I dragged my little ones to the Printers Row Lit Fest today, where we caught up with my friend and fellow author, Jean. After Jean signed books at her publisher’s tent and I walked around with the kids for a while, we headed to one of the speakers’ venues to hear Michael Imperioli speak about his debut novel, The Perfume Burned His Eyes (Akashic Books, 2018).
When we got there, the audience was already quite large. Steve Johnson of the Chicago Tribune asked Michael Imperioli about his book, the story of a 16 year old New Yorker who befriends Lou Reed in 1970s Manhattan. Johnson wondered how Imperioli came to write a book, because it seemed like a big jump for an actor to go into literature. But as Imperioli explained, writing isn’t new to him. He wrote five episodes of The Sopranos and has written screenplays and other teleplays over the past 31 years.
Imperioli got to know Lou Reed over the years and they had become good friends before Reed’s death in 2013. His book is fiction, but Lou of course and his then-girlfriend, Rachel, were real people. He talked about always wanting to write a novel and wanted it to be set in 1970s New York, so when Lou Reed died, it just seemed natural to memorialize him in his book.
When Imperioli read from his book, it took no time at all for him to get into character. What followed was the most professional reading I’ve heard. The audience was silent and it was like attending a one-man show on Broadway. It seemed like he had memorized the pages he read because he knew them so well, but it probably also had to do with a 30+ year career of reading from thousands of scripts.
Imperioli took questions for about 15 minutes. Some people asked about The Sopranos (the ending, what James Gandolfini was like [a good friend], and why the show ended when it was still incredibly popular), but also where he writes and the authors he enjoys reading and the shows he watches.
The hour went by quickly and many in the audience bought books to have signed, including me.
We talked a little about our publisher and how much we love them. I can’t wait to read his book!