see a shrink.

The writing is superb, of course, as the writer no doubt has a way with words (dude wrote “Hallelujah” for Christ’s sake). The plot, however...well, let’s just say his songwriting abilities served him well.

Still worth a read, though, if only for the purposes of historical research.

Samir Arora

Published 5 months ago