Let Me Clear My Throat: Essays

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UPC: 9781936747450
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Author: Elena Passarello
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books; 1St Edition edition (October 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1936747456
  • ISBN-13: 978-1936747450
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 7.7 inches

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.


“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.”

“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.”

“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


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 NonfictionGulf Coast, Slate, Iowa ReviewThe Normal SchoolLiterary Bird JournalNinth 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.