Hosting the Holidays
Starting last year, my lovely spouse and I starting hosting a very small holiday gathering of my remaining family. What I mean by very small is that my mother comes to visit. It’s cosy and perfect and I enjoy it on multiple levels. One of the advantages of hosting is that we get to spend Christmas with the cats and in the comfort of our own sitting room.
The disadvantages? Well, mostly it means that all of the holiday preparations seem to be creeping up on me in the final week before Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve been preparing in general for six weeks, but now we’re down to all of those little last-minute things that tend to slip through the cracks in my mind and collect dust bunnies. It’s extra important to maintain calm this week and just embrace some flexibility. Because not everything will go to plan and that reality is okay.
Like one of my favourite Christmas specials says:
“It ain’t perfect, but it’s Christmas. There’s not gonna be a day that’s a better one than this is!”
Home for the Holidays
In previous years, I’ve gone ahead and done a Home for the Holidays feature to highlight Canadian Literature, so I thought in the week before Christmas I would review a book that lies at the intersection of my past theme and my current one. Leonard Cohen’s Ballet of Lepers is a recent publication of some of Cohen’s unpublished work including the titular novella and some short stories. Cohen is more famous for his work in music, song writing, and poetry, but his literary work is significant as well. It contains many of the themes that define the rest of his body of work.
His sentences are stark and draw in the reader with their incisive exploration of aging, youth, familial duty, and relationships. Some of the narratives are more powerful than others. Some were really indicative of what age he was when he was writing them. For example, I’m not sure I would say that thirty-five years old is as old as Cohen implies it is. Also, I found his stories about the married couple (the Euemers) a bit too strange for me. They seemed to be distant from the author’s experiences in ways that other stories were not and were making a statement that I have seen more effectively written elsewhere.
I have to confess that I don’t know a lot about Leonard Cohen other than a few songs and a smattering of poetry. That may have helped or hindered my appreciation of this book — though I’m not sure which. No one can deny that Cohen looms as a giant over the landscape of the Canadian arts. I have tried to branch out this year into areas of literature I only have a limited experience in, and this book was part of that exploration. Normally a big name and a serious following tends to make my shy away from some literary figures because it feels like there’s no feasible way I can know enough about them to have an informed opinion on their work.
In this case, my lovely spouse encouraged me to take a leap of faith and just get the book and enjoy it without thinking about Cohen’s legacy and how little of his music I’ve consumed. I’m glad she did because this book was definitely a gem and has sparked my interested in Cohen’s poetry and published novels.
A Gift for Multiple Audiences
If you know a fan of Cohen, this book would be a great gift for them. I also think it would be a great gift for the reader that enjoys CanLit in general. One of the awesome things about receiving books as gifts is that they push the boundaries of the to-read pile and offer something a bit different that often the reader wouldn’t necessarily pick for themselves. As a note, there is sexual content and violence in some of the stories — so this book might not be appropriate for everyone.
A Ballet of Lepers has been all over the independent bookstores, so if it sounds like something to fit a person on your Christmas list, there’s still time to go get a copy!
Best of the Season to One and All!
I know that Christmas is still nearly a week away, but that week will fly by before you know it! My next review will be posted on Boxing Day, so I wish everyone the best of the season in advance. Enjoy the best the season has to offer and take some time to read somewhere in all the holiday bustle.