My Back Pages: Perfume in “A Little Life”

I recently read Hanya Yanagihara’s novel A Little Life. (Many thanks to my friend T. for lending me her copy!) I’m not going to write an actual review; in any case, I’m still sorting out my thoughts about this compelling and troubling (and very long) book.

However, I did want to share one observation I made towards the end of the novel—a perfume-related thought! (If you haven’t yet read A Little Life and you don’t want any potential spoilers, you may wish to stop here.)

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Diana Vreeland on “Perfume – Fragrance” in “MEMOS: The Vogue Years”

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My copy of “Diana Vreeland MEMOS: The Vogue Years” arrived yesterday, and I spent last evening curled up in bed perusing it. It’s really a treat.

The best thing about this book is that it reproduces Vreeland’s actual memos and letters, rather than just quoting from them. You get to see the typed pages (all dictated to an assistant at Vogue, of course!), often with additions in DV’s own handwriting.

So, I tried taking a photo of a memo dated February 24, 1969, with the subject line “PERFUME – FRAGRANCE,” but it didn’t turn out very well. Instead, I’ll just transcribe it here…

“By far and away the most important fragrance is the fragrance of a house as it is the ambiance of the owner. It seems that very few Americans, unless they have spent a long time in Europe, particularly in England, have any real sense of scenting a house. It is not considered in the general sense of people, important. There are several that are very extraordinary.

Guerlain’s Plant Marine and Floris’ Tantivy. You are immediately alerted to the presence and whole aspect of the house and owner when you come in the door, you smell this.

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Covet: Charlotte Olympia “Fairy Tales” Shoes

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I love fashion. And I love books. (Not in some hipster-Instagram, “I love books! they’re so old-school!” way, but as someone who has been reading actual books for close on four decades, and owns hundreds of them, and spends much of her time in libraries, and most definitely does not own an e-reader. Okay, rant over.)

I would never actually wear these shoes, but they’re certainly fun to look at, aren’t they? with their heels embossed and ridged to look like the spines of very old leather-bound books? They belong to Charlotte Olympia’s “Fairy Tales” collection. So much better than a glass slipper.

Image: photo via Tom and Lorenzo.

My Back Pages: Perfume in “Hail, Hail Camp Timberwood”

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From the ages of ten to thirteen, I was fanatical about Ellen Conford’s fiction. Throughout junior high school, I read and re-read every book that she had written for young adults, reveling in her writing style as much as her stories about the everyday ups and downs of teen life.

Some of my favorites in the Conford oeuvre were Seven Days to a Brand New Me and We Interrupt This Semester for an Important Bulletin—I even presented an oral book report on the latter title to my sixth-grade language arts class. One Conford novel that has been on my mind over the past few weeks, as I’ve watched the local children and pre-teens return from summer camp, is Hail, Hail Camp Timberwood (1978).

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Covet: Book Skirt from Garnet Hill

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I usually wear dresses, rather than skirts with tops, but if I were looking for a new skirt for autumn, this one from Garnet Hill would be at the top of my wishlist. Why? Because it has a print of bookshelves. The catalogue suggsts that each row of books also “looks like an urban skyline.” Sure, why not? Two of my favorite things.

My Back Pages: Perfume in “Bergdorf Blondes”

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In 2003 I moved back to New York after living in other states for graduate school and work. Things had changed during the decade I was away. I’m nearing the ten-year anniversary of that return, and I’m remembering how surprised I was by certain things that women my age were suddenly saying and doing. They had made manicures a weekly routine, rather than a luxury for special occasions. They teetered through their daily commutes in stiletto heels. They freely discussed their Brazilian waxes on their cell phones in public. They wore 3-carat engagement rings. And they were reading novels from a sub-genre nicknamed “chick lit.”

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My Back Pages: Perfume in Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses

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The past week-and-a-half have been draining for me: I caught the flu, my husband caught the flu from me, and our sweet cat M. was suddenly ill (but not with the flu). We’re all on the mend now, I’m happy to say.

“Escapism” and “Cormac McCarthy” aren’t words that you usually see in the same sentence, but McCarthy’s novel All the Pretty Horses gave me something to focus on last week when I needed an emotional break from our various illnesses.

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