“Love is not a victory march; it’s a cold, and it’s a broken, hallelujah.”
One day, I will sit down and dissect the entirety of the work that is Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Today, however, I only have a few minutes while I wait for my dogs to be ready at the groomers.
This post is two parts, meant to drive home two different, but equally important themes. The first of those is love.
When I went to sum up Wild Things (or the entirety of the Collapse series), I kept struggling with the same issue: it’s a love story. But in the vast world of genres, saying your tale is a love story attracts a vastly different audience than one who might enjoy… say… an exploration of post traumatic stress and religion set to a background of violence, gods, and monsters.
Sometimes authors will say “literary fantasy with minor romance” as a way to say “Hey, this is an epic, but also people fall in love.” But that’s not really what my story is about, either.
I want to say “it is a love story the way war stories are about love.” But that would require everyone to have recently read Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” or to have read it enough times that the chapter titled ‘How to Tell a True War Story’ immediately presents to them the image of Curt Lemon evaporating into the sunlight as he stepped on a landmine, or the water buffalo being fired upon repeatedly, or Lemon’s “dumb c**ze” sister.
Now that, my friends, is a love story. But to have this as a prerequisite is also a lot to ask of a potential reader.
So instead, I will say that my story, too, is about love. About the reality of it, of how it is complicated and expresses itself in so many ways other than romance. It’s visceral, it’s familial, it’s violently protective, it’s offering your last breath to praise that you ever felt it at all, even as everything else is stripped away from you.
It’s that cold and broken ‘Hallelujah.’
The second theme today is creativity, and more importantly, how genius is born. Several years ago, I stumbled onto Josh McNall’s blog via a post entitled, “How Genius Happens: the untold story of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah.'” In reading it (and as many other posts of his as I could get my hands on), I found myself absorbed by his thought process, by his views on Christianity, and the nature of genius.
I think about this post often as I crawl through draft after draft, thinking (naively) the latest is the last (and the best) before having to rewrite it completely. Or when I find myself stumped with where to go, or drained creatively, only to find the inspiration I needed lay right ahead of me, if I would just look up.
Genius or not, creativity is a labor of love. Love. The cold and inherently broken kind.
So without further ado, the post that leads me through most of my days. Please enjoy.
How Genius Happens: The untold story of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”