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It Feels So Good When I Stop

It Feels So Good When I Stop

2.5 2
by Joe Pernice

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The hilarious and irreverent debut novel
about a modern Everyman struggling to
learn how to love, choose, and commit on
his own terms, from the highly acclaimed
singer and songwriter. From the first
moment he met Jocelyn, he knew
he would marry her or destroy his life trying. He
didn’t count on being the lucky bastard that got
to do both


The hilarious and irreverent debut novel
about a modern Everyman struggling to
learn how to love, choose, and commit on
his own terms, from the highly acclaimed
singer and songwriter. From the first
moment he met Jocelyn, he knew
he would marry her or destroy his life trying. He
didn’t count on being the lucky bastard that got
to do both.
It’s October 1996 in Cape Cod. Our hero—
a narrator so ordinary that he remains nameless
—is a talented but floundering musician-turnedwaiter
who has hightailed it out of a volatile
day-old marriage in New York and further into
his own ever-deepening mess. With no job, no
apartment, no wife, and a six pack of beer,
he’s looking for a clean slate. For years he’s
been dodging life’s extremes, stuck somewhere
between responsibility and freedom, love and
obsession, obligation and desire, apathy and
success. Now he’s seeking sanctuary at the
home that his sister abandoned, along with her
marriage, so that he can sort out something in
his life—what, he’s not quite sure.
Looking for distraction from his memories
of the hot-blooded Jocelyn, who is still refusing
to return his calls, he agrees to look after his
two-year-old nephew. Together, the unlikely pair
catches the attention of Marie, a young woman
in the neighborhood with a troubled past of her
own. As they get to know each other, our hero
ventures into unknown territory, where his affection
for a damaged kindred spirit just might
shock him awake and shake him to the core.
By turns hilariously irreverent and unpredictably
affecting, ItFeels So Good When I Stop is
a disarmingly fresh love story and coming-ofage
novel that refracts with pristine clarity what
it’s like to grow up, and to fall and stay in love in
the real world.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Much like its unnamed narrator, Pernice's first novel ambles in no discernable direction, nudging up against tantalizing stories but never quite connecting. In it, the narrator retreats to a Cape Cod cabin, owned by his sister's ex-husband, after fleeing a days-old marriage. He then spends his time interacting with townsfolk; reminiscing about Jocelyn, his abandoned bride; babysitting his infant nephew; and assisting an alluring neighbor in coming to terms with her tragic past. The author, a noted musician, seeks to emphasize the ordinariness of his main character by leaving him anonymous, but the man is not ordinary at all-he is, in fact, pathologically aimless. He can never quite say why he left Jocelyn and has no idea what he hopes to accomplish in his exile; worse, there is no sense that he has any desire to find out. The main supporting characters, ex-brother-in-law James and neighbor Marie, are more compelling than the narrator, but of course their scenes are marred by the narrator's necessary presence. Pernice's easygoing prose is attractive, but the fetishizing of slackerdom is a make-or-break proposition. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
Pernice has already established himself as a successful musician (The Pernice Brothers, The Scud Mountain Boys); as Nick Hornby has recently observed, "Now it turns out he can write fiction, too." And it's true: this novel is very good indeed. It compares to the nouveau coming-of-age stories exemplified by Adam Rapp's The Year of Endless Sorrows in which the protagonists, unlike the Holden Caulfields of yesteryear, are twentysomethings in the midst of that postcollege slump. The novel alternates between flashbacks of the narrator's past—in which he meets and dates his future wife, Jocelyn, just after graduating from UMass—and present—in which he has just left Jocelyn before their honeymoon and is hiding out at his sister's place on Cape Cod, where he sometimes takes care of her boy, Roy. Soon he begins to rethink his marriage (despite a genuine friendship/small fling with a neighbor). VERDICT Funny, unself-consciously quirky, with touches of unironic sadness, this is for readers who enjoy coming-of-age tales.—Stephen Morrow, Athens, OH
Kirkus Reviews
Indie rock musician and poet Pernice (Meat Is Murder, 2003) applies his life experience to a funny, nimble novel about an average Joe trying to surmount his own nature. The unnamed narrator is a UMass grad with a gift for words but little ambition. Lacking direction, he stumbles into a three-year gig working as a waiter in Amherst, where he encounters the great disaster of his life. "When I met Jocelyn I knew within minutes I was going to either marry her or completely destroy my life," he confesses. "It never occurred to me that both things could happen." While his protagonist flashes back often (and painfully) to this fiery affair, the author keeps his story stylishly grounded in the present day. By the time we catch up, the 25-year-old vagabond has become a struggling musician in Brooklyn, married Josie in a fever of passion and fled their doomed, drug-addled relationship the same day. Licking his wounds, he returns to Cape Cod, where he crashes with his recently abandoned brother-in-law James and two-year-old nephew Roy. Pernice's prose has much the same audacity as another musician-turned-writer, Jim Carroll. The narrator's profane, sharply honed observations resonate with self-deprecating humor, yet they also generate a surprising amount of empathy for this broken hero. As he reluctantly looks after Roy and launches a tenuous relationship with a local filmmaker, he has terrific flashes of self-awareness, discovering he's the proverbial man hitting himself with the hammer for the dumbest reason: "Because it feels so good when I stop."An inspired, gutsy piece of work that promises more good things to come.
From the Publisher
"One can accept, reluctantly, Pernice's apparently inexhaustible ability to knock out brilliant three-minute pop songs-Just about any Pernice Brothers record contains half a dozen tunes comparable to Elvis Costello's best work. But now it turns out he can write fiction too, and so envy and bitterness become unavoidable."
-Nick Hornby, The Believer

