Posts Tagged: book smell

Steinitz’s Sense of Smell

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If you can’t describe the color red to someone born blind, here are some scents you can’t describe to someone born anosmic, or without a sense of smell: “feet, chalk, lilacs, gardenias, sour milk, rain, new cars, Chanel No. 5, Old Spice, greasepaint, [and] napalm.”

In a strangely fascinating essay at The Millions, Rebecca Steinitz describes what it’s like believing for years that smells are a poetic fiction invented for books—and how lacking this particular sense may somehow make her a better editor.

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“Grassy Notes with a Tang of Acids and a Hint of Vanilla”

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That’s not from the back of a wine label, but rather the mouth of a chemist describing “that old book smell.”

Specifically, lead scientist Matija Strlic, explained the compounds as a “combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness, this unmistakable smell is as much a part of the book as its contents.”

Pairs nicely with a soft goat cheese and best consumed curled up in a comfy window seat.

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