A Better Brand of Fishbowl

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– On the Genie’s absence, the changing state of the blog/vlogosphere and those all-important New Beginnings

Dear readers,

That I have you reading this still, even after being MIA with no reviews for so long, is an honor I’m nowhere sure I deserve. Therefore, I’ll start with the Big One:

Thank you from the bottom of my black and overflowing heart.

Yet for the longest time, it seemed my life was expanding in all sorts of ways that left no room for perfumes, for contemplation, or indeed for any kind of sensual appreciation involving words, bottled genies or meandering musings in the intersections of all three. I seemed to live in one mode only: pedal to the metal and predilections as well as perfumes be damned. Somehow, some way, there was simply Too Much To Do between waking at godless hours and sleeping, and perfume writing became yet another guilt trip I could beat myself over the head with for not doing, or I could just dump it altogether. (Trust me, I thought of it!)

But at a time when my writing is going other, more noticed places alongside other, far more noted writers, I came to realize a rather startling fact:

My life was missing a dimension, and maybe even all my writing, too. I still wore perfumes daily, still found myself almost automatically searching for context, for story, for texture and association, even as I now wore it solely for my own pleasure, and even focused on the perfumes I loved without reservations or inhibitions, the ones that felt like a second-skin extension of my own self on different days.

I rarely posted my SoTD on Instagram or Twitter (I gave up on Twitter for a time), I didn’t participate in the myriad Facebook groups of Planet Perfume, and in fact, simply removed myself from the conversation altogether. It wasn’t a conscious decision at all, it just happened that way. Lemming new releases, participating in splits and conversations about this or that creation, Keeping Up With the Hi’s and L’Eaus – all failed to fill me with even a sliver of excitement when I had other and weightier things on my mind.

This might have had something to do with certain emails and PMs I received castigating me for non-conformity, sucking up to brands and/or my particular brand of fragrant iconoclasm/bs. It was a knife straight in the aorta of all the cardinal sins a writer may be guilty of; vanity, narcissism or simply a sense of relevancy. Most of you are well aware I subscribe to the Room For Everyone School of Writing, but apparently, there wasn’t, if … ‘there shouldn’t even be room for crappy, hysterically overwrought writers like you who can’t just tell it like it is.’

Well … no. I can’t do that. I tried. I failed. I also for no reason at all forgot or overlooked emails I should have answered, and in general behaved like a massive, unprofessional flake. Maybe I should have been just a short-lived blip on the radar of Planet Perfume, here one year, gone and forgotten all these years later?

I also tried to ignore that small voice at the very bottom of my existential soup bowl that said and certainly felt I had failed YOU – for really, what – or even where? – would I be without you? As an individual, as a perfumoholic or as a writer?

Each and every one of you readers has made me the writer I am today. I say this without so much as a smidge of irony and my hand on my heart. Not only have you made me a better writer, you have made me a better, more well-rounded, less stuck-in-the-mud person. By not writing, by not reviewing, by not and by knots (the ones I tied myself into), I felt I had somehow failed everyone who had ever believed in me, in my idiosyncratic/weirdo approach to perfume writing that kept insisting on context, on texture, or on story.

For, as a job counselor stated recently in an unrelated context, the storyteller in me will o-u-t, even in situations it might not be entirely appropriate.

So far as I’m aware, that’s the hallmark of a writer, which indeed is how I choose to define myself above almost all things else. A writer of stories (mostly horror, for reasons best explained elsewhere), a lover of history, and a perfumaniac diehard who misplaced her iconoclastic/idiosyncratic/oddball/weirdo brand of magick trying to chase all sorts of dragons who would much rather roast me than revere me. That, too, has Got To Change.

As of this moment – noon on a chilly Easter Sunday that is gray, overcast and with a lot of rain promised later – I stand before you on the edge of a precipice called Reinvention. Over the course of the next few months, my life will be turned entirely upside down. Hinging on an upcoming interview, I hope to be accepted into a new and shinier career four years from now. I’m in the process of re-evaluating my living situation, my bad habits and even my wardrobe.

If that were all, that would be plenty, yet the headstrong Reinvention Tour doesn’t stop there, for two scant weeks ago, I submitted my first short story to my editor/publisher/fellow iconoclast friend to debut in a Danish horror/weird fiction anthology called ‘Project 1900’, which for me is a Really Big Deal. Ten writers – of which I’m one – were each given a brief and a decade of the 20th century, and instructions to capture as best we could the temporal flavor of our chosen time.

I chose the 1970s and disco, chose to completely divorce myself from my own self-created mythos of God and Dev(il), and proceeded to go all-out in a brand-new direction. I don’t know how it will be/was received, and really, that’s none of my business anyway. The Dude is the only one who has had the story read aloud, and his first reaction was unprintable. His second – which followed the first – was an indication that maybe I didn’t suck as hard as I thought I did.

I fully intend to translate it into English and make it available as a short story to publish on Amazon later this year. And just to be clear: an under-the-radar perfume features in the story, as well as a super-famous (for 1978) one. Now, you know!

