‘Sopranos’ Actor Signs New Book Tonight
By DONNA BALANCIA
New York City in the 1970s was a rough place for a kid. In a time before cell phones and social media, it was easy to find trouble and hard to make friends. In “The Perfume Burned His Eyes,” a first novel from Michael Imperioli, we live the protagonist’s vulnerability and learn with him to roll with the punches.
“The Perfume Burned His Eyes” is a funny and real look at 1970s life in New York City as seen through the eyes of an awkwardly sweet teen protagonist named Matthew. Author Imperioli poignantly captures an often-forgotten time in our society while sweetly embracing the evolution of our culture through well-drawn characters and solid writing.
Imperioli’s New York Experiences
The 16-year-old protagonist, Matthew, is trying to come into his own, despite his offbeat role models and a society that doesn’t value the opinions or feelings of young people.
Matthew is uprooted from Queens to Manhattan when his mother comes into an unexpected inheritance. And while the move is a bit upsetting at first, it’s in Manhattan where Matthew grows up. He meets a girl in his new private school who would teach him some ways of the world, and he meets — and goes on to be an assistant of sorts — for a punk rock star in the building where he lives.
Imperioli Pays Tribute to Lou Reed
Those who knew Lou Reed said he was artistic and irascible, with a wry and low-key sense of humor. But If Lou Reed were alive today, he might actually even crack a smile over the way-out literary portait Imperioli paints of our true progenitor of punk rock. In real life, Imperioli said he became friendly with Reed. The character sketch he draws of the punker is purely caricature, but does yield insights into the life of a manic and somewhat spiritual musician living in Manhattan with his transgender girlfriend.
Imperioli’s experience as an actor, producer and director have served him well as a novelist. His writing is visual but also conveys the true language of the 1970s streets of New York City. He transports the reader to an important time and place in our culture that are continually overlooked. Few with the exception of Martin Scorsese, can ably set New York City as a character in and of itself, or capture our simultaneous love-hate for the city where it all started.
There are many similarities between the lead character and the author, who has said his first book is not autobiographical. But the author’s descriptions of his surroundings and character Matthew’s sense of wonder and reluctant acceptance for his experiences and new relationships are undeniably intertwined.
“The Perfume Burned His Eyes” is a page-turning read that brings us back to a time when life was experienced not through second-hand social media and cell phones but instead with our real senses. This unique coming-of-age piece is a satisfying and strong first novel by a truly creative artist.
Imperioli will be on hand to discuss and and sign copies of The Perfume Burned His Eyes at the West Hollywood Library tonight.