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A Broken Hallelujah: Rock and Roll, Redemption, and the Life of Leonard Cohen Hardcover – April 14, 2014


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Frequently Bought Together

A Broken Hallelujah: Rock and Roll, Redemption, and the Life of Leonard Cohen + Leonard Cohen on Leonard Cohen: Interviews and Encounters (Musicians in Their Own Words) + So Long, Marianne: A Love Story — includes rare material by Leonard Cohen
Price for all three: $57.70

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (April 14, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393082059
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393082050
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Leibovitz presents a thoughtful examination of the music of Leonard Cohen, the elegant Canadian wordsmith and musician, through a strong Jewish perspective. Tellingly, Leibovitz calls Cohen a prophet. He examines the musician’s life and work through the angles of Jewish eschatology, Zen Buddhism, Canadian poetry, and American rock and roll, as well as “lust and lucre.” Yes, there are biographical details here, but A Broken Hallelujah offers something else: a finely etched musical portrait of a complicated man—both highly spiritual and sensual—and the often exquisite music that he has created over many decades, austere and melancholy songs that dare to find beauty amid ugliness. Leibovitz himself has a distinctive voice and approach to Cohen’s work as he looks at the influence two Jewish scholars had on Cohen, the Canadian poets Irving Layton and A. M. Klein. He explores the evolution of Cohen’s public persona as the Poet, and states that the one theme that has consistently preoccupied Cohen is redemption, which he describes as “a discretely Jewish affair,” “a wholly Canadian affliction,” and unquestionably universal. “It was more than enough for a lifetime of work,” he concludes. A sparkling and psychologically insightful perspective on a unique artist. --June Sawyers

Review

“In A Broken Hallelujah: Rock and Roll, Redemption, and the Life of Leonard Cohen, Liel Leibovitz neatly limns the spiritual quest that underpins most of Cohen’s work, from Montreal to Tel Aviv and beyond. Less about Suzanne than ‘Suzanne,’ Leibovitz’s book highlights the novelist behind the songwriter, the poet behind the novelist, and the would-be prophet looming over them all.” (Marc Dolan, author of Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock ’n’ Roll)

“This is a wise book, and it asks poignant and incisive questions… The time is right for an elegant examination of the man’s work: his passions, his fears, his poetry, his anger, his loneliness, his redemption. The time is right for Leibovitz’s A Broken Hallelujah.” (Alan W. Petrucelli - Examiner)

“Absolutely outstanding.” (Naomi Tropp - Jewish Book Council)

More About the Author

I am a breakfast enthusiast, a coffee fanatic, a video game scholar, a husband and a father of two. I come from a long line of rabbis, and even though I'm a few cheeseburgers removed from the faith of my fathers, I take religion very seriously: most of my books are about our attempts -- sometimes desperate, always touching -- to make sense of the divine particles floating all around us. I'm a proud graduate of Columbia University's doctoral program in communications, and teach about games and other digital media at New York University. I believe that the books we write and read are only entry points into conversation, so get in touch via Twitter (@liel) or email (lleibovitz@gmail.com).

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Liel Leibovitz begins the preface to his biography of Leonard Cohen with the following assertion: “This is not a biography of Leonard Cohen.” What are we to make of such a claim? Pure affectation? Perhaps. It’s certainly a bold opening line, and as a critic, it rather pulls the rug from under your feet; you no longer have a fixed lens through which to view the book.

As one progresses through A BROKEN HALLELUJAH, it becomes ever clearer how this is not a conventional biography. For one thing, it is very much on the short side. Leibovitz does not cram his book with every scrap of information he can scour concerning his subject’s life; he does not present us with Cohen’s every adolescent pimple, nor do we see the poet/singer brushing his teeth at night or practicing his guitar in the mornings. This slender volume has very specific concerns, which are rendered deftly through a number of haunting episodes. Leibovitz sets out not to write yet another life of a musician, not really to see him as a singer at all, but to imagine him as a kind of Old Testament Prophet. “So what is the Prophet Cohen telling us?” he asks at the end of his preface. “And why do we listen so intently?”

To a secular Jew such as myself, this is both an appealing and a suspect premise. On the one hand, Laughing Lenny is just the sort of prophet I can get on board with. After all, one does not recall Isaiah or Elijah writing about getting “head/ On the unmade bed” the way Cohen does. On the other hand, there is the nagging fear that this is another tired attempt to make religion “cool” to an increasingly secularized society. This gives Leibovitz a precarious road to follow, and he treads it judiciously.

The religiosity of Cohen’s lyrics has been apparent from his first record.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By AudreyLM on May 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover
A beautifully written, soulful work, worthy of its subject. I bought it on Audible so also had the pleasure of hearing it read by the author.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Martin Grossman on April 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I would have given it five stars if it had been a bit longer and included more detail. It seemed somewhat rushed.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was an insightful and fascinatiing view of Leornard Cohen, the artist and the man. It was also a glimpse of history -- of the music scene in the 60s and beyond, as well as the influence of Cohen's Jewish heritage on his life. However, there were no interviews with Cohen himself, although I would guess that Leonard wants to tell his own story if it's to be told at all other than through his music and the brilliant, moving poetry of his lyrics.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Clavin on July 8, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found 'A Broken Hallelujah' to be pretty heavy going, and ultimately neither terribly interesting, insightful, nor entertaining. The author has a fairly ponderous style and spends far more time wandering off into Judaic mysticism and poetic method with infrequent ties back to how it was relevant to Cohen's life or work, than he does looking at some of the great events and peer influences of the time that informed the messages of Cohen's work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lauren Muriel Adams on August 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
My eyes were opened to Leonard Cohen, his genius and the painstaking years this "overnight" success, Hallelujja put him thru. I was brought closer to Cohen and his other works by discovering how many different ways people translated this work, how they were moved by it and how it changed their lives. I think the man is the most underrated writer/poet of our time!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Marge's Opinion on June 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It's great to ride along to explore his youth, failures, aging and successes. I am not a lover of poetry, but for his I convert. I think his poetry in music is the highest level achievable for listening and understanding. He thinks and writes in a manner so incredibly touching that one can almost experience what he lived in order to get to those lines. The author does a very good job of comparing and relating the music and lyrics of other performers with Leonard's. Mr. Cohen's fresh and unique creations help us be a little more insightful, clever and unusual in our own thinking. Reading about the evolution of some of the lyrics exposes how. I should have taken notes along the way because now I have to read it again to save some of the great lines Mr. Cohen has said and or written. Loved it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peter Choyce on May 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
NOT as detailed as say the IM YOUR MAN Symie simons (?) treat i just read but i could read LEONARD STORIES all day even if they do start to overlap! BUY IT don't be a dolt- its LEONARD! How could u go wrong? be serious...
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