Liel Leibovitz: A Broken Hallelujah (new book)

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Liel Leibovitz: A Broken Hallelujah (new book)

Postby jarkko » Fri May 02, 2014 9:35 am

Image
Publisher: Sandstone Press Ltd, UK
Hardcover, 256 pages
ISBN13: 9781908737861


Image
Publisher: WW Norton & Co, New York
Hardcover, 256 pages
ISBN13: 9780393082050
From The Christian Science Monitor, http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/Book-Rev ... Hallelujah
Reviewed by David Yaffe for The Barnes & Noble Review

"This is not a biography of Leonard Cohen.” This is the opening sentence of Liel Leibovitz’s thoughtful, ruminative A Broken Hallelujah: Rock 'n' Roll, Redemption, and the Life of Leonard Cohen.

A book that promises the “Life of Leonard Cohen” in its subtitle might be sending mixed messages. One can assume that Leibovitz wants to put a little distance between himself and previous writers who did not eschew the title of biographer. English professor Ira Nadel interviewed Cohen and many of those around him for his "Various Positions"; Sylvie Simmons gave Cohen the full-on life-in-showbiz treatment in "I’m Your Man," where she had access to nearly everyone, but did not know exactly what to ask.

In distinguishing himself from these predecessors, Leibovitz lets us know that his book will have a depth worthy of his subject. 2014 happens to be the year of Cohen's 80th birthday, and Leibovitz’s book is among nine Cohen books to be published this year. So what word is more suited than biography? Philosophical tract? Poetic meditation? Spiritual odyssey? Lyric essay? All of these might apply – not unlike his subject, Leibovitz is inclined to aim for lofty realms in which mere information seems a small affair.

Since the Nadel and Simmons books, Cohen, who was forced to tour after a manager robbed him blind, saw his stock rise like never before. He was filling sports arenas and hearing covers of “Hallelujah” crop up all over the place, even on "American Idol". Even as he was constantly onstage and in creative overdrive in the studio, he also suddenly became conspicuously unavailable. On his most recent album, "Old Ideas," Cohen plays with this notion, claiming to be inaccessible even to himself: “I’d love to speak with Leonard/ He’s a sportsman and a shepard / He’s a lazy bastard living in a suit.”

Cohen is joking of course, something he does more often than you would know in this learned, eloquent, and rather maudlin tome. Cohen has been on the road since 2008, and between sets, he hops across the stage, with a delirious smile on his face. It’s a long way from The New Yorker’s 1993 description of him as the “Prince of Bummers.”

But it is the Prince of Bummers who dominates Leibovitz's’s book, and we are given evidence for why he was so anointed. He has been a man who appears to have been, as the man himself once put it, sentenced to death by the blues. We follow Cohen’s despair, losing his father at the age of nine, living off his family fortune as a poet in Montreal, New York, and Greece. Cohen has said that, like many young men, he wrote poetry to attract women, and when that didn’t work, he appealed to God. Really, in the tradition of John Donne, he was sometimes doing both in the same place, as in "Hallelujah," his most celebrated song.

While Leibovitz is artful and precise in his descriptions – the best of which is a stunning, blow-by-blow account of Cohen's appearance at the tumultuous Isle of Wight festival in 1970 – the Cohen of this book is somewhat joyless. So we get descriptions of his initial discomfort in the recording studio, and of the obtuse reviews of his debut, The Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967). We get Cohen having a series of nervous breakdowns onstage and backstage; we learn that Suzanne Elrod (not the Suzanne of the song) waged a custody battle for their children without witnessing him exhibit any joy as a father. His relationships with various women end, but we never see the ebullience of their beginning.

What we don’t get is a sense of the triumph of an album that is one of the most astonishing debuts in the age of the LP, stuffed with masterpieces like “Suzanne,” “Master Song,” and “The Stranger Song,” among many others. Cohen may have been struck with self-doubt during the entire process, but for so many listeners, the album is a gift that keeps on giving. Bob Dylan was influenced by poetry (among many other things), and Jim Morrison (who is taken far too seriously in this book) had delusions of his own poetic stature, but it is Cohen, a fully formed poet – who had published two volumes of poetry and a novel before he wrote his first song – who combines high poetry with pop songwriting like no one else.

Such triumph amid despair should be at least intermittently satisfying, if not for the neurotic and self-abasing Cohen, then at least for his non-biographer. And Leibovitz offers windows to such wider horizons in many places in this book, particularly in his consideration of Cohen’s Jewishness and embrace of Zen Buddhism.