"Observed with impeccable clarity, It Feels So Good When I Stop is a very funny, profoundly human novel, perfectly attuned to the quotidian grotesque of 21st-century America."
-William Gibson, author of Spook Country

"If Charles Bukowski had grown up in the eighties and listened to a lot of indie rock, he might have sounded a lot like Joe Pernice. It Feels So Good When I Stop is a hard-boiled slacker chronicle of heartbreak and self-renewal, as smart as it is funny, written in one of the most arresting voices I've come across in a long time."
-Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher

"A hilarious, moving and deep novel...Joe Pernice tells it true."
-George Pelecanos, author of Drama City and The Night Gardener

"Quite a remarkable piece of writing. Acidic, profane and easily one of the most lethal and unrelentingly hilarious books that I have ever read."
-Jonathan Poneman, President of Sub Pop Records

"The best messed up love song you'll ever read."
-Dan Palladino and Amy Sherman-Palladino, creators of The Gilmore Girls

Product Details

Riverhead Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
17 Years

Read an Excerpt

I got back onto Route 28. People who had jobs were driving to their lunch spots. I stayed on the thin strip of right- unjustified pavement that separated the white line from a sand- and- scrub- brush shoulder. A couple times I had to stop to avoid veering off the road or into traffic. I wore the wineskin like a shoulder holster against my skin, concealed beneath my hooded sweatshirt and denim jacket.

I could see the Bourne Bridge in the distance. It was an arc of gray discipline rising from, then dipping back into, the mayhem of trees. It seemed out of place and was as arresting as the sudden appearance of a second, larger moon.

As I passed a dirt fire road on my right, the speed- trap cop parked in it gave me a choked- off blast of his siren. I stopped. He waved me over to his window. He was shaking his head like he was witnessing a weekend inventor about to test a prototype flying suit.

“What are you thinking? ” he said. He was wearing a baseball type of cop hat and one of those black marksman’s sweaters with the leather rifle- butt shoulder patches. The

visible portion of his close- cropped blond hair screamed honorable discharge. He looked like the young leader of a Mormon paramilitary group.


“Affirmative.” The admitted purposelessness of what I was up to did not improve his opinion of me. I was guilty as fuck of being stupid. He looked at the bike and the four- day growth on my face and clothes. If I had been wearing the wineskin outside my jacket he would have run my license.

My license. I felt a jolt of raw nerve panic. I was sure I’d left it on the writing table at the Gramercy Park Hotel. I folded my arms across my chest to flatten any suspicious bulges.

