Monday, March 23, 2015

It’s Here! The All-New Paperback Edition of What the Nose Knows

The original hardcover edition of What the Nose Knows has been sold out for a long time. There has always been a Kindle edition but never a paperback. Until now.

After sweating every detail for months, I’ve finally released my own paperback edition on Amazon. It’s a beautiful thing, if I do say so myself. (And I do!) Grab a copy.

Order one for your newbie DIY perfumer friend. Get one for Uncle Fred who likes to read about science and psychology but needs a break from Malcolm Gladwell. Assign it as additional reading for your next Sensation & Perception course at Faber College. Take one to Starbucks and finally get a conversation going with that cute barista.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

ISDP: The Call of Cthulhu

Can it really be Friday the 13th again? It seems like we just posted a Friday the 13th edition of ISDP. Have we, like an H.P. Lovecraft character, entered some sort of hallucinatory dream state? Have we floated right out the window of our miserable garret and across the Mountains of Madness? Well, yes and no. It is indeed the second month in a row with a Friday the 13th, and west of us, atop the Watchung ridge, stand the ruins of an abandoned psychiatric asylum. Who’s to know what malevolent spirits from Ward 41 may be tugging at our sleep-addled subconscious? Who are we to say that the bat hanging from our desk lamp is not real?

What we do know, courtesy of FOX reporter Adrian Acosta, is that in Anderson, South Carolina, a guy named Tony Johnson recently rented a house from Perry Pruitt. Pruitt himself lives next door and the two houses share a forty-foot deep well. Soon after moving in Johnson complained to his landlord about the water.
“It had a foul odor,” Johnson said. “But he (Pruitt) said it was just stagnant water.”

Johnson said after various treatments failed to fix the problem he asked Pruitt to take a water sample from the well to have it tested and that led to a confrontation and to Pruitt shutting off the water. Johnson said at that point he called deputies.

“Once the officer saw how he (Pruitt) was acting he called detectives,” Johnson said.

A few hours later Johnson said detectives told him they had found a body in the well.
The body was that of Patricia Freeman, with whom Pruitt had had a relationship. She had been missing for weeks. Pruitt was arrested and later released on bond.

But wait, there’s more:
Johnson said his luckily his family had not consumed any of the well water because of the smell but had taken showers with it.

“It’s just disturbing,” Johnson said.
Remember, friends, Always trust your nose™.

About 20 miles east of La Jolla is the community of Lakeside, California. Deputies there were serving an eviction notice for nonpayment of rent at the Riverview Villa Apartments. When a woman in the unit let them in they noticed “the odor of decomposition” and discovered it was coming from a body inside a container sealed with duct tape. It appears to have been there anywhere from six months to more than a year.

Our fans know the rules: it can be an ISDP incident only if the body is discovered by smell. So, no dice. However, we are thrilled to nominate the non-deceased resident of the rental unit for the 2015 Norman Bates Award™. She is “described by neighbors as a quiet woman in her late 50s.”

Flue Season

Our musty, sad-smelling archives are full of ISDP incidents where the proverbial foul odor led to the discovery of a body in a chimney. It has happened in a French bank, an English barrister’s office, and twice in California. In Bakersfield the victim was a female M.D. who was stalking her boyfriend and tried to enter his home through the chimney. In Fontana, the unfortunate individual was a homeless man who attempted to break into an unoccupied residence.

This month’s case is an odd twist on the usual pattern. In San Antonio, Texas, a 32-year-old man with a history of mental issues had been living in the guest house behind the home of his parents. The man hadn’t been seen since late January. His parent thought he might have gone to Austin.
The parents noticed a foul odor that continued to get worse as time went by, but they were unable to identify the source of the odor. While searching the guest house again Thursday, they found their son curled up inside the fireplace behind a screen.
There appear to be no signs of foul play.

That’s it for this edition. Be sure to stop by the gift shop on your way out and pick up a spiffy ISDP coffee mug. And yes, yes, of course you can use it to collect the tears running down the face of Nyarlathotep.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Henry Adams and The Non-Blonde

Gaia Fishler blogs indefatigably about fragrance and cosmetics as The Non-Blonde. Yesterday, in a change of pace, she wrote about her earliest scent memories. The smells themselves are not remarkable: her mother’s brand of soap; a Moroccan neighbor’s cooking; a summer weekend at the beach. But the web of associations she spins around them gives them unique vividness, detail and emotional tone. She describes them in a way that lets the rest of us imagine them, even when Gaia the pre-schooler relates her idiosyncratic impression of the inside of a washing machine as “white and ominous”.

Note that Fishler’s olfactory memories as not Proustian. They are not spontaneously evoked by a scent in the air (or the tedious madeleine dipped in tea). Rather, they are the product of deliberate recall. Also, they do not require a prolonged inner struggle to place them in time and space. Instead, Fishler tells us about them in an easy, compelling way that, to my mind, qualifies as olfactory memoir.

In What the Nose Knows, I contrasted Proust’s over-praised madeleine passage with a more open and democratic type of olfactory memoir:
Henry Adams gave us a small sample of a true olfactory memoir—it puts you behind another person’s nose in another time and place. In his honor, I call it Adamsonian memory. To my way of thinking, Adamsonian memory beats Proustian memory because it deals with smells that are deliberately sniffed and voluntarily recalled. These are not the buried landmines of Proustian memory; Henry Adams describes a smellscape that was familiar to his entire generation, and his memory of it is open to the public. Proustian memory inhabits a private, interior place, and is open by invitation only. For Proust, smell was a tool, a reflex hammer he used to probe his own mind. For the young Henry Adams, smell was the whole world; for the old Henry Adams, it was an open gateway to the past.
Gaia Fishler has given us a lovely Adamsonian glimpse into her early life. Brava!