Lori's Book Nook


Posted on: June 19, 2007

I wonder if it’s significant that two of the more memorable books I’ve read have to do with perfume…

Jitterbug Perfume is my favourite Tom Robbins book [not linking to any TR sites…there just seems to be Wikipedia and fan sites — nothing definitive]. If you’ve never read any Robbins, then you don’t know that he’s got a bit of thang for many a topic, and will take on a major theme or two in each book, going on these wonderful rants that end up being rather heady, like a warm brandy. In Jitterbug Perfume, the main theme is, of course, the power of our sense of smell….and sex, but then it’s always sex….oh, and beets.

Anyway, the sense of smell.

On the same theme is the brilliant novel by German author Patrick Suskind, Perfume.  It’s an adjective-rich descriptive soup of a novel…where you can almost perceive the stench of Paris in the Middle Ages rising up from the pages. Imagine reading it in the original German!!

We watched the movie version of Perfume: The Story of a Murder last night — well done! It was so nicely done that it was almost scratch’n’sniff (a la Odorama of John Waters)! Fetid Paris streets, foul tanneries, odiferous breath…ick. And the most difficult detail of the novel was subtly portrayed: that the main character, John Baptiste Grenouille, with his superhuman nose, had absolutely no aroma of his own. It’s an odd detail, covered in much more detail in the book, but conveyed in some very interesting ways.

I wonder if it would have been harder to discern if I hadn’t been looking for it?

Two very good books. One rather disturbing movie.

7 Responses to "Perfume"

I got distracted (some shiny object) the other day when I was here and didn’t click submit! This is a great book but my favourite is still Another Roadside Attraction. One reason is it is memorable, I read it 25 years ago and still chuckle. I traveled the setting twice shortly after and once before and he nails it. I am for sure going to watch that movie!

I like Another Roadside Attraction as well…but aren’t you, a redhead, a fan of Still Life with Woodpecker? 🙂

And a smoker to boot! This vein made me realize I have concentrated on non-fiction too much for too long. This is a partial quote from a guy named Guy Maddin “I always laugh sardonically when I read the words ‘based on a true story’. I don’t care less if it’s true or not; I just want it to be psychologically plausible.” He’s referring to film “The most bogus films are based on true stories anyway. You can still have people flying and beaming up and morphing into monsters, so long as you have psychological plausibility.” I couldn’t have said it better!

You might be interested in checking out a list of “smelly books” (books the lister sees as related to smell) in the Guardian. I posted a link in my post at Literary Lotus:


Oh thanks! A list of ‘smelly book’ — fun. I’ll be taking a close look at your blog…

I read Süskind’s Perfume a few years ago and mostly found it annoying, though now I honestly can’t remember why. But I even remember tossing it aside in disgust when I’d finished it, not understanding in the slightest why so much fuss had been made about it.

Horses for courses, eh?

I’m not into murder/thrillers, or identifying with the murderer — but I enjoy magical realism….and I enjoyed the glut of adjectives on every page. They were necessary, and thus wonderful. Too many adjectives when they aren’t necessary…well, that’s just lazy writing.

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