Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

I stand before you in a very rare state indeed: this weekend I have finished all three of the books I was reading, and have not yet started a new one. For the first time in living memory, I am not reading any book in particular. This won't last long--I'll probably go upstairs and pick one out within the hour--so take a good look while you can.

The books, should you care, were:

Sexual Personae, Camille Paglia, which I had been working on for over a year. Very dense and long, but also very interesting and informative, so I wanted to stick with it and not give up. Mission accomplished!

Evelina, Frances (Fanny) Burney. Extremely fun late-18th-c. social novel, by an author who inspired Jane Austen. You can definitely see the similarities.

Perfume: The Art and Science of Scent, Cathy Newman. Now this should be required reading for anyone who, like me, is a fragrance whore. It is basically an extended National Geographic article, with all the gorgeous photos and in-depth reporting you would expect from such a source; deceptively packaged like a coffee table book. Loved every bit of it. There's the remarkable economical aspect of fragrance: not only is it a multi-million-dollar industry, as you already knew; but if you had an entrepreneurial turn of mind, you might wish to purchase some fields in France, and grow jasmine or roses. A certain rare and much-coveted French rose essence, rose de mai absolue, sells for $3,650 a pound. And French jasmine absolute, which perfumers consider the finest jasmine essence in the world, sells for $12,000 a pound.

Of course, these days there are synthetic fragrance notes, which (connoisseurs claim) are not as good as the real thing, but getting better each year. And the synthetic side of the fragrance coin is just as fascinating as the natural side. Did you know there are people with the amazingly enviable job of going out into exotic locales (e.g., Costa Rican rainforests, deserts in Utah, jungles in the South Pacific), to search for interesting new scents? They get to sniff flowers, leaves, bark, insects, the air itself--and then when they find something that their perfumer-employers might like, they don't even have to rip up the plant and bring it home. They just whip out their gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer, get a sample of the fragrant air, and take it home for their chemists to analyze and recreate.

Dude. If I had it all to do over again, I might just have become a perfumer. I probably would have hated the organic chem classes, though. Ah well--I'm certainly happy to be a consumer.

Smell my wrist! Smell it!

P.S. Should you wish to follow my dictum and hear the new Doves album, it is being released on March 1, but in the meantime can be sampled at NME: http://www.nme.com/features/111390.htm


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 27th, 2005 07:55 pm (UTC)
A couple years ago, I checked out Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume from the library and found it an informative read.

You may also like, My Father's Glory & My Mother's Castle : Marcel Pagnol's Memories of Childhood. This book is not something I would have picked up on my own (despite the fact that I have enjoyed Pagnol's films), but it was given to me as a gift and I gave it a whirl. What a pleasure! It is charming and cinematic (not to mention bittersweet).
Feb. 28th, 2005 12:19 pm (UTC)
Essence and Alchemy has been on my Amazon wish list for a while now. Will indeed have to read that one.

Pagnol's memoir looks luscious. I haven't actually read any of his novels, though. Would it make more sense to start with those, or is the order of operations irrelevant?
Feb. 28th, 2005 12:59 pm (UTC)
I'd actually start with this first... this will accent his novels like strawberries accent a fine champagne or sparkling wine. Many moons ago I trudged through a translation of Le Chateau De Ma Mere that the same friend (a French teacher) gave to me; today, given a snow day, I decided to re-read it and -wowzers- the fiction works on such a different level now. Then again, maybe I am just more into it now. :)

Music suggestion: Steve may know of these guys - anyhoo, I am way too into Guided By Voices... quirky lo-fi power pop.

Mar. 3rd, 2005 07:53 pm (UTC)
Oh yes - re. GBV, Steve does have a couple of their CD's around. I'll dig them up and revisit, since it's been a few years.
Feb. 27th, 2005 08:05 pm (UTC)
Now I'll have to read Evelina. Having just finished all of Jane Austen's novels, after discovering her last summer.
Feb. 28th, 2005 12:19 pm (UTC)
The plot isn't quite as tight as Austen's, but it was still a delight. I'm hoping someone makes a miniseries now...
Feb. 28th, 2005 10:51 am (UTC)
Now I just have to ask you, as a fellow perfume-ho, what your favorite perfumes are! ;)
Feb. 28th, 2005 12:25 pm (UTC)
Answer changes every few months, but for now my three favorites are:

Theorema, by Fendi, is my elegant/classy staple
Jolly Roger, one of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab's oil blends, is good for when I want to smell like reckless sea air and salty leathery boat-planks (honest, it's fresher than it sounds)
Perversion, also by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab--smoky, sweet, a little naughty.

I have some girlier, more flowery ones, like Cool Water (for women) and Shiseido's "Relaxing" fragrance, and Healing Garden's Perfect Calm, but lately I'm seldom in the mood to actually wear those, so I use them as air fresheners.

And I have samples of about a dozen more. I'd probably wear Chanel's Coco if a) it didn't cost so much, and b) my husband liked it.

Yah. What about yours? I always like reading fragrance reviews. I'm weird that way. ;)
Mar. 2nd, 2005 04:01 pm (UTC)
I got Sexual Personae several years ago. I haven't had time to commit to it yet. I'm glad you found it worthwhile. I recently read somewhere that it's Courtney Love's favorite book. hahah

Thanks for the tip on the third book. I'm a perfume collector. :)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )