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The Perfume Burned His Eyes


A teenager develops an unlikely friendship with Lou Reed in 1970s NYC, in a standout debut from TV/film star Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos, etc.).

Forthcoming: 4/3/18

$25.95 $19.46

What people are saying…

“Screenwriter and Emmy-winning actor Imperioli’s first novel is the atmospheric coming-of-age story of 17-year-old Matthew, whose mother moves them from Queens to a posh apartment in Manhattan in 1976 . . . Matt is a not an atypical teenager—think Holden Caulfield without the cynicism—but, often afraid and awkward, he is a reactor, not an actor, until the end of the novel, which, without foreshadowing, comes as a harrowing surprise . . . 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

“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

“Yes. It’s That Guy From The Sopranos. If that’s what makes you pick it up, fine. Just do it. Matthew, a 16 year old living in Queens loses both his father and his grandfather. His mother uproots the now family of two to Manhattan. He starts an unlikely friendship with two tenants in his building: Lou Reed and his trans girlfriend Rachel. Lou becomes a quasi-shamanic father figure to the boy as he navigates his lonely path to becoming a man. Heartbreaking. Pure. If you walk away from having read this book without feeling the deepest of empathy for teenagers and your own teenage self, you’re just a stone, man. You can’t be reached.”
Fountain Bookstore, Staff Pick (Kelly)

“Vividly imagined, compelling, and sympathetic, The Perfume Burned His Eyes convinces with the force of its emotional intensity.”
Joyce Carol Oates

“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

“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

“Michael Imperioli discovers a whole new demimonde in his journey from Queens to the hideaways and hell-a-ways of Manhattan. It’s a streetwise romp through an underworld of bizarre characters desperate to find their own transcendence, written with affection, wit, and telepathic understanding.”
—Lenny Kaye, musician and author

“Touching, hilarious, heartfelt, and poetic, with an ending that is crushing, bruising, beautiful…Unpredictable and sweet as well, this is a unique accomplishment.”
Lydia Lunch, author of Will Work for Drugs

The Perfume Burned His Eyes shook me up in a way a book hasn’t since my twenties. I found myself questioning the narrative I have built for myself in order to survive as an artist and a parent. It threw me back to being an awkward teenager in love, and destroyed some of the scaffolding of false memories I had built. This book allowed me to be with myself as a young, innocent teen without judgment, and opened my eyes and heart to the hurdles my teenager is now about to face. Mike’s book is gentle, pure, perverse, and devastating. It delves intimately into the psyche of what all great artists are made of.”
—Nick Sandow, actor (Orange Is the New Black), filmmaker


Matthew is a sixteen-year-old 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.

Written from the point of view of Matthew at age eighteen, two years after the story begins, the novel concludes with an epilogue in the year 2013, three days after Lou Reed’s death, with Matthew in his fifties.

Book Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Published: 4/3/18
  • IBSN: 9781617756207
  • e-IBSN: 9781617756429


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 and was co-screenwriter of the film Summer of Sam, directed by Spike Lee. Imperioli has appeared in six of Lee’s films and has also acted in films by Martin Scorsese, Abel Ferrara, Walter Hill, Peter Jackson, and the Hughes Brothers. Upcoming projects include Bruno de Almeida’s Cabaret Maxime, The Last Full Measure alongside Peter Fonda, Christopher Plummer, and William Hurt, and ABC’s Alex, Inc. The Perfume Burned His Eyes is his debut novel.

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