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Being Cool: The Work of Elmore Leonard Hardcover – August 13, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (August 13, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 142141015X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1421410159
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,560,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Few people are as versed in Elmore Leonard’s world as Charles Rzepka.

(John O'Rourke BU Today)

Rzepka’s close reading of Leonard’s fiction is an insightful, thorough and timely addition to scholarship on the author.

(Library Journal)

Rzepka uncovers interesting patterns that link the individual works and identifies connections between incidents in Leonard's life and his fiction. This is an important work on an important writer.

(David Geherin, Eastern Michigan University)

About the Author

Charles J. Rzepka is a professor of English at Boston University and author of Inventions and Interventions: Selected Studies in Romantic and American Literature, History, and Culture; Detective Fiction; Sacramental Commodities: Gift, Text, and the Sublime in De Quincey; and The Self as Mind: Vision and Identity in Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Keats.

Customer Reviews

“Being Cool” is an erudite reading of Elmore Leonard.
D. Chaudoir
There should be no need to give this review a negative because I myself am warning the casual reader away from this book.
Neal Reynolds
I will revisit this book after I've caught up on my reading of Leonard, and I'm sure will enjoy it more.
A Central Illinoisian in Chicago

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was expecting a typical biography: anecdotes, insights, loves and losses, and considering the subject is a famous novelist, tales of drinking, smoking, trysts, romances, etc., etc., etc.

Surprise: Charles J Rzepka is an academic, a Professor of English, and the book is a “close analysis” of Leonard’s 45 published novels and 39 published and unpublished stories. Rzepka says one of the reasons for writing this book was “to enhance the reading experience of the nonacademic Elmore Leonard fan”.

He succeeds.

Anyone who has read Elmore Leonard knows he invented dozens, if not hundreds, of off-kilter, distinctive, often weird characters. Leonard was called the Dickens f Detroit for the menagerie of characters he created. Rzepka attempts to penetrate Leonard’s characters, define their essence – their inherent “cool” – and in turn define Leonard himself.

“Being Cool” is far more dense than your average biography, but still quite readable. Be dissects Leonard’s writing, such as key sense and dialog from a scene in “Mr. Majestyk” among many others, examines how Leonard crafted the character and infused it with life and often refers back to a trait of Leonard’s such as not letting characters go.

Definitely a far cry from the ordinary biography, but a delightful and informative read for any fan of Elmore Leonard’s work.

Jerry
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Half Fast Farmer TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
One of my favorite books on writing is Elmore Leonards. If you are not familiar with it, make sure you understand what it is before you buy it. Leonard always did kind of go his own way.

I was very interested to see Rzepka strips down Elmore's work. We know that his writing and characters work. We know his dialogue is in a league of it's own. Rzepka looks at Leonard's life and writing. He breaks down how Elmore wrote. He explains what makes Elmore's deceptively simple writing brilliant.

As a writer known for his great characters, it is no surprise the Leonard was a bit of one himself. The book is very enjoyable. But this book is a treasure because it makes the case for Leonard being a great writer and it offers insights that can help writers improve their own work.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've read perhaps seven or eight Elmore Leonard novels - not enough to qualify as a die-hard fan, but I enjoy his writing and got plenty of insight out of `Being Cool - The Work of Elmore Leonard'. The author's a Boston University English professor who's interviewed Leonard extensively. There's not a lot of lengthy direct interview text in the book; it's more like isolated quotes and extended responses inserted here and there.

I enjoyed the way Rzepka threads the biographical account of Leonard's life throughout his analysis of various aspects of Leonard's prose, character development, and themes. As a reader you never feel too far from Leonard's life story and Rzepka effectively shows how Leonard's work reflects his inner attitudes and values.

`Being Cool' is not a book-by-book catalog of analysis, although the broad sections run roughly chronologically from Leonard's early westerns and experiments with crime fiction through his mastery in the 70's and on through the 80's.

I was struck by the commonality of themes and the consistency of Leonard's mature style. Leonard is a jazz fan and the parallel between a great improviser who tells endless variations of his story using the same prescribed vocabulary seemed unavoidable and perfect.

Hemmingway was a seminal influence on Leonard and I enjoyed what amounts to a lesson on `Free Indirect Discourse' that Rzepka presents by comparing passages in Leonard's `Trail of the Apache' to one from `For Whom The Bell Tolls'. There is a certain academic flavor to the book but it's not oppressive and the book doesn't read like a textbook. It feels meaty and substantial without being pedantic.

If nothing else, `Being Cool' certainly inspired me to pick up a few more Leonard titles. And it was fun to discover that my personal favorite, `Freaky Deaky' is also one of Leonard's favorites.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By DragonWing VINE VOICE on January 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I approached this book from the opposite direction than probably 99% of other readers. If I see a movie based on a book, and like it, I typically don't read the book afterwords, because the book is rarely as good as the movie. I saw the original 3:10 To Yuma (not on its original release, I hasten to add) and Get Shorty starring John Travolta, liked them...and so while I would go see another film based on an Elmore Leonard novel, I didn't plan on reading any of his books. Then I came across Being Cool: The Work of Elmore Leonard, which claimed to be (and is) a critical exploration of his work. Since I am a writer myself, and am interested in the development of characters, I decided to read this book as an exercise in learning how to create characters.

One of the by-products of reading this book is that I intend to seek out Leonard's ouvre - beginning in his early days, with his Westerns, and read them in order.

There are two types of criticism. I can criticize a book in a book review, say it's poorly written, etc., and that's a superficial kind of criticism. Being Cool is a book of in-depth criticism, author Rzepka goes through many of Leonard's novel and defines what makes each protagonist "cool."

IN fact, I like Rzepka's definition of "cool," so different from what people today believe it is - walking around with conspicuous wealth, aka bling dripping off you and women hanging on both arms as well as bring up the rear (those awful "the most interesting man in the world commercials" spring to mind, as well as rap and rock musicians....)

According to Rzepka's definition, in his introduction, "Feeling 'natural' in what you do is what I call...'being cool.
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Being Cool: The Work of Elmore Leonard
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