Synopses & Reviews
From Farinelli, the eighteenth century castrato who brought down opera houses with his high C, to the recording of "Johnny B. Goode" affixed to the Voyager spacecraft, Let Me Clear My Throat dissects the whys and hows of popular voices, making them hum with significance and emotion. There are murders of punk rock crows, impressionists, and rebel yells; Howard Dean's "BYAH!" and Marlon Brando's "Stella!" and a stock film yawp that has made cameos in movies from A Star is Born to Spaceballs. The voice is thought's incarnating instrument and Elena Passarello's essays are a riotous deconstruction of the ways the sounds we make both express and shape who we are — the annotated soundtrack of us giving voice to ourselves.
"This striking debut is graceful even in its portrayal of the most barbaric groans and yelping cries." Publishers Weekly
"The beauty of Elena Passarello's voice is that it's so confidently its own. She's not selling her subjects. She writes with the kind of calm assumption of interest you make in a good friend (if a good listener) over dinner. But what she's saying is always unexpected, and full of information. I began randomly with her essay wondering what the space aliens will make of 'Johnny B. Goode' on the Voyager gold record, and couldn't stop after that. John Jeremiah Sullivan
"When I first read Elena Passarello's essay, 'How to Spell the Rebel Yell,' I was so excited I pumped my fist in the air and let out a celebratory, 'Yessssss!' Her much-anticipated collection, Let Me Clear My Throat has that effect on the reader. This book is a stunning and exhilarating intellectual romp, each piece singing with the muscled verbal and emotional intensity of a great Sinatra song; it's both a Whitman-esque yawp and an elegant dance through the personal, natural, and cultural history of the irrepressible human voice. I love this book. It will teach you things, shake up what you thought you knew, and change the way you listen to the world around you. It might even make you want to holler." Steven Church, author of The Day After The Day After: My Atomic Angst, Theoretical Killings: Essays and Accidents, and The Guinness Book of Me: a Memoir of Record, and editor of The Normal School
"Elena Passarello's writing sings — and screams, quavers, and falls meditatively hushed — and this collection captures that startling range with the charm of the tracks on a crackling, spinning LP." Paul Collins
"With her extraordinary powers of listening, Elena Passarello helps us hear the sorrow, the epiglottis, and the Allegheny River in the many wondrous things the voice can do besides talking." Amy Leach
A rollicking, wide-reaching annotated soundtrack of pop stars, phone psychics, Elvis impersonators, and other marvels of the human voice.
About the Author
Elena Passarello is an actor and writer originally from Charleston, SC. She studied nonfiction at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Iowa, and her essays have appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Gulf Coast, Slate, Iowa Review, Normal School, Literary Bird Journal, Ninth Letter and in the music writing anthology Pop Till the World Falls Apart. She has performed in several regional theaters in the East and Midwest, originating roles in the premieres of Christopher Durangs Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge and David Turkel's Wild Signs and Holler. In 2011, she became the first woman winner of the annual "Stella! Shout Out" screaming contest in New Orleans.