You can take the writer away from perfume, but …

Thanks to that Reinvention Tour, there will also be changes to TAG. (You might have noticed the new logo/header above). I’ll still write about my dearly beloved indies, the other iconoclasts and weirdos and non-conformists I so adore, but I’d also and very much like to continue into new, uncharted territory with other under-the-radar perfumes, the ones that don’t get a lot of free PR, the ones not even you sophisticats have heard about and the ones I’ve never even considered before. Two reviews for three smash hits (at least on my part) are currently underway in terms of research, since these will be stories, and all I can do is hope I rise to the occasions these perfumes have inspired.

Every once in a while, I’ll also add a short video summation of a review, not to give any of the perfume review bigwigs on YouTube sleepless nights (which won’t happen), but more as a bottom line reference. Or irreverence, I’m still not entirely sure!

Most of all, it’s time for an upgrade. Because you’re worth it. And because the importance of a better brand of fishbowl can never be underestimated!

Yours always,

The Alembicated Genie

 

The Space I Take

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– on the Genie’s overlong absence, perfume writing, and real life roadblocks

Ladies, gentlemen and fragrant entities –

It’s been far too long. I have in the past six months removed myself from social media to a greater or lesser extent due to work issues (my first major freelance assignment, now completed) and life issues, and somewhere along the way, perfume fell by the wayside in the sense that I for good or for ill didn’t and couldn’t … write about it. I’ll be getting back to that one.

Future Music

A new novel will, Dev willing, find its way into the world of publication in two languages this year, Danish and English. It will be a prequel to Quantum Demonology, with a very different narrator and a very different story.

In publishing, there’s a phenomenon called The Follow-Up Act. In layman’s terms, the Difficult/Impossible Second Novel. Since Quantum Demonology was in a sense handed to me on a platter of id and dissociation, what this means is the second book in the series (which in terms of story arc is actually the first, and makes QD the third) has caused me more grief than I ever knew existed. This time, the stakes are higher. This time, I have something to prove, which always gets a writer in trouble, and this time, some aspirations of achieving what I hoped for with the first, thanks to a Danish publisher who could be a soul brother in terms of common inspirations, idols and predilections. Not to mention being a Capricorn with plans for world literary horror domination, quite a few connections and an epic talent pool of writers to urge that outcome along.

Sibling rivalry also plays its part. My beloved sister is a journalist, an often incisive columnist for one of Denmark’s largest women’s magazines and a published novelist. I’ll be damned and dipped in tar and feathers before I let her have that last distinction on her own, because why should she have all the fun? Luckily, she agrees. We write nothing alike and each have our own literary preoccupations, but by Golly, we’re going for it. Because we can, bolstering each other’s porcelain egos and talents with sisterly bubble wrap as we go. It’s what these two sisters do.

Fragrant Epiphanies

All along, perfume wafts in my wake. New releases have made my heart sing in ways I never thought it could by their sheer virtuosity, and other possible ones that just might also set the heartstrings quivering. I bought two hotly coveted perfumes in the past few months, one Estée Lauder’s Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, and the other L’Artisan Parfumeur’s genius Seville à L’Aube. Next on my list is another favorite FBW, perfectly appropriate for the spring exploding forth everywhere around me as I type: Hermès 24 Faubourg. I’ve ripped through three decants and every single sample I have, which tells me it’s love. But having just upgraded my shoe collection, that’s not happening just yet, no matter how much I wish for it. And more indie perfumes for my FBW list: Envoyage Perfumes’ astonishing floral symphony, Fiore di Bellagio, Olympic Orchids’ White Cattleya, DSH Perfumes’ Giverny in Bloom and Fleuriste, Neela Vermeire Crèations Pichola, Aedes de Venustas’ Oeillet Bengale, Iris Nazarena, Palissandre d’Or, Cierge de Lune and.

And.

The perfumes I’ve loved in my absence: my arguable HG, that intransigent, unapologetic bad-gal masterpiece that is vintage Robert Piguet Bandit. It has the effect of a hydrogen pulse bomb on the Dude. Should I ever doubt the towering genius that was Germaine Cellier or the delicate touch of Aurelien Guichard who reorchestrated it beautifully in 2007 to comply with modern IFRA standards, it takes just one sniff. I dare not contemplate what would happen if I ever encounter vintage Balmain Jolie Madame, or Vent Vert. I. Shall. Be. Toast. Bandit in the modern eau de parfum is on my FBW shortlist, if only so I can spray with abandon and let the world think what it will of that perfect, naughty, borderline disgusting/wrong note of cold ashtray.

Amouage’s Sunshine Man knocked the gender-bender out of the ballpark for me and has rapidly become my Favorite Masculine/Schmasculine Stupid-Happy-Delirious Perfume of All Time. It’s a lavender-almond cookie with an electrifying jolt of Curaçao/Cointreau/Grand Marnier that somehow all adds up to making me feel, well, deliciously delirious, maybe? It also has salubrious/salacious effects on the Dude, who loves it on me and nowhere else.

