Book of Mercy, Leonard Cohen

Have you ever had the sort of week where even though you’re a bit of a heathen, you really need to murmur some prayers under your breath? I do not have a devotional tradition outside of sometimes documenting things I am grateful for. If I were to document those things tonight, a short sampling would look like this:

  • I am grateful for an oversized hockey sweater that kept me warm while reading this book
  • I am grateful that my big cat and little cat are mostly getting along
  • I am grateful that at this juncture, ‘busy’ means ‘too many wonderful people want to spend time with me’

It’s been a very good week and I have wanted to do more than write gratitude lists. In a bit of a masochistic twist, I’ve been wanting to balance out my generalized happiness with a bit of brimstone – probably because I don’t really believe things can remain this good for long.

But I don’t have a church to attend and it would be more than a bit hypocritical to turn to religious texts to satisfy this devotional desire. That’s where Leonard Cohen comes in. Book of Mercy, published in 1984, is a collection of prose poems about pain, sadness, and religious uncertainty. It’s by far the most challenging book I’ve read this December, in terms of content and construction. It’s beautiful, too, with lines like this to remind you that LC is deep, man:

When I have not rage or sorry, and you depart from me, then I am most afraid. When the belly is full, and the mind has its sayings, then I fear for my soul; I rush to you as a child at night breaks into its parents’ room. Do not forget me in my satisfaction.

I’ll read something lighter, next.

Books read: 5



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