Steinitz’s Sense of Smell


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.

Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →