I'm Your Man, by contrast, and quite counter to the general rule of rock biography, gets more and more interesting as it goes on. Late in life, Leonard ascends to a Buddhist monastery on Mount Baldy in California, is up there for five years, becomes a Zen monk, and almost succeeds in abandoning himself to the "charitable void." Then he is stricken by unaccountable depression — I confess I panicked for humanity at this point — drops his Zen master, Roshi Joshu Sasaki, and flies off to Mumbai to seek the counsel of a super-evolved Hindu. And while this is going on, his accountant nicks all his money. Ah, Leonard! He emerges, somehow freed from the ancient pain, speculating that "the brain cells associated with anxiety can die as you get older." Then he has to go on tour again to make some more money.
"Sweet delight . . . endless night." They turn, they turn, and change places. Isn't that one of the worst things about depression — the sensation that a current of misery is being forced backwards along wires meant to conduct only sweetness and gladness? "The earth is bipolar!" said Charlie Sheen. And so we are left with our dilemma. In "Bird on the Wire," Leonard sings:
I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
He said to me, "You must not ask for so much."
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
She cried to me, "Hey, why not ask for more?"
To which Rod, ass prominent, might reply: "If you want my body and you think I'm sexy,/come on, sugar, let me know."
ROD: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY :: By Rod Stewart :: Crown Archetype :: 400 pages :: $27
I'M YOUR MAN: THE LIFE OF LEONARD COHEN :: By Sylvie Simmons :: Ecco :: 576 pages :: $28