If you look deeply not just at Cohen but at what he read, whom he knew, and how he became the artist he became, there's plenty beyond the gloom. He gives it to all of us in the songs. A life of spiritual quest is bound for disappointment; Cohen at 80, is still writing, recording, and performing, but more reluctant to appear than ever. His exegetes have plenty of material on their hands, brimming with beauty and truth and still proliferating. There could never be a perfect account of the life of a man who is wise enough to eschew perfection itself, as he put it when he was around 60: “Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack, a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in.”
1988, 1993: Helsinki||2008: Manchester|Oslo|London O2|Berlin|Helsinki|London RAH|| 2009: New York Beacon|Berlin|Venice|Barcelona|Las Vegas|San José||2010: Salzburg|Helsinki|Gent|Bratislava|Las Vegas|| 2012: Gent|Helsinki|Verona|| 2013: New York|Pula|Oslo|||
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Re: Liel Leibovitz: A Broken Hallelujah (new book)

Postby lizzytysh » Fri May 02, 2014 4:02 pm

This review is well written. Won't know til I read the book how much I agree. The Christian Monitor is known for good journalism.
These paragraphs, I love:
What we don’t get is a sense of the triumph of an album that is one of the most astonishing debuts in the age of the LP, stuffed with masterpieces like “Suzanne,” “Master Song,” and “The Stranger Song,” among many others. Cohen may have been struck with self-doubt during the entire process, but for so many listeners, the album is a gift that keeps on giving. Bob Dylan was influenced by poetry (among many other things), and Jim Morrison (who is taken far too seriously in this book) had delusions of his own poetic stature, but it is Cohen, a fully formed poet – who had published two volumes of poetry and a novel before he wrote his first song – who combines high poetry with pop songwriting like no one else.

Such triumph amid despair should be at least intermittently satisfying, if not for the neurotic and self-abasing Cohen, then at least for his non-biographer. And Leibovitz offers windows to such wider horizons in many places in this book, particularly in his consideration of Cohen’s Jewishness and embrace of Zen Buddhism.
Trying to capture [or even learn of] all aspects of Leonard through a single book could easily make the size of the book rival the largest volume of the Oxford English Dictionary. Such a daunting task that may well be impossible by a single author.

Love the choice of front and back photos, suggestive of spanning his career, beginning with the reel-to-reel. Didn't care for the comment regarding Sylvie's book.

Will get this book for sure, however... thanks, Jarkko.
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Re: Liel Leibovitz: A Broken Hallelujah (new book)

Postby Mabeanie1 » Sat May 03, 2014 11:32 am

lizzytysh wrote: Didn't care for the comment regarding Sylvie's.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion Lizzy. Personally I don't care much for Sylvie's book. I don't like her style and I don't understand why she has been so lionised by LC fans. I much preferred the Nadel book.

My copy of the new Leibovitz book arrived last week and I am looking forward to reading it.

Wendy
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Re: Liel Leibovitz: A Broken Hallelujah (new book)

Postby lizzytysh » Sat May 03, 2014 9:14 pm

lizzytysh wrote:
Didn't care for the comment regarding Sylvie's.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion Lizzy.
I know that, Wendy. That's why I expressed mine, and in that very way.
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Re: Liel Leibovitz: A Broken Hallelujah (new book)

Postby comehealing » Sun Jun 22, 2014 5:39 pm

I enjoyed listening to this, when it featured as "Book of The Week" on BBC Radio 4.
I thought it complemented Sylvie's bio nicely.

Perhaps the "perfect" biography will never be written. I find this reassuring.
The songs and lyrics are all that matter.

:)
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Re: Liel Leibovitz: A Broken Hallelujah (new book)

Postby christineanne » Mon Jul 07, 2014 9:17 pm

Another review of this book from the UK Daily Mail 4th July 2014

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/books/a ... -last.html

Printed here in case the link disappears

Hallelujah! Laughing Len can smile at last

Leonard Cohen's lyrics are capable of endless interpretation
His late-flowering career has a wonderful shape
Hallelujah has become one of the most covered songs of the past decade

By Marcus Berkmann

PUBLISHED: 00:05, 4 July 2014 | UPDATED: 11:33, 4 July 2014


A BROKEN HALLELUJAH: LEONARD COHEN'S SECRET CHORD by Liel Leibovitz (Sandstone Press £14.99)

Hallelujah! Another Leonard Cohen biography! A remarkable number of books have been written about the old groaner, once lovingly known to British music critics as ‘Laughing Len’.

But there are two good reasons for this. One is the lyrics: opaque, complex, redemptive, capable of endless interpretation and reinterpretation. Critics love all that.

The other is the wonderful shape of his late-flowering career.
Hats off to Laughing Len: Musician Leonard Cohen is loved for his ability to talk off the cuff

Hats off to Laughing Len: Musician Leonard Cohen is loved for his ability to talk off the cuff

Inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame in 1991, he said: ‘If I had been given this attention when I was 26, it would have turned my head. At 36 it might have confirmed my flight on a rather morbid spiritual path. At 46 it would have rubbed my nose in my failing powers and have prompted a plotting of a getaway and an alibi. But at 56 — hell, I’m just hitting my stride and it doesn’t hurt at all.’

