Once upon a time there was an author who made the mistake authors sometimes make: she wrote a book. The second mistake she made was to let song texts of Leonard Cohen play a role in that book. My editor started researching. The copyright for the texts, she found out, are owned by a dozen different agencies. Cohen himself doesn´t have any rights. Or else … maybe Cohen doesn´t really exist? Is he only a product of the music industry?
The agencies of course hope to make money. In order to calculate what they can earn they ask for the print run and the price of the book, a synopsis, the shoe size of the protagonists … I´m just measuring the murderer´s feet in the book when I realize Cohen will be on stage in Berlin the day after tomorrow.
So does he exist after all? Maybe he can tell me how to get the copyright for his texts. I guess he must buy the copyrights before each tour and give the agency a detailed synopsis of the concert and the shoe size of all guests. I pack a tooth brush and an USB-stick (two things better not to be mixed up) and take the train to Berlin, where I visit the Cohen-concert with my brother. “It´s easy“, I tell him, “we just get the English text of the Storyteller printed in some copy shop and give it to Mr. Cohen, and he will be so happy about that he´ll help us. And should he ever find the copyrights for his own texts too expensive he can just sing mine.“
We walk to the next copy shop, we´ve got tons of time before the concert starts … the copy shop can´t read the document off my USB-stick. Why, sure, it´s English … We walk back to my brother’s flat in order to save the document in a different way and make it readable. The computer tells us the copy shop left a virus on the USB-stick (better than on the tooth brush) and dies on us. Whatever, we don´t have so much time any more, two hours left before the concert. We run back to the copy shop, my brother starts cutting the edges off our home-made cover. One hour left. The cutting machine cuts crooked edges. We glue a now nearly three-cornered cover on the four- cornered book.
Half an hour left.
Where is this so-called “forest stage“ the concert should be at? Oh, that´s not in Berlin, says the copy shop-woman. That´s just outside town … we take the sticky crumpled book and jump into a taxi. “We´re in a hurry! Take the highway!”, shouts my brother. The driver doesn´t. “I don´t like highways,” he says.
Panting, we reach the forest stage. I imagined a romantic little stage between high green trees, tiny, perfect for Cohen´s German fans which can´t be that many. The “forest stage”, nearly sold out tonight, has four trees and 50 thousand seats. Oh, well. We manage to get seats near the front so maybe we can throw our book onto the stage … Then a man walks past us – a man who looks exactly like Cohen. He is heading for the toilets. We wait for a long, long time, but he doesn´t come back.
We ask the security guy. We tell him we have a book to give to Leonard Cohen and might the man on the toilet be him? The security guy seems worried about our mental health and sends us to a tent where emergencies are treated. There we find some important and involved-looking people. “Well”, says a lady, “I could pass the .. um … ugly little book … on to him. Why, not to himself, of course. I could give it to the cloakroom attendant.”
Just when it´s time for the concert to start, it starts to rain. My brother told me the “forest stage“ is roofed over, so not to worry. Well, the stage IS roofed over. The seats aren´t. We´re given plastic bags to put over our heads. I need a while to get accustomed to the three tenderly miaowing young women on stage, but apart from them it´s very nice. I like the huge screen, on which you can see the musicians in close-up, best. The next three hours we watch either Leonard Cohen´s left ear or his nose. Cohen really does look like that man we saw before. So not only does he exist – he exists twice! One version is still locked in a Berlin toilet.
A week later, I receive a letter from the cloakroom attendant. She thanks me for the book. She couldn´t read it, because it´s in English, but, she writes, the single pages, when ripped out, were very good to wrap fish in. We never heard of any of the music agencies any more.
Dear reader! When the Storyteller is out, don´t be too surprised if there are marks on some pages saying CENSORED CENSORED CENSORED where the songs should have been. Maybe it adds to the mysterious atmosphere of the story.
Also Amulet will be giving away copies of this book on their Facebook and Twitter pages during this blog tour so dont miss out there!!