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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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Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent by Mandy Aftel ~ book review

Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent by Mandy Aftel, book plus kit

In fiction, an effective writer uses plot not just to move the story along, but to illuminate an underlying theme. If Mandy Aftel’s Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent were a novel, the plot would be the five essences — cinnamon, mint, frankincense, ambergris, and jasmine — around which she structures the book. The theme would be beauty.

In Fragrant’s first chapter, Aftel writes about how she became involved with perfume, then says:

As I researched and thought about the deeps ways that perfume touches our most primal selves and the collective self of our species, I realized that I had the makings of an adventure story of sorts…

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