Monday, October 31, 2011

Book Review: “The Little Book of Perfumes - The Hundred Classics” by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez

I’ve been blessed (cursed, sometimes) with a good memory. When “Perfumes:  The Guide” came out, I had just begun blogging and was — hey, I’ll just say it — obsessed. I pre-ordered it online. But I got a message saying something about slower than anticipated delivery, so I went to Borders and bought it the day it came out.

I was with a friend that day. Standing in the store, she asked me to look up a perfume for her, something her husband had bought her once that she treasured. The review turned out to be one of those delightfully snarky pans, something about making sure all the windows in the house were open before applying. Her face fell. I closed the book. “It’s subjective,” I said. “Just somebody’s opinion.” But I could tell that she would never think of that perfume in the same way again.

I bring this up because this new tome is much more upbeat. Minimum snark. Classics (old and new) only.

I cut my fragrance-writing teeth on “Perfume: The Guide” and I bet a lot of you did, too. I knew next to nothing about this art in those days. It was like a survey course, Fragrance 1A, taught by one of those profs students love — the irreverent ones — who also tend to be wildly opinionated. And “The Guide” saved me money. Otherwise I might have wasted it on refos, a.k.a reformulations. It also cost me money (vintage Mitsouko perfume, I’m looking at you!) I figure I’ve come out about even, if you don’t count the many bottles of vintage classics I’ve bought on Our Favorite Online Auction Site. I have no regrets about that, though.

One of my friends is a potential perfumista. We talk about perfume a lot when we’re together. I’ve given her some of my old samples. We’ve done a couple of bottle splits. She has bookmarked the major online discounters, and even bought a bottle from one. Hence, she now has a favorite fragrance that almost no one but me (and you) has ever heard of (hint: it’s “Oro” by Roberto Cavalli). This book will make the perfect Christmas gift for her.

And, of course, that’s the intent. It’s small enough to fit into anything but a tiny handbag. Hardcover; will last. Not too expensive, suggested retail 18-something U.S. I’ve thumbed through it, read some favorite reviews with nostalgic affection, noted the new material, noted new reviews of the refos, the editorial about them, the fine writing (that hasn’t changed). The grouchiness, charm and command of the subject that both the writers have. It’s still a great read.

This book isn’t necessarily for real fumefreaks, who are likely to have both of the older books as well as access to a small army of perfume writers and reviewers in the blogosphere. It’s for our friends, the ones who like perfume but may not be quite as, er,  focused as we are. Those not necessarily willing to plow through the online ads, “reviews” written by somebody in the sales department, shady discounters that change their names a lot, fora full of educated and not-so-educated opinion, and on and on. They just want to know if something’s good. 

So, if you have one or more of these pals that haven’t quite crossed over, get them this for Christmas. That’s what it’s for.

Full disclosure time: this book was sent to me by Viking, the publisher, for review.

Available wherever books are sold; the ISBN is: 978-0-670-02310-3.


Perfumeshrine said...

Short and sweet. Better than making everyone clutch their pearls in horror, eh? You're right, this will be a fine little gift from perfumistas to non/aspiring-perfumistas. I wonder whether the demographic is large enough.

Vanessa said...

I have just started browsing through this - love the cover too, and the slightly skew-wiff green paper lining! - and think it is an excellent compendium of their favourites, even if I don't agree with the half of them. : - )

Interesting to see the "desert island" picks of both LT and TS, and I hope it will do well at at Xmas getting the word out about some great scents that are under most people's radar. The $$$ coding is a helpful touch too.

Olfacta said...

Hi, E! Not large, but very highly targeted!

Olfacta said...

Hi Vanessa -- The lining on mine is pink. Shocking pink. Hmmm....and the reviews of the reformulated fragrances (esp. Diorella) are saddening. But accurate.

Carol Lee said...

This book offers perfume lovers perfect gift book to read.

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