“Didn’t you read the signs? No Pedestrians includes bicycles.”

I turned on the respect, but not too heavy. “No, sir, I must have missed them.”

He was still seated too low and comfortably for me to go into full panic mode. He did some police work.

“Where do you live? ”


“Massachusetts? ”

“Yes, sir.”

“What are you doing here? ”

“I’m on vacation,” I said, careful not to sound flip.

“And you’re what, just out sightseeing? ” I nodded. “On that bike? ”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where were you planning on going? ”

“I thought I might make it to the bridge.”

“That bridge? ”

I nodded.

“Well, that’s not going to happen.” He grew six inches.

“Where are you staying? ”

“At my sister’s in East Falmouth. Opal Cove Road.”

“And you took Twenty- eight? The whole way? ”

I nodded again. He sighed and opened his door without warning. He got out of the cruiser. Turns out he wasn’t much taller than me.

“I really didn’t know it was illegal,” I said.

“You haven’t been drinking, have you? ”


“Because it’s not warm out, and you’re sweating pretty good.”

“It’s a hard bike to ride. And I’m out of shape.”

He looked at the bike and then at me. Both things I said made sense to him. He walked to the rear of the cruiser, opened the trunk, and started shifting things.

“There’s a Dunkin’ Donuts just up the road. I’m going to drop you off, and you’re going to figure out the rest from there.”


“I don’t care how you get yourself back to East Falmouth. But what you’re not going to do is bike or walk or roller- skate or anything on Route Twenty- eight. Understood? ”


“Because if I let you go, and you get picked up by someone else further up the road . . . you don’t want that.”

“I won’t.”

“Or if, God forbid, I pick you up again . . .”

“You won’t.”

“Good.” It took two normal tries, then a more serious one to close the Crown Vic’s trunk. “You’re going to have to sit in back. All my radar’s up front.” I got in the cage.

The sound of him auto- locking the doors had an opposite effect on my sense of security. “Seat belt on,” he said.

As we were merging back onto 28, another cruiser pulled up and blocked our path. This cop was older. He looked like Boris Yeltsin. A large chief’s badge was painted in gold on his door.

“What he do?” asked Captain Kickass.

“Just biking in the wrong place. He didn’t know.”


“That’s what I said to him.” They shared a quick laugh about it.

“He’s not Colombian, is he?”

My cop looked back at me, wordlessly passing along the question.

“Irish,” I said. “American Irish.”

“He’s Irish.”

“I’m looking for a Colombian— about his age— who likes to beat up on his pregnant wife. Knocked her to the floor and kicked her across the room.”


“Real scumbag. This guy married? ”

I leaned forward, right up against the cage and spoke directly to Captain Kickass. I wanted to eliminate the possibility of any miscommunication that might land me in the tank. “Separated, sir.”

“Where’s your wife? ”

“She lives in New York.”

“You ever hit her? ”

“I’ve never hit anyone in my life.”


“No, sir.”

“Never been in a fistfight? Not a single time? ”

“Never, sir.”

He spent about a month looking through that cage, into my eyes. “Yeah, well I have.” He smiled. “Plenty of times.” Without lifting his foot off the brake, he shifted the cruiser into drive. It made a false start. “Let’s keep the bikes on the back roads.”

“I will, sir.”

“And if you see any Colombians . . .” He winked and peeled out of the dirt road. We stayed put until the rooster tail of dust settled.

The cop turned to me. “That’s not really true about never hitting anyone before, is it?”

“It is.”


The cop hit the Dunkin’ Donuts drive- through before letting me out.

“You want anything? Guys on the force don’t pay.”

“No, thanks.”

The drive- through girl’s spiel came through the tiny speaker.

“Who’s that? Brenda? ” the cop asked into the menu board.

“Tommy?” she answered.

“Ten- four.”

“No, it’s me, Georgette.”

“Chripesakes,” Tommy said. “You sound more like each other every day.”

“Looking like her, too,” Georgette said, not too pleased about it.

“Hey, hey, enough of that,” Tommy said. “You could do worse. A lot worse.”

“I don’t know about that,” Georgette said. She yelped when an offended hand— presumably Brenda’s—slapped a naked, fleshy part of her. “See what I have to put up with, Tom? ”

Brenda overrode her: “You mean see what I have to put up with? ”

“You could both do a lot worse,” Tommy said.

“We’ll see about that,” Georgette said. “Large with milk and two Sweet’N Lows?”

Tommy turned to me. “You sure you don’t want anything? ”

“I’m sure.”

“That’ll do it. Large with milk and two Sweet’N Lows.” He drove around to the pickup window. Georgette had his coffee waiting. Her mother stood behind her. Both women were overweight and at different points of the same free fall. They saw me in the back.

“Who’s that?” the daughter asked.

Tommy reached out for the coffee. “Nobody.”

“What he do? ” the mother asked.


“Why’s he in the back? ”

“Is he dangerous? ”

“No, he broke down. I’m just giving him a hand.”

Both women shifted their eyes to him. “That’s good of you, Tom,” the daughter said. “You guys”— she shook her head in admiration of all cops— “you’re always sticking your necks out for other people.”

“People who don’t even appreciate it,” the mother added. “Boy, Tom, I tell you, I sure do.”

“Me, too,” the daughter said.

“That’s nice to hear.” He started to dig some money out of his pants pocket. “It makes this job— ”

The daughter waved him off. “No, no, no, no, Tom. I couldn’t charge you.”

Tommy stopped himself before completely saying the word but. It was one of the weakest “No, let me pay” protests I’d ever seen.

“It’s just a cup of coffee, Tom,” the mother chimed in. “What’s it, two cents to them ” She said it as if the money grubbing Dunkin’ Donuts head honchos were just out of earshot.

“Not even,” the daughter added.

“You guys.” Tommy stopped digging for money. He turned to me. “Can you believe these two?”

I couldn’t.

“Call it one of those what- do- you- call- its,” the mother said.

Tommy let me off at a brown fiberglass picnic table next to the pay phone. Before he drove away, he asked me if I was sure I was feeling okay. He seemed like a decent guy for a cop.

I sat on the picnic table with my feet up on the bench. It was a beautiful day. The kind you expect it to be when you get the phone call notifying you that someone close to you has died unexpectedly. I lit a smoke, then took the wineskin out from under my coat. I took a healthy pull of Jameson’s.

“What the fuck am I going to do? ”

Georgette and her mother were eyeballing me through the plate glass. I turned my back to them. There was the Bourne Bridge, dizzying, spiritual, and off-limits. There’d be no epiphany on it for me today. I called James and asked him for a lift. He asked me how I ended up way the fuck up there. I told him I got lost.

Meet the Author

Joe Pernice began his recording career in the mid-1990’s with the Scud Mountain Boys, in Northampton, Massachusetts. They released two records before signing to Seattle's Sub Pop Records in 1996 and releasing Massachusetts, along with The Early Year, a compilation of the two pre-Sub Pop recordings. In 1997, he disbanded the Scuds Mountan Boys to form The Pernice Brothers, and released their debut album Overcome By Happiness. While with the Sub Pop label Pernice also recorded under his own name, issuing the album Big Tobacco in 1999, and as Chappaquiddick Skyline, who issued their sole self-titled album in 2000.

Later that year Pernice left Sub Pop Records and he and his longtime manager Joyce Linehan established Ashmont Records, based in Boston, where they have released several Pernice Brothers records: The World Won’t End (2001), Yours, Mine and Ours (2003), Nobody's Watching/Nobody's Listening live album and DVD (2004), Discover a Lovelier You (2005) and Live a Little (2006).

Joe Pernice's music has been featured on television shows Six Feet Under and The Gilmore Girls, where Joe also made 45-second appearance as a troubadour-wannabe in a 2006 episode, and in the movies Fever Pitch, On Broadway and Slaughterhouse Rule. Additionally, his songs have been featured in commercials for Sears, Southern Comfort and Sherwin-Williams.

Pernice grew up in the Boston area, and attended UMass Amherst, where he received an MFA in Creative Writing. He currently lives in Toronto.

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