Aedes de Venustas’ Palissandre d’Or, a silky-smoothly burnished spicy wood unisex wonder, is as transparent and as glowing as maroon silk chiffon, and has become something I crave very badly, which does not bode at all well for my wallet.

The Case Against TAG

Yet something I’ve also found myself doing with increasing frequency lately is pondering that space I take in the blogosphere, the state of the perfume industry and the hair-raising amount of new releases, new brands, and new brands of headache to consider, and what – if any – role I should try to fulfill.

I’ve been writing about perfume for almost six years, as part of the – let’s call it – second wave of perfume bloggers that began somewhere around 2010. In that time, I’ve seen the social media landscape around blogging in general and perhaps perfume blogging in particular change in ways that emphatically do not appeal to my comfort zone. That sweet-smelling (?!) world has become so much nastier, no matter what I do to convince myself otherwise. Some of my mainstays from those early days are still very much around and are as awe-inspiring as they’ve ever been. A few more have had to quit the blogosphere due to real-life issues, and I miss their particular voice and perspectives on this thing called perfume.

All of these things somehow all add up that soup of contemplation I’ve been stewing in for so long, and in the past year or so, a few things more have given me long, hard pauses for thought.

I began to write about perfume for two big reasons. First and most importantly, to become a better writer. At the time I began my first perfume blog on Blogspot, I was heading toward the finish line of my novel Quantum Demonology, and thought it might do me good as a writer to find an outlet for all those girlie sensibilities the hard-boiled QD protagonist would have mocked to infinity and beyond.

I dare say that YOU – if you’re reading this – have forced me to up the ante and succeed in ways I could never have imagined that August night in 2010 I cooked up the idea to become a perfume writer.

Thank you. For bearing with my idiosyncracies and predilections, and for being with me this far.

On that note …

I’ve also been the victim of trolling on more than one occasion in the past year or so in particular. I’ve received more or less “anonymous” emails blasting me with vitriol and undiluted verbal hydrochloric acid for daring to redefine perfume writing on my own terms and in my own way, for not knowing enough about my subject matter, for shoddy, slapdash research into my subject matter (FWIW, some of those reviews required over a full month of research to write with any degree of credulity), and a blatant inability to locate even the most “obvious” notes in the perfumes I’ve reviewed. Some of these mails have gone so far as to state I should just STFU already ‘if you can’t write like ‘normal’ perfume bloggers!’

There IS such a thing, and I didn’t know?

O.M.G.

I realize an entire segment of online entities out there take great pride in destroying reputations, credibility and what in social media has been dubbed ROI, or Reach of Influence, on the mistaken assumption that our entire self-worth rests solely on the opinion of such human pondscum.

As a perfume blogger, I could not have cared less. There is no shortage of blogs out there to read or to watch on YouTube, and no shortage of compelling perspectives and quality prose. I link to the best of them.

But as a writer, I was devastated nearly into giving up the ghost altogether, and that conclusion almost did me in. If I can’t write, if I am silenced into nonentity or figuratively ball-gagged into shutting up, then just kill me now.

I do not, and have never that I’m aware, ‘write about’ perfume. I write to express my impressions or to communicate the experience said perfume gave me. You may beg to disagree, and that’s perfectly all right. Should I sometimes – as indeed has happened – be inspired by a particular perfume so stellar I feel compelled to write my review as a story and you take offense at that, then by all means unsubscribe and read something else. My perspective is a novel writer’s and storyteller’s perspective, and I can’t and won’t change that, not even to shut up the trolls who take offence at my approach or indeed anything else about me.

But with the arrival of more and more and more and more …. blogs, vlogs and the general proliferation of the perfume community, I have had to question what I as a perfume writer can contribute to the conversation.

As I stated before, the conversations we’re having about perfume have changed. Likewise, the relationships between brands and perfume bloggers has also changed. I was shocked to learn that at Pitti Fragranze last year, some bloggers walked around with price lists for reviews, which was somewhere around the point where my own brain imploded.

Call me old-fashioned. But a paid review in my book = no credibility whatsoever as a reviewer. In any size, shape or form.

I began with a passion – my own passion for perfume, and my passion for verbiage. That passion is not, nor will it ever be for sale. I couldn’t live with myself if it were. You may choose to believe me when I say that a rave is a rave because I think something is great/stellar/incredible, or you may take issue with the – indisputable – fact that certain brands on TAG always get raves. For one simple reason, and I state this with my hand on my heart and swear on my cat’s fur: because they’re always that great. Emphatically not as a compliment to a brand that provided me with a sample free of charge.

But more than anything, I’ve thought about that space I take, thought to utilize it better and more, thought to do whatever I could to entertain, or illuminate, or sometimes even confuse/bemuse my readers, and that has happened, too.

No one is renumerating my time or my efforts in trying to find the words to match my nonverbal impressions of a perfume.

More to the point, no one cares. Or do they? If you’ve read this far, do you?

Let me know in the comments! And let’s continue the conversation – about perfumery, about the blogosphere, and about… that space we take.

Illustration: yours truly.