Monday, December 29, 2008

Recycled lint

Great to see an interview with Leonard Cohen in the
latest Listener: that’s not an easy get. The interview is
credited to Clive Simmons, a name not known to me,
though Google tells me he’s a ‘controversial’
Australian journalist. It seems that Simmons has sold
the same article elsewhere in the world, which is fair
enough, but my particular interest lies in its
penultimate paragraph, which, quoting Cohen, reads:

“We are very large beings wheeling through
existence,” he says, “and we aren’t even
shaped the way we appear. You catch the
lint of another’s being on your wheel, and
they do the same. You get tangled up
inextricably, and although we don’t often
know what to do with it, love is the only
redeeming possibility for human beings.”

Hm. The interview, by its own account, was done at the
Glastonbury Festival in Britain in June, and it’s mostly
Cohen looking back over his life and music at 74. The
above paragraph follows reference to his former
manager (and lover) Kelly Lynch, who allegedly
swindled Cohen out of $16 million; and the paragraph
is preceded by the words ‘Surprisingly, though, he is not
bitter about her perfidy,’ so a reader would reasonably
conclude—indeed, could do no other than conclude—
that Cohen’s remarks (‘We are very large beings etc’)
were made during the Glastonbury interview six
months ago.

Not so—not unless Cohen has a freakish ability to repeat
virtually word for word something he said 30 years ago. I
have here a clipping from a Rolling Stone interview with
Leonard Cohen under the publication date of January 26,
1978. Part of it goes:

We are very large beings wheeling through
existence, who aren’t even shaped the way
we appear. You catch the lint of another’s
being on your wheel. And she does the same,
and you get tangled up inextricably.

Now I don’t have the part of that article showing the
writer's name. It might well have been Simmons; he says
in the Listener that he has interviewed Cohen twice before.
If it’s not, then he’s in big trouble. But even if it is him both
times, he’s guilty of uplifting some words from a 1978
interview and transplanting them into a 2008 interview as
if they’d been said then. Which is misrepresentation in my

I hope I'm wrong; but I fear I'm not. And the trouble with
just a few lines or even one fact in an article being wrong
or false, is that you then start to suspect the veracity of the
rest. Come in, Clive, and reassure us.


Anonymous said...

Well spotted. The original interview was by Rolling Stone's Stephen Holden, later the NY Times' film reviewer. Here is the full article:

Anonymous said...

If the interview was indeed done last June, then Leonard Cohen could hardly be said to be looking back over his life at age 74. Cohen only celebrated his 74th birthday in September.

Monte Holcroft said...

Denis, Just looked at the wiki entry on Simmons you mentioned (, which lists among his career stops having once worked at the New Zealand Listener. Do you have any memories of him from your own time at the magazine that you could share with regular readers here?

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