1) "Leonard's was a comfortable, secure life during an uncomfortable, insecure time. Days before Leonard's fifth birthday, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. Closer to home, in 1942 there was an anti-Semitic rally on St. Lawrence Boulevard—the Main, as locals called it—which was the traditional dividing line between English and French Montreal. It was led by Montreal's French Nationalist movement, which included supporters of the Vichy regime in France. One particularly risible claim of the organization was that the Jews had taken over the clothing business in order to force modest young French-Canadian girls to wear 'improper gowns in New York styles.' During the rally, the windows of several Jewish-owned shops and delis on the Main were broken and racist slurs painted on walls. But for a seven-year-old living in Westmount, sitting in his room reading his Superman comics, it was another world. 'Europe, the war, the social …
1) "Leonard's was a comfortable, secure life during an uncomfortable, insecure time. Days before Leonard's fifth birthday, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. Closer to home, in 1942 there was an anti-Semitic rally on St. Lawrence Boulevard—the Main, as locals called it—which was the traditional dividing line between English and French Montreal. It was led by Montreal's French Nationalist movement, which included supporters of the Vichy regime in France. One particularly risible claim of the organization was that the Jews had taken over the clothing business in order to force modest young French-Canadian girls to wear 'improper gowns in New York styles.' During the rally, the windows of several Jewish-owned shops and delis on the Main were broken and racist slurs painted on walls. But for a seven-year-old living in Westmount, sitting in his room reading his Superman comics, it was another world. 'Europe, the war, the social war,' Leonard said, 'none of it seemed to touch us.'"
2) "Leonard was writing in New York, but he was also floundering. After the euphoria of his first publication and the attention it brought him in Canada, now he was in a place where no one knew who he was, and if they did, they wouldn't have cared. For New Yorkers, Canadian literature was a dot on the cultural map barely visible to the naked eye. As a means of making contact with fellow writers—and having some status among them—Leonard founded a literary magazine, The Phoenix, but it was short-lived. Leonard was lonely. He missed his old crowd in Montreal; he really did believe that they were special. 'Each time we met we felt that it was a landmark in the history of thinking. There was a great deal of fellowship and drinking. Montreal is tiny, it's a French city and the number of people writing in English is small; it didn't have any prestige prizes at the time, not even any girls. But a few of us were on fire and we would write for each other or any girl that would listen.'"
3) "'I shouldn't be in Canada at all. I belong beside the Mediterranean. My ancestors made a terrible mistake. But I have to keep coming back to Montreal to renew my neurotic affiliations.'"
4) "Leonard sat in his room in his house on the hill in Hydra, writing furiously. He was driven by an overpowering sense of urgency. He had the feeling, he said, of time running out. This was a strange sentiment for a thirty-year-old man, unless he were Jesus, or seriously ill, or thinking about suicide. 'Around thirty or thirty-five is the traditional age for the suicide of the poet, did you know?' Leonard told Richard Goldstein of the Village Voice in 1967. 'That's the age when you finally understand that the universe does not succumb to your command.'"
5) "Brigid Polk was an artist. Among her best-known works was her series of 'tit paintings,' made by dipping her breasts in paint and pressing them onto paper. She also had a 'Cock Book,' a blank-paged book in which she asked people (women as well as men) to do a drawing of their penis. Among the participants were the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, the actress Jane Fonda, and Leonard. Leonard, declining to illustrate his privates, wrote on a page, 'Let me be the shy one in your book.' He was involved and yet not involved—which described his general dealings with the Warhol set."
6) "Spring in Montreal is a wonder. That after such prolonged abuse it still had the will to follow winter seems always little short of a miracle. The sun, no longer slacking on the job, got on with melting the snow. Tables and chairs sprouted outside cafés, where survivors, peeled of their winter armour, sat marvelling at the flowers. The darkness had passed, for now. Leonard and Suzanne were installed in their little cottage near the Parc du Portugal."
7) "Leonard particularly enjoyed creating art on a computer. He just liked computers. 'They say that the Torah was written with black fire on white fire. I get that feeling from the computer, the bright black against the bright background. It gives it a certain theatrical dignity to see it on the screen.' His interest in Macs started early on, thanks in part to the Apple company giving away free computers to select Canadian writers—among them Leonard, Irving Layton and Margaret Atwood—and sending tutors to their homes to show them how to use them."
8) "On the table were a slab of beef tongue and a bottle of good cognac. Leonard knew what Roshi liked. He poured a large glass for Roshi and a small one for himself and they sat with their drinks in easy silence, Leonard and the old man who had named him Jikan but usually called him Kone (not quite 'koan,' but close). In a few weeks' time Roshi would be one hundred years old, and yet here he still was, the constant in Leonard's life, the good friend, the wise father figure who disciplined and indulged him and never left, not even when Leonard had left him. Life, aside from 'the pesky little problem of losing everything I had,' was treating Leonard kindly in his old age."
9) "Leonard could joke onstage—and he did, frequently, as he settled into these tours—but at the same time he was intensely serious about his work. Always had been. It was evident when he was a nine-year-old boy, burying the first words he had written, to his dead father—words never revealed—in a secret ceremony. It was there too when he moved to the U.S. and took his first steps into pop music, and dissolved all boundaries between word and song, and between the song and the truth, and the truth and himself, his heart and its aching.
All the heavy labour, the crawling across carpets, the highs, the depths to which he had plummeted and all the women and deities, loving and wrathful, he had examined and worshipped, loved and abandoned, but never really lost, had been in the service of this. And here he was, seventy-six years old, still shipshape, still sharp at the edges, a workingman, ladies' man, wise old monk, showman and trouper, once again offering up himself and his songs:
'Here I stand, I'm your man.'"
10) "The sun was starting to set, so we moved indoors to the kitchen, where Leonard set about plying me solicitously with food and drink: tea, cognac, wine, a hot dog, perhaps some scrambled eggs? We finally shook on lattes, which he served in two of the coffee mugs his record company made some twenty years before to promote his album The Future. While we sat drinking at the small kitchen table, which was pushed up against the wall, by an open window through which a cool breeze blew, he asked how things were going with the book—a book, I should add, that he did not ask me to write and did not ask to read, neither of which appeared to inhibit his support. He was just making conversation, really. I gathered his only interest in the book was that it wouldn't be a hagiography and that its author shouldn't starve to death, at least not on his watch. 'Think about this seriously before you answer,' he said in that solemn voice. 'Would you like a scoop of ice cream in your coffee?'"