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The Favourite Game (New Canadian Library)
ISBN 0771099541 / 9780771099540 / 0-7710-9954-1
Publisher McClelland & Stewart
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Leonard Cohen's fame as a songwriter and poet has long eclipsed his reputation as a novelist. He abandoned fiction after only two novels--1963's The Favourite Game and 1966's Beautiful Losers--but these were enough to reveal Cohen as a deft and vivid storyteller, equally comfortable with poetry and prose. Their frank sexuality and unapologetic social satire made them controversial (and wildly popular) on their first publication, but they are easily as substantial as any of Cohen's collections of verse.
Like so many first novels, The Favourite Game is semi-autobiographical, a coming-of-age novel that tells the story of Lawrence Breavman, a Montreal Jewish boy who matures into a promising poet. In order to create his art, Breavman feels compelled to live destructively, divesting himself of his lovers, friends, and family, keeping them only in his memory and his writing. Cohen moves carefully between cruelty and sentimentality, and none of his characters--including Breavman himself--escape his satiric venom.
Though unmistakably a poet's novel, The Favourite Game does not include the experimentation or unrestrained lyricism of Beautiful Losers. Instead, in a remarkably compressed story, Cohen is able to render powerful narrative episodes in the space of a couple of pages or skewer a character in a single sentence. This lends Cohen's narrative voice a slightly disengaged feel, letting the novel maintain a tense atmosphere of ironic intimacy--the passions it presents are tangible, but they are forever unreachable, held tightly in Breavman's memory and Cohen's art. --Jack Illingworth [via]