Now there’s a book called Perfumes: The Guide, by the husband and wife team of Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, which is not just enlightening, but beautifully written, brilliant, often very funny, and occasionally profound. In fact, it’s as vivid as any criticism I’ve come across in the last few years, and what’s more a revelation: part history, part swoon, part plaint. All of the other reading I was supposed to do was put aside while I went through it, and it took me some time to finish, in part because I was savoring it and in part because I kept stopping to copy out passages to e-mail off to friends. In the library of books both useful and delightful, it deserves a place on the shelves somewhere between Pauline Kael’s 5001 Nights at the Movies and Brillat-Savarin’s incomparable Physiology of Taste.
The first review was this New Yorker article:
The joy of Turin and Sanchez’s book, however, is their ability to write about smell in a way that manages to combine the science of the subject with the vocabulary of scent in witty, vivid descriptions of what these smells are like. Their work is, quite simply, ravishingly entertaining, and it passes the high test that their praise is even more compelling than their criticism.
Perfume is one of those things that I don’t particularly like in real life but that I really enjoy reading about.