"Odours have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions or will. The persuasive power of an odour cannot be fended off,"Odours have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions or will. The persuasive power of an odour cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it."
"For people could close their eyes to greatness, to horrors, to beauty, and their ears to melodies or deceiving words. But they could not escape scent. For scent was a brother of breath. Together with breath it entered human beings, who could not defend themselves against it, not if they wanted to live. And scent entered into their very core, went directly to their hearts, and decided for good and all between affection and contempt, disgust and lust, love and hate. He who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men."
3/4 of the way through Perfume, I was going to tell you all in my review that if you're a fan of Dexter or maybe even True Blood, you might enjoy this book. Then I realized at the end that I was being too simplistic. It's for lovers of words, language, history, descriptions and loving to hate a character.
It's a strange thing writing a whole book about smell. Smell is one of our few senses that doesn't translate to images, words, or descriptions. I always find perfume ads amusing, because they have to evoke an emotion they are hoping consumers will feel when they do finally smell the scent. Young mother hanging the laundry! Sexy woman in a bustier in the basement of a Speakeasy! Man on a horse holding jewels!
Yet scent, at its heard, instantly takes us to our memories. I think I've finally figured out that the distinctive smell that infused my grandparents' house in South Dakota was a mix of talc, pine scented cleaner and fresh baked cookies. I might be wrong, but every once in a while I whiff something close to this and am immediately back in their 50's era kitchen with the big round drawer pulls.
I think Süskind succeeded in drawing the reader a scented picture of mid-eighteenth century France. He then layers that with the development of a poor, weird creature who only has his hyper-olfactory nerves as an asset. The story ends up being bizarre, fascinating, and altogether horrifying, with layers upon layers of scent.
Definitely not a book for everyone.
Oh, and by the way, the lead character's name, Grenouille, means frog in French. Do frogs have a smell?...more
Sojourner Truth had to be one of the most charismatic people ever to walk the Earth.* Charisma is hard to convey in any mode that's not face-to-face.Sojourner Truth had to be one of the most charismatic people ever to walk the Earth.* Charisma is hard to convey in any mode that's not face-to-face. This book might be as close to capturing raw charisma as I have ever seen. She stands out even in an era of incredibly charismatic people.
My edition had both The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, and the Book of Life. The latter was Sojourner's scrapbook and autograph book she carried around as she traveled preaching and telling her story.
My reaction to her Narrative is that it is an absolute 5-star read. Holy guacamole, what this woman endured! Multiple things surprised me. First, it's not told in Sojourner Truth's voice. She remained unable to read or write her whole life, and relied on a friend to retell her story. That woman was Olive Gilbert. Gilbert injects quite a bit of her own commentary on both Truth and the abolitionist movement. This makes it quite difficult to ascertain what were Truth's own words, and what were manipulated by Gilbert. Second, Truth grew up in a Low Dutch farm in New York, and didn't learn to speak English until she was 10. She never had a formal education, and didn't even hear a preacher until she claimed her own emancipation in 1826.^ Despite all this, she wandered the eastern seaboard (and later beyond) preaching about God, Jesus and plight of enslaved peoples by relating her own story. Third, her story doesn't dwell on the physical hardships and punishments she endured while a slave. In fact, she only hints at most of them. Yet the slave part of her story is horrific.
On to the Book of Life - I would give it 3-stars for putting Truth's Narrative into context and continuing her story to the end of her life. This is mostly newspaper clippings telling about how Sojourner Truth came to speak at this church, or that meeting, and how she had everyone in rapture with her stories and songs. Those parts get extremely repetitious, but it's amazing to see how many places she traveled and how she was warmly welcomed. Perhaps even more amazing is the number (not all) that describe her in non-racial tones. They almost all mention her race, but only a few tack on "...for her race" when they mention that she is forceful, commanding, impressive, etc.. Considering the times, she transcended many racial lines. Truth's Book of Life also contains letters and signatures from famous people - including Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S Grant, Frederick Douglass and Susan B Anthony.
