A Broken Hallelujah: Rock and Roll, Redemption, and The Life of Leonard Cohen by Liel Leibovitz

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A better title: The Soul of A Man…..    ****

In the introduction Leibovitz states that this is not a biography. Interesting that Philip Weinstein said the same thing in his book about Jonathan Franzen. The difference being, Weinstein was right in that his was simply a book report on the works of Franzen, while Leibovitz digs deep into the soul of Leonard Cohen.

Using bits and pieces of Cohen’s life, Leibovitz gives great insight into the words found in Cohen’s poetry and songs. He shows how this artist developed over the years and what led him to become such an icon. Beginning with the remarkable incident at the Isle of Wright, where Cohen calmed a riotous crowd, chronicling Cohen’s early struggles, and ending with a discussion of the song, “Going Home”, Leibovitz gives a remarkable account of Leonard Cohen, the man.

Liel Leibovitz has a vast knowledge of the music industry and he lets it show in this biography. His short dissertation on the Doors was very interesting. WARNING: Doors fans might get a little miffed at some of his comments.

My only issue with the book was that it is too short.  There are songs and poems I would have loved to hear Leibovitz’s thoughts and insight. Other than that, this is a must read for any Leonard Cohen fan.

This one gets four stars.

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Book of Mercy by Leonard Cohen

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A rework of Psalms….     ***

Sadly, I had not heard of Leonard Cohen until True Detective 2 used his song “Nevermind” as its theme song.  The song intrigued me enough that I bought the album “Popular Problems”.  After reading about Cohen I knew I had to buy some of his writings.

The Book of Mercy is billed as a modernization of Psalms. Cohen’s talent as a poet/writer is evident as he laments about life and its troubles. Written in a prose style, his poetic talent shines through.

While reading each selection, I was constantly reminded of the actual Psalms. This made me think of these as more of a reworking than as new reflections. The tone is somber and while there are 50 selections, they seemed to have one note. I am a wretch but God loves me anyway.

This was a hard book to review as Cohen is an amazing writer but this particular book did not demonstrate his talent very well.

This one, reluctantly, gets only three stars.