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The Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown ~ book review

The Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown, book cover

I understand why creating a perfumer protagonist is catnip for novelists. Perfume is glamorous, and the art of creating fragrance holds more mystery than, say, playing the cello. But so many novelists butcher perfumery. Often they portray noses as bloodhounds who can sniff a sprig of mint down the block, but they ignore the heart of creating a perfume — beautiful, effective composition.

In The Perfume Garden, Kate Lord Brown avoids this pitfall. Thank you, Brown, for not spending paragraphs having your perfumer heroine wax on about the smell of a carrot that was raised in a field fed by spring water run off through alfalfa fields where a gassy Doberman frolicked…

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Dior: The Perfumes by Chandler Burr ~ book review

Dior: The Perfumes by Chandler Burr, cover detail

Whether you will love Dior: The Perfumes depends on more than your enthusiasm for Christian Dior fragrances. First, you’ll need to enjoy Chandler Burr, and I’m not talking about “Burr the saucy perfume critic.” I mean the new Burr, the one who has embraced art criticism as it pertains to fragrance. Next, you’ll need to prepare yourself for some rah-rah Dior pap. Dior, not the book’s publisher, commissioned this book and paid Burr. It shows. But among the hosannas and PR celebrity stills are some interesting stories and gorgeous old photographs.1

Dior: The Perfumes starts with a chapter on Christian Dior’s life as an art dealer, before he became a couturier. The following chapters either feature an essay by Burr on a particular perfume, or on a collection of fragrances, such as Les Escales de Dior. Each chapter is full of photos. (For instance, the essay on Eau Sauvage takes up about a page and a half, while photos fill another nine pages.) Also, inserted toward the beginning of the book is an 18-page spread on Christian Dior and his gardens. At the end of the book is a chronology of Christian Dior fragrances with their release dates.

In each of the essays, Burr compares a fragrance or collection of fragrances to a style or school of art…

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