An Ode to Perfume Strips

Does studying depart a residue? Whenever I’ve gathered a stash of shiny magazines, I like to make strips from the fragrance samples embedded of their pages. These I’ll flip into bookmarks, which is able to flip me right into a voracious shopper of phrases. That, no less than, is the promise contained in voluptuous notes of sunny daffodil and jasmine, or velvety sandalwood and iris. Also, violet, which, because it seems, is a type of aphrodisiac: whenever you get a whiff, risky molecules momentarily stun your nostril and depart you craving extra violets — and, in my case, phrases. 

Reader, I’ve been indiscriminate in my sampling of all these notes and extra. Collecting fragrances for its personal sake has by no means appealed to me. I’ve by no means walked right into a Sephora, as an example, and wished to douse myself in dozens of scents or hoard fragrance samples. The occasions in my life when I’ve persistently worn fragrance, I’ve caught to one scent made by Chloé — an orange blossom infusion —that appears to work with my physique’s pure odor. Not having to take into consideration what perfume to pair with what outfit meant I might deal with different issues that day.  

I train even much less discretion when selecting scents for books. Spontaneity is essential. To impose any systematicity onto this sniffing would defeat the aim and strip away its aspect of shock. Each time a stack of magazines lands in my mailbox, I rip out all of the fragrance advertisements and place them in a small pile close to a bigger stack of books. Four periodicals a month yields round a dozen samples — greater than sufficient for even my wildest readerly ambitions. I observe just one rule: Do not open any of the flaps till I’m prepared to insert them right into a e-book.  

Textual monists could recoil at this concept: why interpose something between you and a e-book? Why not simply dogear? Or, why not gentle a candle, or burn incense, and even brew a cup of sizzling tea? Each of those strategies undoubtedly works to create a temper, however absent from all of them is the act of inhaling a brand new odor coincident with splaying open a web page. An impression is made as quickly as I unfold the scented bookmark, and a race towards its fading commences: will I have the ability to end the e-book earlier than the perfume evanesces into skinny air? I’ve discovered that the life span of a strip is normally not more than per week. The fading odor is all the time a goad to gallop alongside the pages. Sometimes, although, the size of a e-book outstrips the lifetime of a pacesetter. This occurred final summer season as I launched into a studying of Don Quixote for an internet course. Even as I used to be ravenous to examine extra of the titular character’s misadventures at castles (frequent inns), run-ins with prostitutes (highborn damsels), and giants (windmills), I developed a pastiche of my very own: not of literary genres, however of scents. Week after week, I saved scything scents and returning to the identical e-book, made ineluctably unusual and due to this fact attractive by a brand new perfume. 

And the scents are sometimes new to me: a wierd alchemy that is still irreducibly mystifying all through time it takes to end a e-book. That, too, appears consonant with the expertise of studying. The thoughts grasps at analogies to identify a whirlwind of smells, and this behavior of creating comparisons, of discovering the seam between in contrast to ideas, is a way of thinking I would like to be in when getting ready to learn any e-book, and most definitely a novel. Am I priming myself for a sure studying expertise? I certain hope so. Books all the time assume some makeshift identification in our minds earlier than we encounter them for ourselves. We kind some hazy notion of X e-book, festooned in overview ribbons, bow blurbs, and important cravats. For the literate citizen, there might be no pure, unconditioned response to a piece. Search for a e-book on Amazon (or, extra seemingly, have one “beneficial” to you by an inscrutable algorithm) and your eyes snag on keen endorsements. Walk right into a bookstore and instantly descry, on a spot on a desk {that a} writer has secured at nice value, a bestseller.  

The advertising and marketing equipment that helps, certainly makes attainable, any e-book just isn’t per se the difficulty. Scent spirals is usually a delicate reminder that the ephemera surrounding the e-book is simply that: ephemera. As a reader, I like to have the ability to kind my very own judgments. What usually comes packaged as prolegomena, I deal with as scholia. I’ll put aside critiques to learn as companion items after I’ve completed a novel. 

If “style” is the privileged metaphor for criticism, the place does “odor” are available in? Does it allow us to kind extra exact impressions as readers? Neuroscience can solely inform us that these two capacities are carefully allied: whenever you odor somebody, you’re actually simply consuming them along with your emotional receptors. In dances of earlier eras, a lady would reduce an apple slice and put it underneath her armpit, to then give to a person she preferred, who would eat it. 

Though it appears a class error to converse of “locations” for the journey of studying, I’ll usually have the ability to recall the origin of particular travels in smells. And if studying is a type of journey — an ontological hitchhiking into a brand new realm — then I would like as many senses as attainable to be open to that have. No matter if the scent I’m inhaling is at jarring odds with the e-book; even a dissonant observe will help stimulate or solidify an immanent critique. Like Heidegger’s hammer that immediately calls consideration to itself the second it stops working, a odor changing into immediately discordant stops me in my readerly tracks. I replicate, I revise, I resume. Man: an animal rotten with perfection, as Kenneth Burke tells us. 

With every new web page, I unravel and reknit the material of my concepts a few e-book. The greatest novels by no means invite one totalizing view, however a plurality from every time it’s reread — maybe as many views as there are notes in a woody, bergamot bouquet sampler. To then give a e-book away with its ghostly hint nonetheless lingering is a twofold intimacy. Call it an “erotics of studying,” name it scents delirium; name it what you’ll. Ideally, the voyage by no means ends. •

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About the Author: Jessica