Perhaps most fascinating between the two - her Narrative and The Book of Life - is the discrepancies in her personal story. The story of her life partially evolved as she traveled around retelling the narrative. Most likely, though, is that it was variations in the retelling. The big stand-out is Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1863 article in the Atlantic Monthly, titled: "Libyan Sibyl". This article not only propelled Truth into nation-wide fame, but gave her a nickname that she she grew tired of. Stowe takes many liberties in the article, including quoting Truth in a Southern US slave dialect that Truth never had. (She had a slightly Dutch accent, and often described as a "peculiar" way of speech.) What's worse, Stowe claimed Truth was dead, when in fact she went on to live another 20 years. Perhaps all those changes developed the persona of Sojourner Truth and aided in her popularity? According to the editor of my edition, Truth herself might have been guilty of perpetuating un-truths, in order to present a persuasive argument and be the larger-than-life character of Sojourner Truth.
One of the funniest, most witty anecdotes about Truth goes something like this: Truth was speaking in front of a large meeting that contained friends and foes alike. There were grumblings in the audience that she wasn't who she claimed to be -- that in fact, she was a man. Truth was six feet tall, very muscular, wore her short hair under a Quaker cap, and was by all accounts an imposing presence with a booming voice. When she heard the accusations, she said (paraphrasing the paraphrasing): "You think I'm a man? Let me tell you something. I suckled many white babes at my breasts, often to the neglect of my own children. And those white children turned into finer men than you could ever be!" She then proceeded to whip our her bare breast and said: "Suck this!"
Sojourner Truth was awesome.
*(If there are humans hanging out somewhere else in the Universe, they are just boring sacks of carbon. Thanks a lot for not contacting us. Losers.)
^(Seriously, her emancipation is a story you need to read for yourself. It shows the kind of woman she was at heart.)...more
"Get a bigger flute!" "Increase ur Size! 6" "Don’t walk with tail between your legs." "V|agr.a, C|a.li5, and Phen.term.|ne CHeep!!"
Was the Kama Sutra"Get a bigger flute!" "Increase ur Size! 6" "Don’t walk with tail between your legs." "V|agr.a, C|a.li5, and Phen.term.|ne CHeep!!"
Was the Kama Sutra the original idea for spam email?
"Take pomegranate and cucumber seeds, extract the juice of elabāluka (eluva, Gisekia pharmaceoides) and bhatakataiyā (Solanum indicum, eggplant). Cook in oil over a low heat. Use it to massage the penis. It will remain swollen for six months." ...It didn't sound so bad until I got to the last line...
"Ram's or he-goat's testicles boiled in sugared milk increase sexual prowess." ...Can I have some more Rocky Mountain Oyster Pudding, grandma?
"If a man anoints his penis with datura, black pepper [maricha], and long pepper [pippalī], crushed and mixed with honey, its use will allow him to bewitch and subjugate his partners." ...Or at least cause them to be doubled over in fiery pain.
Once you're done mucking about with spicy peppers, priapisms, and testes, why not try this ancient recipe:
"By rubbing one's hand with the excrements of a peacock, which has been made to take haritāla [yellow myrobalan] and manashilā [red arsenic], everything one touches becomes invisible." ...Infallable.
Okay, in an attempt to save you, Dear Reader, a ton of time may I present:
All You Will Ever Need To Know About the Kama Sutra* 1) There are no pictures in the original Kama Sutra, much to the chagrin of reviewers on Amazon. 2) For the naughtiest parts, go straight to Chapter Six 3) You aren't going to learn any new tricks unless you're a sweet, innocent teenager. 4) The Kama Sutra is extremely repetitive. (This explains my low-ish rating - I'd probably put it at a 2.5. And those stars are just there for the aforementioned chuckles at the insanity. Ancient people were batshitcrazy. It's a miracle we're still around.) There is a good reason for the repetitiveness - as a teaching text, a student is supposed to read the original with enlightened commentary. Unfortunately this translation includes 2 extra commentaries after every paragraph. The translator even apologizes in the intro for its "maladroitness." Even with good reason, doesn't make it fun to read. 5) A lot of the advice is violent - scratching, slapping, bleeding, etc. 6) The Kama Sutra wasn't exactly written by Vātsyāyana - he collected the "erotic science" sections of the Kama Shastra (which were becoming harder and harder to find). 7) The history of the Kama Sutra is interesting, as is the background of the three Shastras - go learn about them. Maybe I'm too dense, but I didn't learn much about history by reading the original text. 8) The Kama Sutra tries to explain all sexual practices, even those that are not recommended or are forbidden. Vātsyāyana felt it very important to be complete. Which I can get behind.
*(unless you are an ancient Indian scholar, of course.)...more