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Book Review – The Perfume Burned His Eyes











(Louis sporting the bleached locks of the early ’70’s period the novel’s set in.)

The Perfume Burned His Eyes, Michael Imperioli, Akashic Press, 253 pp.

Michael Imperioli is a well known actor, having appeared in films and shows like Goodfellas, The Sopranos, and Law And Order, to name just stuff I’ve seen. He also turns out to be a gifted writer as shown by this well done first novel. A coming of age story, Perfume is told from Matthew’s perspective, a teenager pulled out of Forest Heights by unfortunate events to live in Manhattan with his mother where he attends an elite high school. Naive, but equipped with common sense and humor, Matthew learns to navigate New York’s mean streets. He befriends Veronica, the hippest chick in his class, a brilliant manic depressive who slowly draws Matthew into her damaged, self hating world.

Matthew also gets acquainted with fellow building dweller and probably the biggest weirdo in NYC at the time, Lou Reed, the original rock’n’roll animal himself. A genuine if bizarre and completely unconventional friendship develops between the two. Imperioli’s portrait of Reed is pitch perfect. He captures various aspects of Reed’s extremely complex personality vividly and succinctly, the drugged up mania, bouts of lyric poetry written on bathroom walls, his unpredictable, amazingly vicious cruelty paired with sensitivity to the point where emotion was simply agony to him. It’s all there to include Reed’s relationship with Rachel, the Puerto Rican transsexual who was one of his greatest loves, depicted accurately, but tolerantly.

Without giving the denouement away, I will say this short novel comes to a dramatically satisfactory¬† conclusion, although quite tragic. As I said before, Perfume is a coming of age story, but it’s also a nuanced portrait of someone who, while he may not have been the biggest star rock’n’roll ever had, still counts as one of its most important and fascinating figures.

I recommend this to fans of NYC rock’n’roll, Lou Reed, and anyone who likes a good, short read.


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