perfume books: 37 posts

Perfume and Literature : Inspiration in a Bottle

The National Post ran an interesting article last week on perfume and literature. Perfumed prose: On finding fictional fragrance inspiration in a bottle reviews the recent crop of books where scents play an important role: Joanne Harris’s Peaches for Monsieur le Curé, Sarah Churchwell’s Careless People, Margot Berwin’s Scent of Darkness, and Kathleen Tessaro’s The Perfume Collector.

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“Then as now, perfume marketing and press releases often read like fictions — fragrant flights of fancy constructed to capture the imagination with a good story. But olfactory auras around characters and plot also recur in literature, as seductive and suggestive alchemy of words and smells — from Ovid and Proust to Faulkner and Zola. To read the rest, please click here.”

One of my favorite novels in which scents influence the plot is Tom Robbins’s Jitterbug Perfume. It combines an intricate plot, humor and clever perfume references. Irresistible!

If you’ve read any of the novels mentioned in the article, how did you like them? Do you have any favorite works of fiction with a perfume twist?

Photography by ginnerobot, via Flickr, some rights reserved

Scented Mementos: The Story of the Porter and the Ladies of Baghdad

The Iraqi capital Baghdad is associated today with devastation and sectarian violence, and every time another story of this troubled city unfolds on the TV screen, perfume is the last thing I usually think about. And isn’t it frivolous and unnecessary anyway? But then I remember a scented memento given to me by an Iraqi friend. “In our culture, we give a fragrant flower to sweeten the pain of saying goodbye,” she said. We were in New York then, and there were neither scented roses nor jasmine, so instead she gave me a small bottle of orange blossom water. Every time I use it in my cakes or tea, I think of Muna.

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The tradition of sharing scents–sprinkling guests with perfume or giving them small scented gifts as they depart–has ancient roots, and with few modifications, these practices continue today. Even as Iraq has been undergoing dramatic upheavals, some things remain the same and provide a thread of continuity which becomes even more essential when nothing else is certain. When Muna describes the fragrances made by her relatives, she doesn’t just describe the sweetness of jasmine or the medicinal sharpness of saffron, she tells me about her mother and grandmother and other women who left an indelible mark on her.

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Cult Perfumes by Tessa Williams : Perfume Book Review

Cult Perfumes: The World’s Most Exclusive Perfumeries is a new book devoted to small, artisanal perfumeries, or for the lack of a better term, niche. It includes interviews with the perfumers and creators, perfume descriptions and the history of various lines. The author Tessa Williams includes 25 different brands, from Amouage to Serge Lutens. There are even mentions of small lines like Byredo, Tauer Perfumes, and Nasomatto. It also contains a handy glossary of fragrance terms and a list of perfume museums around the world. Did you know that Japan has three such establishments?

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There are plenty of photos, and at 192 pages Cult Perfumes is a cross between a coffee table book (albeit, in a small format) and a reference set. The book isn’t overly technical, and as such, it would be best for someone fairly new to perfume or curious to learn more about small, lesser known brands. Advanced perfume lovers might find the information too light.

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Seduction by M.J. Rose : New Perfume Book

Seduction is a new novel by author M.J. Rose (who also wrote The Book of Lost Fragrances), and it’s going to be released on May 7th.

seduction

The novel is “about Victor Hugo (creator of Les Miserables), the secret séances he attended, grief, ghosts, reincarnation, and the lengths we go to for love” (quote from the press release). Fragrance features strongly in the novel, and one particular magical perfume plays an important role. M.J.Rose describes it as “a rich and spicy perfume that combined roses, ylang ylang and oak moss…Nothing like most modern mass-produced fragrances, but beautifully articulated and rounded.”

The perfume exists only in M.J. Rose’s imagination, and she is currently running a contest to identify what perfume best matches the fragrance she describes in the book. The winner will receive a signed copy of her new book. More details on the contest here.  Via press release

Full disclosure: I helped M.J. Rose with some scent-related research for her book.

The Perfume Lover in New York and Canada

Denyse Beaulieu of Grain de Musc is on a North American tour promoting her book The Perfume Lover. If you’re in New York, you can meet her on March 22nd from 4 to 8pm at Aedes de Venustas, a perfume boutique located at 9 Christopher St. With each book purchased, she will give away a 2ml spray sample of L’Artisan Séville à l’Aube, the star of her book.

The Perfume Lover

Canadians can meet her in Toronto and Montreal.  For more details, please see Denyse’s post about her tour activities.

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