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
“Vividly imagined, compelling, and sympathetic, The Perfume Burned His Eyes convinces with the force of its emotional intensity.” —Joyce Carol Oates
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.
Praise for The Perfume Burned His Eyes
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.
— Kirkus Reviews
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.
— Publishers Weekly
A coming-of-age tale dashed with relatable angst and humor.
— Entertainment Weekly
An edgy coming-of-age romp set in New York City prominently featuring the 'character' of rocker Lou Reed.
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.