cover image The Perfume Burned His Eyes

The Perfume Burned His Eyes

Michael Imperioli. Akashic, $25.95 (264p) ISBN 978-1-61775-620-7

A restless Queens teenager becomes the protégé of music legend Lou Reed in Imperioli’s energetic debut novel. When Matthew is in high school, his father abandons the family a few months before dying. Matthew’s grandfather also dies suddenly, and not long after; his mother scoops up her inheritance and moves them to a new apartment on East 52nd Street in Manhattan. Matthew gets a job as a delivery boy for a neighborhood diner, and a delivery to an apartment in his own building thrusts him into the vibrant and erratic artistic world of singer Lou Reed. It’s 1976, and 34-year-old Reed is a legend in the making. Imperioli’s depiction of Reed’s milieu may remind readers of Andy Warhol’s factory, with an ever-changing entourage and an impulsive, charismatic artist at its center. Lou takes Matthew to a bar for the first time, and renames him Tim (as a joke, after the falsetto singer Tiny Tim). This becomes his new identity, just as Lou becomes his surrogate father. Along the way, there’s first love, experimentation with drugs, and other standard elements of a bildungsroman. If Imperioli’s Lou Reed is a bit generic, he nevertheless comes across as a charismatic rocker. Matthew’s first-person narrative is full of endearing vulnerability, immediacy, and authenticity. This is a sweet and nostalgic coming-of-age novel. [em]Agent: Dan Kirschen, ICM Partners. (Apr.) [/em]