Full Disclosure: I contributed two or three observations and assisted with a few bits of art for “Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows.” I can, however, assure readers that the enthusiasm expressed in this review is not simply a function of me sucking up to the author, the publisher, or, indirectly, Leonard Cohen – it’s also a matter of self-aggrandizement. Nonetheless, it turns out that, notwithstanding the self-serving motivation, my exuberant assessment of this book is absolutely justified.
Resplendent Art; Masterful Prose
Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows is a large format (275 x 215 mm) volume of 224 pages hosting more than 200 expertly reproduced photos, many of which fill a complete page or more and some of which have never been published before.
Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows is also a book filled with both Cohen’s own quotations and commentary about the Canadian singer-songwriter that are engaging, insightful, and informative.
Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows is either the most textually substantive coffee table book ever published or the most lavishly illustrated narrative about a Canadian poet-novelist-singer-songwriter-icon on the market.
Each chapter opens with a timeline that alerts the reader to the era of Cohen’s life and career being covered and is informative as an independent segment.1
Also included is an extensive discography compiled by Jim Devlin.
Quotes by Leonard Cohen, harvested from several of his interviews, are featured throughout the book.
While Harvey Kubernik authors much of the original commentary himself, he has recruited a large number of individuals with varying perspectives on Cohen to contribute substantial portions of the text. Included in this group are professional writers (e.g., Sylvie Simmons, Ira Nadel, James Cushing, and Alan Light), musicians (e.g., Perla Batalla, Sharon Robinson, Jennifer Warnes, and Charlie Daniels), producers (e.g., Bob Johnston, John Lissauer, and John Simon), and Cohen aficionados (e.g., Jarkko Arjatsalo,2 Jim Devlin,3 and – yep – Allan Showalter).
I confess I was initially skeptical about a book “tracing [Leonard Cohen’s] rise to stardom through 200 photographs and the thoughts, memories and comments of those who have both worked with him and been inspired by him,”4 but the prose written by Harvey Kubernik and the contributors he selected meshes with the well chosen, dramatic photos to create an integrated, gratifying product that meets the Goldilocks Criterion: not too much, not too little, not too simplistic, not too esoteric; it is, in fact, just right.
For sheer enjoyment, Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows is matchless among books about the Canadian singer-songwriter. This volume is a delight for anyone interested in Cohen or, indeed, the evolution of pop music.
The American edition of Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows by Harvey Kubernik carries a publication date of Sept 9, 2014 and is available for pre-order on several sites, including Amazon.
Update: Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows is now, of course, published but is still available at the above Amazon link.
I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted Aug 22, 2014 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com.
- This use of timelines is such a successful strategy that one wonders why it is not employed more often in such books. [↩]
- Jarkko Arjatsalo is the webmaster of LeonardCohenFiles and LeonardCohenForum [↩]
- Jim Devlin is the author of In Every Style Of Passion, Leonard Cohen: In His Own Words, and Is This What You Wanted. [↩]
- From the press release at Booktrade.info [↩]