Leonard Cohen

Jeffrey Lewis

So begins the story of an everyman Leonard Cohen, a would-be artist, a would-be lover, a would-be tragic figure, yet a man haunted by the greatness of his namesake. He struggles to compete. He struggles to be more than a punchline in his own mind. He struggles, in particular, to write one song that would be as great as the least of the great Leonard Cohen’s songs.

At the center of Leonard’s life is Daphne. In their meeting on a Greek island, a contemporary fable of Daphne and Apollo plays out. But even with Daphne, Leonard is shadowed by the ‘‘other’’ Leonard Cohen, whom he fears is the real Apollo. The ancient myth haunts the fated lovers.

Once upon a time, Apollo fell hard for Daphne, who turned herself into a laurel tree. No less a fate awaits the protagonist of this slender yet universal novel, where art, love, and fame all fatefully intertwine.

JEFFREY LEWIS’s novels include Land of CockaigneBealport: A Novel of a Town, and the four novels of The Meritocracy Quartet. Previously he received two Emmy Awards and was nominated twelve times for his work as a television writer and producer, most notably for Hill Street Blues.

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Dear Leonard Cohen,

Could I ask you something, just between us? How was it that you never changed your name? You could have been Lawrence Cole. You could have been Lindsay Kohl, or Lionel Cole. Or you could have dropped your last name and been Lenny Norman. Jewish entertainers do that one all the time, drop their last name, go by their middle name. But you, no, you couldn’t do that. Sounds less Jewish? Sound more like a showbiz guy? Not you, you had to be authentic, you had to sound like an accountant or a dentist. I’m joking, really, kind of. But not completely, not entirely. And now it’s a little on the late side to do anything about it, isn’t it? You see, I too am Leonard Cohen. And this has been a problem.