Oct 14, 2011 10:59 AM
Scent scholar Luca Turin and writer Tania Sanchez, collaborators on the voluminous, erudite, and catty Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, have created another olfactory reference book: The Little Book of Perfumes ($12). It's timed and priced to make a good stocking stuffer - but it's far from clear who it ought to be given to.
It's not that it's bad; certainly not. It's full of elegant turns of phrase and absolutely fearless about making learned comparisons, using large words, or focusing on the artistic rather than the new, famous, or popular. But the Little Book is by and large recycled from the Guide: it's pretty much the original text of the ninety-six five-star reviews that the larger book included, with new postscripts added here and there and additional pieces on four long-lost classics. It even seems to be in the same font.
A perfumista interested in what Turin and Sanchez have to say would probably rather have the original, though it's not currently in print - if she doesn't already own it. And given the abstract nature of some of the descriptions (musical and aeronautical comparisons appear pretty often) and the difficulty of finding many of the scents listed, it could be a rather overwhelming choice for someone whose interest is casual. Clever as it is, who is it for?
Given the subject matter and blurby format, and the fact that perfume bottles generally are elegant pieces of work that don't blink or wander around, this could have made a gorgeous , and actually good, coffee table book. Or, you know, a scratch-and sniff. It's hard not to feel that by not prettying up the physical artifact, the publishers missed a bet. But still, of interest.
Full disclosure: Outblush received a free sample of this product.