Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Famous blue raincoat - a metaphor that lives

The heading for this post refers of course to Leonard Cohen's song. I was prodded into writing about this strangely alive metaphor by hearing the song again.

The blue raincoat transcends the whole lyrics, the whole song, and leaves me on the other side with a new impression imprinted in my being. This image leaves blue streaks in its wake, embodying and generating a bluish world of its own. The raincoat comes alive, that's the easiest way of describing what I mean. Easier still is to call it by its rhetorical name: This piece of clothing becomes a full-blooded symbol, though a symbol which seems to live by itself, which has taken on a form and transmits the content of the song just by existing as a symbol. Perhaps this is what some writers mean when they say that their characters become alive and start talking and having opinions on how the story should develop.

I love this quote from Cohen about his own blue raincoat:

"I had a good raincoat then, a Burberry I got in London in 1959. Elizabeth thought I looked like a spider in it. That was probably why she wouldn't go to Greece with me. It hung more heroically when I took out the lining, and achieved glory when the frayed sleeves were repaired with a little leather. Things were clear. I knew how to dress in those days. It was stolen from Marianne's loft in New York sometime during the early seventies. I wasn't wearing it very much toward the end."

And so the formatting strangles me. Marianne by the way is Cohen's Norwegian girlfriend from those years - So long, Marianne is spun around her.

(Also, if you're Scandinavian or can understand a Scandinavian language, it is worth checking out the recording of this song made by Kari Bremnes on the tribute album Cohen på norsk - "Cohen in Norwegian".)

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