Today, dear readers, I´m hoping you can help me out on one or more of four issues.
First: has anyone used fragrance to scent their car?
Patty and I got this question via email recently, and we kicked it around for awhile. I was all ready to put an unlit, scented candle in one of my car´s cupholders (L´Artisan´s Bottega Veneta #1 or #2 spring immediately to mind), but Patty said she thought the wax would melt in the summer heat, assuming summer ever comes. I´m just stubborn enough to try it anyway (at which point I´ll be writing to ask your tips on removing candle wax from a car interior), but I´m guessing that now, while it´s not that warm, I wouldn´t get much scent from an unlit candle … but what do I know?
Yeah, sure, I could take my Chaos out there and throw it around the Toyota, but ideally I´d like to rotate scents, and anyhow soaking my car´s plastic interior with alcohol-based fragrance seems like a bad idea. The best I´ve come up with is, say, dropping a scent-soaked cotton ball in a small glass and putting that in there, but aesthetically that doesn´t hold so much appeal. Any other ideas? Some sort of diffuser? Opinions on using room spray vs. perfume? Anything else you´d like to add or suggest?
Second: Have you read any good books lately? Seriously. I´ve gone from being a constant reader to an almost-non-reader. If I spend many more nights browsing my dog-eared back issues of Allure and Veranda, my last 30 brain cells are going to shrivel up and die. The Big Cheese´s reading of choice (real estate and the current hot, racy tome he´s plowing through on hedge funds) only work when I need something to put me to sleep. I´m looking for interesting nonfiction or fiction that doesn´t feature anything desperately terrible happening to children (especially at the hands of perverts), that isn´t a super-long, deep read, either. I just finished Diane Ackerman´s A Natural History of the Senses (about the five senses, with an interesting section on smell and perfume). Now I´m contemplating Temple Grandin´s Animals in Translation (her thoughts as an autistic savant on all sorts of animal behaviors and animal/human interactions), and also Lynn Darling´s Necessary Sins, which is supposedly an unflinching memoir of her home-wrecking affair with celebrated Washington Post correspondent Lee Lescaze. My taste in fiction is fairly wide-ranging. Have you read something recently that you thought was the sort of book you´d recommend to, say, your book club of bright, interesting friends, assuming you belonged to such a club? What was it?
I´ll play too: off the top of my head, if I met you at a party and we clicked, I´d recommend:
1) Mating by Norman Rush – Wickedly amusing novel for lovers of language and witty repartee; in terms of craft, some of the finest writing I have read (warning: the sequel Mortals is a bitter letdown)
2) The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver – I´ve always felt she wrote this as some sort of magnum opus up-yours in the face of critics who said, yeah, her novels are clever, but where´s the substance? And to a large degree she succeeds. Some of it´s a slog, but much of it is beautiful, and there are the sorts of truths in there that (alternately) made me smile in recognition and weep.
3) Smilla´s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg – okay, the entire thing implodes in the last 15 pages or so, the ending baffles me, but in terms of satisfying twists the previous 450 pages are like riding a rollercoaster in an icestorm, only with the volume turned way down. Set in Greenland, darkly humorous, quietly devastating, this thriller is one of the few books I stayed up all night (wrapped in a blanket) to read — unable, as they say, to put it down.
4) Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita — yes, you can sign up for a semester Great Books class at a university so you can study the Many Thematically Significant Aspects of this masterpiece next to some dude with a soul patch. Or you can just go order it off Amazon or wherever and read the damn thing, cheerfully uninformed, and have a great time. (Here’s the middle ground, preparation-wise.)
Note: okay, I notice two of the above books violate my No Bad Things to Children rule … huh.
Third: does anyone recognize the following description, or the bottle next to this? “I am looking for some help identifying a perfume. My brother bought it for me in Paris about 4-5 years ago. When he bought it the sales clerk told him it was the perfume that all of the young French girls wear. The bottle is very simple. It is unlabeled and clear, and the perfume is yellow in color. The bottle is tapered so the base is wider than the top, so it makes a tall and slender cone-like shape. The top is capped with a clear plastic piece that kind of looks like a cluster of bubbles. It came in a pinkish-red box, and I think the perfume is called “88,” although there was no other information on the box except that it is made in France. There was also a code on it, 88100, if that is helpful. Any help you could give me at all would be greatly appreciated, since I love the perfume but am worried I won’t be able to find more.” Any of you in our Vast Pool of European Readers recognize this?
Fourth: Today´s giveaway – Vicky Tiel Sirene. Geranium, Peach, Violet, Jasmine, Orange, Woods, Vanilla. One of my unsniffed purchases. It´s very pretty, but it´s Just Not Me. If you like em strong and sweet, and a touch of skank (must be the jasmine/orange?) you´d probably like this. Bottle´s cool, too. If you want to be included in the draw, say so below. Anyone who asks to be in — you ARE IN! Not gonna write that multiple times… I’ll have either Hecate or Buckethead (of The Filthy Twins) fight for the right to select your name and I’ll announce next week.
Master and Margarita illustration by Matt Dawson, guardian.co.uk