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Titles 1998-2018

Let Me Clear My Throat, Elena Passarello


Passarello’s essays dissect the whys and hows of popular voices, making them hum with significance and emotion. There’s Dean’s scream, Brando’s “Stella,” and a yawp that has made cameos in movies from A Star is Born to Spaceballs. The voice is thought’s incarnating instrument and Let Me Clear My Throat is the annotated soundtrack of us giving voice to ourselves.

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Additional Info

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 Screaming Contest in New Orleans. 


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

“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

“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

“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

“[Passarello has] an unwavering eye for detail. She tells the truth but tells it slant. Her essays momentarily unbalance us or demand that we look at the world or some aspect of it in a new way.”

—Oregon State University Professor Jeff Miller