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VINE VOICEon 17 May 2014
Liel Leibovitz has obviously immersed himself in the life of his subject. A Broken Hallelujah is an intensely readable account of the life of Leonard Cohen containing a certain amount of new information but also presenting him in a cohering, self-contained narrative. All the great moments are here: the outsider status, the influences, the songs and personalities. For all fans, and all interested in the era, including those of us who lived through it, this is a book not to be missed. As a volume it is beautifully designed and produced with fascinating photographs, a fitting match for the author's golden prose.
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on 23 May 2014
It seems to me that the main thrust of this well written book is Leonard Cohen’s Jewishness and the effect this has had on his life and work, most especially the work. Not being of that faith myself I found this notion, when applied by Liel Leibovitz, to be quite revealing. With regard to his relationship, if that is the word, with the state of Israel I wonder if he is completely comfortable and suspect not. This area is a minefied, of course, but it is good to see it being at least treated. The book is beautifully designed and produced, a real treat to just hold in the hand. Downsides? Not too many. I don’t think the author’s adulation is a barrier to the truth and, yes, I love Mr Cohen just that little bit more now
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on 26 May 2014
This is a highly readable life story of the great Leonard Cohen. It describes his early life in Montreal, later adventures in Greece and Cuba. All this was mostly new to me and I think will be to many fans. Wonderful photographs too. It’s a mix of the spiritual and material with lots on the origins of the songs. There’s everything to like in this book, and Leonard keeps going. Thank goodness.
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on 27 December 2016
Overall, this is somewhat disappointing. The fly cover states that "in this philosophical biography, Leibovitz looks at what it is that makes Cohen an enduring international figure in the cultural imagination" but to me, she fails to do so. This is more a disparate rambling rather than a coherent exposé and I'm not sure I know anymore about Cohen or his place in international culture than I did before.

In fairness, I was irritated at her description of the 1970 Isle of Wight festival, which appears fairly early on, and represents a very different festival to the one I attended; having irritated a reader early on, it's hard to recover, but there's so little reference to Hydra, for example, which was an enduring part of his life, or his Québécoise origins, or his various relationships, or . . .
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on 23 August 2014
There is a dichotomy here. The opening line of the Amazon review refers to this book as a biography, yet the first sentence of Leil Leibovitz's preface in "A Broken Hallelujah" says this is not a biography of Leonard Cohen. Yet, the book does progress chronologically through his life. What is it then if not the story of the poet and singer's life? I fear it is an overly intellectualised examination of the man and his material that tips over into the incomprehensible. It is fine when it does come back to earth with accounts of his tour of Israeli armed forces outposts in 1973 and in the description of what sounds like one of the great mismatches of modern times: the perhaps gnomic Leonard Cohen and the almost certainly mad, bad and dangerous to know Phil Spector.

Otherwise, I fear that Mr Leibovitz only succeeds in proving that most artists, musicians and similar talented people are best appreciated when they do what they do and not being described in a book. One exception I can think of is John Lennon. The biography written by Ray Coleman was very good, mostly because by then Lennon was more interesting for what he did outside of music. Much of the music he produced post-Beatles, "Imagine" apart, was fairly banal. Put it another way, in his excellent but slim volume, "The Painted Word", the author Tom Wolfe imagines a situation where a 6in x 6in painting on a gallery wall has a descriptive piece 6FT x 6FT next to it.
I think I'm safe in saying that colleges offer degree courses in Dylan studies these days. He wrote some wonderful songs but we are all capable of getting from them what we want as we are from looking at great works of art and as we are from the poems and songs of Leonard Cohe. As David Gates wrote in "The Guitar Man": "You find yourself a message and some words to call your own".
There is, perhaps, scope for an understandable analysis of the thoughts and work of Leonard Cohen, but in its over-intellectualisation Leil Leibovitz's book is not it.
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on 10 January 2017
This book is not a biography. I am not sure what it is. I liked it.
If you are interested in Leonard Cohen, if you have already read a straight biography, if you want to be inspired to explore more of Cohen's work, you need to check this out. For the kindle price of £2 (or something) you can't go far wrong.
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on 21 August 2014
I'm left with the strong impression that this is somebody simply recycling large chunks of their doctrinal thesis ......... or similar. It's the book that's fundamentally 'broken' .......... or at least very fragmented.
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on 31 January 2017
This is a profound book, that goes directly to the heart of Cohen's significance. From the start, his position as something different than either a poet or a song writer is recognized. From there this insight is compactly illuminated and beautifully demonstrated. I cannot recommend another book on the prophet from Montreal more highly.
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on 21 April 2015
Heavy going in parts, where it strays into the realm of what I regard as unnecessarily dense academic claptrap. An interesting read, certainly; but in my opinion - and in that of many commentators - Cohen's albums/work since he emerged from the monastery are among his best, as well as his most successful, yet here they are largely dismissed as an afterthought. Maybe the publishers demanded submission by a deadline, or limited the length, but for whatever reason, I feel that this analysis was abandoned at just the point when it should have blossomed, and ultimately left me disappointed.
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on 11 March 2015
Superb intelligent analysis which goes a long way to explaining how Cohen transformed himself from Dylan-lite 'also ran' in the 1960's, to the unrivalled towering poetic genius he has become since 'Various Positions' was composed twenty years later on his cheapo drugstore Casio keyboard. Amazing!
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