Thursday, March 2, 2017
I’ve always been fascinated by the portrayal of smell in fiction. I made a brief study of it in What the Nose Knows, and here on FN I’ve taken a close look at various authors and how they weave scent into their novels. Among the writers I’ve discussed or quoted are E.L. James, Tom Robbins, Vladimir Nabokov, Toni Morrison, and P.G. Wodehouse. (You can find these posts via the FN Review, FN Retrospective, and Olfactory Art tags.)
In most of these works scent is mentioned in passing. It functions to characterize a person or place or, especially in the case of Nabokov, to provide a sepia-toned sense of nostalgia. Smell is rarely a central theme in fiction. There are exceptions, like M.J. Rose’s The book of lost fragrances, Süskind’s Perfume: They story of a murderer, and Roald Dahl’s brilliant short story Bitch.
One would think the world of contemporary commercial perfumery is an ideal setting for fiction. The business is an unstable blend of creative fashion and technical chemistry. It straddles the magical and the mundane. It simultaneously touts its innovation and its longstanding traditions. It is filled with characters of Dickensian dimensions.
Another setting ripe for fiction is the world of academic smell research. University labs are stocked with weirdos and drones as well as the rare brilliant scientist. Scientists share a lifestyle—monk-like yet dissipated—that is remote from the experience of most readers. Their scientific obsessions are remarkable if not often bizarre. It’s all fertile ground for fiction.
Well, somebody needed to step up to the plate, and it appears that the someone is me. I have created a contemporary smell expert named Nick Zollicker. He lives in Berkeley, California where he runs a secretive private olfactory research institute. He has wide experience in the hard-edged world of commercial perfumery yet thrills to pushing the boundaries of olfactory science.
My first two Nick Zollicker stores An Imperfect Mimic and Smothering the Savage. They are now available digitally on Amazon. (You can read them on your Kindle or download the Kindle app onto whatever device you prefer.) I hope you enjoy them.