Three Moments of Love in Leonard Cohen and Bruce Cockburn


184 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55164-176-3
DDC 782.42164'092'271





Reviewed by Desmond Maley

Desmond Maley is the music librarian at the J.W. Tate Library,
Huntington College, Laurentian University, and editor of the CAML


Warning: You must have read Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers to
appreciate this book. I foolishly tried to read Nonnekes’s unusual
experiment in psycho-literary analysis without consulting Cohen first,
only to find myself “shipwrecked,” to borrow a word from the rather
incomplete index that accompanies this opus.

But my initial frustration has since become a guarded admiration.
Nonnekes does illuminate Cohen’s darkly surreal odyssey, which is
notable for its bawdiness and humor. Nonnekes posits an ideal subject
called I, whose inner “life” and encounter with the feminine
“other” results in a deeper awareness of masculine desire and love.
The narrative is punctuated with quotations around which an evolving
commentary is arranged. The concluding part, drawn from Cohen’s work
in the 1980s and ’90s, also shows a connection between Cohen and Bruce

The portrait of the “S” ideal subject in the much longer Cockburn
section follows a similar course, only it is much easier to understand
because of the relatively straightforward nature of the lyrics. The
evolution of S depicts Christian love and engagement with the world from
a masculine point of view. The phases are also mirrored in the
increasing sophistication of Cockburn’s lyrics. My main criticism is
that Nonnekes’s analysis is extremely repetitive. The same words and
phrases appear from one sentence to the next. The apparent intent is to
attain a poetic assonance, but the effect is simply numbing.

Nonnekes tells us his investigation was influenced by French
psychoanalysts Jacques Lacan and Julia Kristeva and the German critical
theorist Walter Benjamin. Despite some slips in footnoting and
occasional descent into jargon, Three Moments in Love is an imaginative
and provocative interpretation of two of our most celebrated


Nonnekes, Paul., “Three Moments of Love in Leonard Cohen and Bruce Cockburn,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,