A third reason might be this: who couldn’t love a man who can talk like that off the cuff?

Cohen (pictured) will be 80 in September and has never been more popular. His recent live performances, which only began because his former manager had hopped off with all his money, have been a revelation and a delight.

And Hallelujah, a song from an album his record company originally turned down, has become one of the most covered songs of the past decade, although as Liel Leibovitz points out, most of the singers who attempt it misinterpret it.

‘The song tends to inspire the sort of cascade of crescendos that causes inexperienced and dramatic singers to shut their eyes tightly and clench their fists as they belt out verse after verse. Overcome by emotion, they take the song to be about the hallelujah of the orgasm.’

Cohen, says Leibovitz, has none of that. He always sings it simply (as he sings everything) because the words are what count, not the performance. When an interviewer told him that Hallelujah conveyed a sense of holiness, Cohen wanted to talk about ritual instead.

‘I understand that they forgot how to build the arch for several hundred years,’ he said. ‘Masons forgot how to build certain kinds of arches, it was lost. So it is in our time that certain spiritual mechanisms that were very useful have been abandoned and forgot. Redemption, repentance, resurrection.

‘All those ideas are thrown out with the bathwater. People become suspicious of religion plus all these redemptive mechanisms that are very useful.’

One wonders what Alexandra Burke, who won The X Factor with an atrocious, grandstanding version of the song, would make of that. Not a lot, I would imagine.
Flawed hero: Cohen is best known for his song 'Hallelujah' which has become one of the most covered songs of the decade

Flawed hero: Cohen is best known for his song 'Hallelujah' which has become one of the most covered songs of the decade

Liel Leibovitz is a youngish American academic, and his book is rather more intellectually rigorous than most rock biographies. Cohen’s love life is famously ragged, but Leibovitz isn’t interested in gossip. What he’s after are the philosophical and theological bases of Cohen’s art.

He is fascinated by the young man’s struggle, for Cohen was in his mid-30s before he even recorded a note. Canadian, Jewish and not very tall, he never ceased to feel like an outsider.

Whatever was going on in popular culture never seemed to have much to do with him. In the late 1960s, for instance, psychedelia was mutating into blues rock, and thence into progressive and glam rock. Only Leonard Cohen was sitting alone with his guitar, singing long, slow, highly literary laments to lost love and the meaningless horror of modern existence.

He emerges from the book as something of a hero, flawed as we all are, complex as very few of us are, and not just looking for answers but actually finding some. He’s Laughing Len now, for real.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/books/a ... z36o91k2Kq
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Re: Liel Leibovitz: A Broken Hallelujah (new book)

Postby Goldin » Wed Jul 15, 2015 11:49 pm

Translations:

Leonard Cohen - muzika, iskupljenje, život
Serbia 2014
Publisher: Dereta, Beograd, Serbia
Pages: 192
Edition in the Serbian language
ISBN: 9788673469577
http://www.leonardcohenfiles.com/leibovitz.html

And a new item for the Files:

Leonard Cohen - život, hudba a vykoupení
Czech Republic 2014
Publisher: Vyšehrad
Pages: 212
ISBN: 9788074294778
Translated by Kateřina Novotná
http://knihy.abz.cz/prodej/leonard-cohe ... ni-a-zivot

A PDF sampler (cover, four extra photos you'd love; 33 pages from the book):
https://www.ereading.cz/nakladatele/dat ... review.pdf
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Re: Liel Leibovitz: A Broken Hallelujah (new book)

Postby Goldin » Fri Jul 17, 2015 3:44 pm

Another Eastern European edition:

Hallelujah - Rock & Roll, izbăvire și viața lui Leonard Cohen
Romania 2014
Publisher: Victoria Books / Publica, Bucharest
Pages: 240
Paperback
ISBN: 978-606-8360-86-7
Translated by: Louis Ulrich, Tudor Ulrich

http://www.publica.ro/liel-leibovitz-hallelujah.html

Cover

A sampler PDF: http://issuu.com/editurapublica/docs/cohen
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Re: Liel Leibovitz: A Broken Hallelujah (new book)

Postby Goldin » Fri Jul 17, 2015 4:32 pm

It's worth mentioning that there is an audiobook narrated by the author himself:

Listening Length: 6 hours and 42 minutes
Program Type: Audiobook
Version: Unabridged
Publisher: Audible Studios
Audible.com Release Date: April 14, 2014

Amazon.com

(This is the only LC-related audiobook I can find at the moment, except Sylvie Simmons' I'm Your Man, narrated by Joshua Pollock)

Also, this: Hear “How Leonard Cohen Found His Groove” By Liel Leibovitz – Adapted From “A Broken Hallelujah”
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