Making It New

Beautiful Losers

by Leonard Cohen
Viking, 256 pp., $5.75


by Julio Cortázar, translated by Gregory Rabassa
Pantheon, 564 pp., $6.95

Mr. Cohen, Señor Cortázar, and Mr. Burroughs all write about loneliness, and all employ an idiom which, though they use it with individual voices, could be said to be common to them. Here are three quotations which should be more illuminating than columns of discussion:

(i) The Leader of the Pack lies mangled under his Honda in a wreck of job prospects, the ghostly Negro fullback floats down the wintry gridiron into Law School prizes, and the lucky football you autographed takes pictures of the moon. Oh, my poor Top Ten, longing to perish in popularity. I have forgotten my radio, so you languish with the other zombies in my memory, you whose only honor is hara-kiri with the blunt edge of returned identification bracelets, my weary Top Ten hoping to be forgotten like escaped balloons and kites, like theater stubs, like dry ball pens, like old batteries, like coiled sardine keys, like bent aluminum partitioned eaten tv dinner plates—I hoard you like the stuff of my chronic disease. (Cohen)

(ii) Yes, but who will cure us of the dull fire, the colorless fire that at nightfall runs along the Rue de la Huchette, emerging from the crumbling doorways, from the little entranceways, of the imageless fire that licks the stones and lies in wait in doorways, how shall we cleanse ourselves of the sweet burning that comes after, that nests in us forever allied with time and memory, with sticky things that hold us here on this side, and which will burn sweetly in us until we have been left in ashes. How much better, then, to make a pact with cats and mosses, strike up friendship right away with hoarse-voiced concierges, with the pale and suffering creatures who wait in windows and toy with a dry branch. (Cortázar)

(iii) Martin he calls himself but once in the London YMCA on Tottenham Court (never made out there)—Once on Dean Street in Soho—No it wasn’t Dean Street that was someone else looked like Bradley—It was on some back time street, silent pockets of Mexico City—(half orange with red pepper in the sun)—and the weakness hit me and I leaned against a wall and the white spot never washed out of my glen plaid coat—Carried that wall with me to a town in Ecuador can’t remember the name, remember the towns all around but not that one where time slipped on the beach—sand winds across the blood—half a cup of water and Martin looked at the guide or was it the other, the Aussie, the Canadian, the South African who is sometimes there when the water is given out and always there when the water gives out. (Burroughs)

ALL THREE PASSAGES, it will be seen, employ a loose-knit, evocative rhetoric whose object is to present the surrealist landscape of the inner mind, that state of consciousness which is felt to be “real” because it lies below the reach of reason and conscious choice. Literature has always…

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