Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Trade your booty-shakin' for some book-learnin': Perfumes - The Guide

Ok, so here's a yummy little book I read recently. As much as we would all like to be creatures of the night, dance-dance-dancing 'til morn-morn-morning, it's just not always possible.

Henceforth, I give you:

Do you guys like perfume as much as I do? I don't wear it all the time, but I do like to wear it when I go out. It's such a silly, frivolous pleasure.

Anyway, here's an excerpt from my book review of Perfumes: The Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. (And you can read the full review at Lit Mob.) Enjoy!

Perfumes: The Guide is a dishy little affair. Over a number of years, biophysicist Luca Turin and perfume aficionado Tania Sanchez smelled nearly fifteen hundred fragrances, and the two have recorded their findings in this alphabetical catalog. Sound girly? It sort of is. But even men (well, the men I like most) will discover bits of advice worth holding onto, and pleasures rugged enough (such as Himalayan musk deer, civet cats, and ambergris, a substance that great big sperm whales cough up into the ocean—all providers of fragrance you may be wearing right now, gentlemen). Ladies, if you want to drive men wild, you are advised to rub yourselves with bacon. When you are ready to discuss the more sophisticated and finer points of fragrance, Perfumes is ready.

The book starts out with a collection of essays from Turin and Sanchez designed to get our heads in the game, sketching out the first criticism of perfume that I think I’ve ever seen. Of the perfume industry itself, they are witty and illuminating: perfume companies “change formulas without telling customers,” “lie about contents,” and “shill shameless copies of great ideas and hope no one notices.” Scandal. Also, they dismiss the idea that perfume is a “science” supported by pheromone mumbo jumbo: “Tocade is not a better fragrance than Dior Addict because it better approximates the mix of odors released by a fertile female. Tocade is better than Dior Addict because it’s more beautiful.” Turin and Sanchez make it clear that perfume is an aesthetic form and should be treated as such, and the first forty-nine pages reveal to us the tools by which we should evaluate the art, with words like “drydown” and “top note.” Finally, oenophiles don’t have a monopoly on connoisseur lingo.

What follows is Turin and Sanchez’ staggering list of fragrance reviews, of which there are two broad highlights: a) colorful raves of their favorite, five-star picks (of Gucci’s “Rush:” “Announces its sloppy good mood for miles about, and woe to anyone in the vicinity who planned on using his sense of smell for anything else”) and b) the oh-no-you-didn’t damning of the un-worthiest scents (of Escada’s “Sentiment pour Homme:” “To choose this as your personal fragrance could only be a cry for help.”)

Speaking of perfume....would you like to do a poll on favorite scents to smell on people??

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