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Let Me Clear My Throat
     

Let Me Clear My Throat

by Elena Passarello
 

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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;

Overview

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.

Elena Passarello is an actor and writer originally from Charleston, South Carolina. 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, The 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 Durang's 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 Screaming Contest in New Orleans.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"“In a brilliant combination of rigorous study and conversational tone, actor and essayist Passarello has created a remarkably entertaining and thought-provoking look at the human voice and all of its myriad functions and sounds.... A wonderful collection for any reader and every library. Highly recommended.”
Library Journal, Starred Review

"This striking debut is graceful even in its portrayal of the most barbaric groans and yelping cries."
Publishers Weekly

“In this eclectic collection of essays, actress and writer Passarello explores the ways in which our voices define us, refine us, and connect us to one another.... Passarello, the first woman to win the annual Stella Screaming Contest in New Orleans, informs and delights in this witty, original read.”
Booklist

“Standout pieces include a biography of the most famous scream in Hollywood history; a breakdown of the relationship between song and birdsong; and an analysis of the sounds of disgust. Akin to: A dinner party at which David Sedaris, Mary Roach and Marlon Brando are trying to out-monologue one another.”
Philadelphia Weekly

“In each essay, Passarello takes us on rambling, but carefully controlled walks that duck into alleys, wind through backstreets, beckon us into little mazes of looping associations, and often end up far from where they began.... Her keen eye for the particular dovetails with an uncanny ear for the journey a sound takes, producing sensuous and noisy sonic portraiture.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Elena Passarello is a writer with a confident voice. Her first book is centered around that voice: in Let Me Clear My Throat, Passarello draws from her writing and acting background, and the result is a quirky blend of reportage and some personal narrative.”
—Michele Filgate, The Paris Review

“What she’s produced here is a masterfully orchestrated collection of essays, so finely tuned and executed that they ring with choirboy clarity.... Not only an authority on the human voice, but also one hell of an entertaining writer.”
DIAGRAM

“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...”
—Steven Church

Library Journal
In a brilliant combination of rigorous study and conversational tone, actor and essayist Passarello has created a remarkably entertaining and thought-provoking look at the human voice and all of its myriad functions and sounds. In the same fascinating way Oliver Sacks explores scientific curiosities, Passarello has taken something so ubiquitous yet unheralded—the dynamics of the human voice—and crafted more than a dozen engaging essays about it. Covering topics as varied as the memorable but almost assaultive tones of Pittsburgh sportscaster Myron Cope, the blast of discomfiting sound delivered by then-presidential candidate Howard Dean in 2004, a brief but moving portrait of Judy Garland and her 1961 Carnegie Hall concert, and a wonderful piece called "Playing Sick" about the childishly glorious sound of "eew," this collection is an insightful treasure trove, reflecting the author's love and awe of what the human voice can contain. VERDICT Few books explore one idea so completely from such a variety of seemingly disparate angles. A wonderful collection for any reader and every library. Highly recommended.—Peter Thornell, Hingham P.L., MA
Kirkus Reviews
A collection of essays by a regional theater actress and writer about the relationship of voice to identity. When Passarello won the 2011 Stella Screaming Contest in New Orleans, it marked the culmination of a lifetime interest in voice. As a child, she took pleasure in trying to out-shout her mother, whom she calls "one of the loudest people I have known in my life." Throughout her young adulthood, she used her voice "as an actor in plays that required lots of talking, some singing and the very occasional scream." Passarello explores how voices work and how a few famous voices became cultural icons. Marlon Brando found screen immortality through the pained screaming of his lover's name in A Streetcar Named Desire. The author writes that his "transmutable hurt is what moves the line of dialogue to raw sound." Brando's Hollywood colleague Judy Garland was the diminutive star with the big, electrifying voice that shook buildings and overwhelmed listeners with its emotional complexity. However, writes Passarello, voices and what they communicate can be the undoing of their owners. In 2004, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean's "hostile mutation of a 'Yeah!' cheer" helped sabotage his election hopes. The author's book is a mostly fascinating study of the meaning behind individual voices and other sounds, such as rebel yells, manufactured sound-artist screams and even birdsongs. However, because Passarello does not link the essays together, the text comes across as haphazardly constructed. Fun and intelligent but disjointed reading.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781936747504
Publisher:
Sarabande Books
Publication date:
10/09/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
1,173,591
File size:
435 KB

Related Subjects

Meet 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 Durang’s 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.

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