Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Ecco books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
Ecco publishes a number of genres, and I find myself particularly drawn to their books by and about musicians and the music world. Although I have been a fan of Leonard Cohen's from his first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967), I knew very little about him as a person. Sylvie Simmons's I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen (in stores on September 18) introduced me to a complex, talented, and fascinating man.
Here's most of the publisher's summary:
The legend behind such songs as "Suzanne," "Bird on the Wire," and "Hallelujah" and the poet and novelist behind such groundbreaking literary works as Beautiful Losers and Book of Mercy, Leonard Cohen is one of the most important and influential artists of our era, a man of powerful emotion and intelligence whose work has explored the definitive issues of human life—sex, religion, power, meaning, love. Cohen is also a man of complexities and seeming contradictions: a devout Jew, who is also a sophisticate and ladies’ man, as well as an ordained Buddhist monk whose name, Jikan—"ordinary silence"—is quite the appellation for a writer and singer whose life has been anything but ordinary.At the core of Simmons's biography is the chronological account of Cohen's life from his birth in Montreal to his recent worldwide tour. Woven around and through that core are the threads she weaves to show how life events, relationships, spiritual issues, and depression have reflected, influenced, and directed Cohen's writing and music.
I’m Your Man is the definitive account of that extraordinary life. Acclaimed music journalist Sylvie Simmons crafts a portrait of Cohen as nuanced as the man himself, drawing on a wealth of research that includes Cohen's personal archives and more than a hundred exclusive interviews with those closest to Cohen—from his lovers, friends, monks, professors, rabbis and fellow musicians to his muses, including Rebecca De Mornay, Marianne Ihlen, Suzanne Elrod and Suzanne Verdal—and most important, with Cohen himself, whose presence infuses these pages. . . .
That may sound complicated, but from both a reader's and an editor's perspective, the approach works, and works well. Cohen is such a complex person, it'd be near impossible to tell his story as if he had walked a straight, well-marked path. He is a man of dichotomies: both old-fashioned and cutting edge; accomplished poet, novelist, and musician; solitary and private but connects to his audiences; Jewish and Buddhist.
Although Simmons relies on interviews, archives, and other firsthand material, she writes in an easy-to-read narrative style. She often steps back so Cohen himself can take center stage, either as part of their conversations together or through his prose, poetry, and songs. And in this way we get to know the man himself, not just the facts of his life.
Several things stood out to me. First were some of the little-known (at least to me) pieces of Cohen's personality, such as the fact that he's athletic (he played hockey, for example) and has a tendency to wander city streets in the wee hours. I was also fascinated with his spiritual journey, which bridges different religions, customs, and cultures, and how this journey may have helped him overcome his struggles with depression.
Of course I loved reading about Cohen's encounters with fellow musicians, writers, and artists as well as the details of the music world. He was often in the thick of things, living in the Chelsea Hotel at the time when Janis Joplin, Patti Smith, and others made it their home and (years earlier) attending one of Jack Kerouac's poetry readings. I was also happy to learn something about the real people, including Suzanne and Marianne, who appear in Cohen's songs and writings.
Sylvie Simmons's I'm Your Man is well-researched, literary biography that not only sensitively explores the life of Leonard Cohen but takes us back to a prolific and exciting era of music and the arts.
Beth Fish Reads is proud to showcase Ecco books as a featured imprint on this blog. For more information about Ecco, please read the introductory note from Vice President / Associate Publisher Rachel Bressler, posted here on July 15, 2011. Find your next great read by clicking on Ecco in the scroll-down topics/labels list in my sidebar and by visiting Ecco books on Facebook and following them on Twitter.