Those who pre-ordered the new Pernice Brothers LP, Goodbye, Killer, received a slender paperback called Pernice to Me, authored and signed by Joe Pernice and Joyce Linehan. It consists of Linehan — Pernice's Dorchester-based manager, publicist, and co-owner of his label, Ashmont Records — documenting conversations the pair had on tour and while the band was recording the album. In 2008, Linehan began tweeting things Pernice said, sometimes without his knowledge.
"My bass player, José Ayerve, is way into Twitter," explains Pernice, an admitted social-media-phobe. "He's the only guy in the band who's into that sort of thing. On one tour, he was on his BlackBerry the whole time, laughing like crazy. I was sitting right next to him and he'd say, 'I can't believe you just said that.' That's how I found out that Joyce was putting this stuff out there."
Pernice to Me compiles these tweets in book form, a paradoxical exercise that's earned a tremendous response. Its first printing of 1500 copies has nearly run out, inspiring Ashmont Books to release an expanded edition to be sold as a stand-alone volume. The book's success can be easily attributed to the playfully aggressive way Pernice shows he cares. Sample: "I just saw my osteopath, and he said that you, Joyce, are the root of all my problems, physical and emotional."
"The Pernice stuff is funny," says Linehan. "When I started to tweet it, I got a lot of encouragement from the fans, as well as from writers and editors. I also got a fair amount from people who didn't even know Pernice, but sought out his music based on this silly correspondence."
Both Linehan and Pernice are fans of correspondence of the literary kind. Pernice, a celebrated novelist and poet, gravitates toward the letters of Kenneth Rexroth and Wallace Stevens, while Linehan favors John and Abigail Adams (which is why every Pernice newsletter begins "My Dearest Friend"). "Imagine how frustrating it must have been when you had to wait weeks to have your response heard," muses Pernice. "It could take years to get a point across."
Twitter is more instantaneous and truncated. "Is it a real literary medium?" asks Pernice. "Maybe." The platform's literary limitations were exposed in Twitterature, the book-length attempt of two University of Chicago undergrads to condense 80 works of the Western Canon into 140 characters or less. More recently, a 29 year old named Justin Halpern tweeted his 74-year-old father's curmudgeonly bon mots. His feed, Shit My Dad Says, generated a book deal and will soon become an NBC sitcom starring William Shatner.
Pernice to Me seems to be the first Twitter book of an epistolary nature. "These aren't really letters," clarifies Linehan. "They're me repeating what he says. He'd say 'interpreting,' but I say 'repeating.' " The book cements a dialogue between two people in an uncommon situation, nothing new to Linehan: "We've been dispelling myths about the glamorous life of critically acclaimed, commercially disappointing indie rockers for quite a while."