The Perfume Burned His Eyes
Emmy-winning actor Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos, The White Lotus, etc.) brilliantly evokes 1970s New York in this Holden Caulfield-esque debut
"[T]he actor's first novel is a quintessential New York story: A teenager moves from Queens to Manhattan, discovering a world populated with drugs, sex, a witch, and Lou Reed. It's like a vivid walk through the city and adolescence, reveling in their grit and pathos."
--New York Times
"Imperioli's first novel is the atmospheric coming-of-age story of sixteen-year-old Matthew, whose mother moves them from Queens to a posh apartment in Manhattan in 1976 . . . Imperioli can definitely write, and he gets high marks for the verisimilitude and empathy that he evokes in this fine crossover novel."
--Booklist, starred review
Matthew is a sixteen-year-old boy living in Jackson Heights, Queens, in 1976. After he loses his two most important male role models, his father and grandfather, his mother uses her inheritance to uproot Matthew and herself to a posh apartment building in Manhattan. Although only three miles away from his boyhood home, "the city" is a completely new and strange world to Matthew.
Matthew soon befriends (and becomes a factotum of sorts to) Lou Reed, who lives with his transgender girlfriend Rachel in the same building. The artistic-shamanic rocker eventually becomes an unorthodox father figure to Matthew, who finds himself head over heels for the mysterious Veronica, a wise-beyond-her-years girl he meets at his new school.
The novel is written from the point of view of Matthew at age eighteen, two years after the story begins, and concludes with an epilogue in the year 2013, three days after Lou Reed's death, with Matthew in his fifties.
Earn by promoting books
Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.Become an affiliate
About the Author
Michael Imperioli is best known for his starring role as Christopher Moltisanti in the acclaimed TV series The Sopranos, which earned him a Best Supporting Actor Emmy Award. He also wrote five episodes of the show; was coscreenwriter of the film Summer of Sam, directed by Spike Lee; and was anthologized in The Nicotine Chronicles, edited by Lee Child. Imperioli has appeared in six of Spike Lee's films and has also acted in films by Martin Scorsese, Abel Ferrara, Walter Hill, Peter Jackson, and the Hughes Brothers. He cohosts the rewatch podcast, Talking Sopranos, with his Sopranos costar Steve Schirripa, with whom he also penned the best-selling book, Woke Up This Morning: The Definitive Oral History of The Sopranos. Additionally, he is a singer and guitarist in the band ZOPA. Follow him on Instagram: @realmichaelimperioli.
Praise for The Perfume Burned His Eyes:
"An edgy coming-of-age romp set in New York City prominently featuring the 'character' of rocker Lou Reed."
"The Perfume Burned His Eyes is a deft debut with a poignant epilogue."
"A coming-of-age tale dashed with relatable angst and humor."
"Vividly imagined, compelling, and sympathetic, The Perfume Burned His Eyes convinces with the force of its emotional intensity."
--Joyce Carol Oates
"Compelling . . . Lou Reed appears as a major character; he's an unlikely father figure to the teenage protagonist, Matthew, who's trying to find himself in 1976 Manhattan. The iconoclastic--and at the time, troubled--rocker inspires Matthew artistically, even as he coaxes him to walk on the wild side."
"Imperioli's lived-in details about the city help make the world feel realistic . . . [The novel] is an immersive trip into its narrator's memories of a turbulent time. Some fictional trips into 1970s New York abound with nostalgia; this novel memorably opts for grit and heartbreak."
"Imperioli's book follows a Queens teen named Matthew as his shattered family moves from Jackson Heights to Manhattan, where he finds an unlikely mentor in a drug-addled Lou Reed."
--New York Post
"A restless Queens teenager becomes the protégé of music legend Lou Reed in Imperioli's energetic debut novel . . . Matthew's first-person narrative is full of endearing vulnerability, immediacy, and authenticity. This is a sweet and nostalgic coming-of-age novel."
"Imperioli delivers a spot-on coming-of-age novel . . . A winner." --Library Journal
"Even though Reed looms large throughout--the novel even takes its title from Reed's 'Romeo Had Juliette, ' from his 1989 solo album New York--the book is much less about him and more about Matthew's own journey through adolescence in the seedier corners of 1970s New York."
"[A] gritty but witty read, a love letter to a time and a place and a person (Reed) from someone (Imperioli) who came of age in the same urban cauldron of creativity and confusion."
"[Imperioli's] debut novel, The Perfume Burned His Eyes, not only deserves an award for best title, but has garnered praise from Joyce Carol Oates . . . This should come as no surprise . . . Bravo!"
--Santa Barbara Magazine
"[Imperioli] captured the setting, the times, and the coming of age beautifully. It was a compelling read."
"Imperioli makes his literary debut with The Perfume Burned His Eyes, a novel in which sixteen-year-old narrator Matthew becomes enmeshed with the late rock legend Lou Reed and his trans muse Rachel."
--Bay Area Reporter
"It has been a long time since I have regarded the prospect of taking up a new first novel other than with dull dread and a sardonic snort of rightfully prejudicial dismissal. Then I happened on this one: the kind of bird you don't see anymore in the kind of sky you don't see anymore. Mr. Imperioli can write, and he has given us a book--that most outmoded of handheld devices, devoid of all apps--that brings a rare and welcome breeze of imagination and wit."
--Nick Tosches, author of Under Tiberius
"Touching, hilarious, heartfelt, and poetic, with an ending that is bruising and beautiful . . . Unpredictable and sweet as well, this is a unique accomplishment." --Lydia Lunch, author of Will Work for Drugs
"This coming-of-age narrative is a fearless, towering inferno burning with raw truthfulness, stunning surprises, thrills, poetic writing, and an odyssey not just to be read, but reckoned with."
--Richard Lewis, comedian, author of The Other Great Depression