Help Me Out

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,

  • Emotenote says:

    Gasp! I have the opposite problem. When I bought my car the sales guy had sprayed (or worn a great deal of) Polo Double Black in the car. Some days it smells great, some days I want to hang my head out like a dog. I don’t think over spraying with help.

    OK so I’m a little late in the response area here, I was on “Vacation” (translation: A car trip with children and DH where I would rather be sticking needles under my fingernails.) As I’m recovering I’ve been reading “Eats Shoots and Leaves” (notice there are no authors, simply because on the last leg of this journey I can’t find the books…) I have to second Zippy’s sequel and “Stiff: the mysterious lives of corpses”. For non-fiction I’d have to add “The history of Salt” which is world history from salt’s point of view (long but interesting), and “Color: A Natural History of the Palette” by Victoria Finlay. (kinda easy short and fun)

    And finally, the number series by Janet Evanovich which never have bad things to children (one of my criteria also) and are occasionally ‘pee your pants’ funny mysteries. Though not mentally challenging by any means. (number 6 is especially amusing). Also “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson is wonderful.

    Other than that it’s been road maps and m & m bags for me.

    • March says:

      My condolences – that sounds like total hell. I am very, very bad on car trips. Cheese threatens to leave me at the roadside. Really — much worse than children. A Walk In the Woods was a stitch.

  • Julie says:

    I use aromatherapy candles in my car. I keep them in a votive candle holder so they dont melt all over. It fits nicely in my cup holder and smells delish. Please enter me into your drawing:) THanks!

  • CindyN says:

    Please add me to the drawing list. Back in the day, Vicky Tiel
    (original scent) was my signature fragrance. Now I am way to eclectic to have just one. My motto is more is always better!
    My reading is solely to escape my day–so I love crime mysteries,crime fiction, CSI-like books, and anything by Jeffrey Deaver. –Julie Garwood is awesome;loved Killjoy

  • Emily says:

    I’d love to be in the drawing for Vicky Tiel Sirene,
    if it’s not too late! Thanks.

  • Lievje says:

    Although I’m in Europe, I don’t recognize the bottle.

    Great booksuggestions for a bookmaniac like me! I’d like to suggest the book I finished a couple of days ago, that impressed me so much:
    Ann-Marie MacDonald, Fall on your knees. This is a fantastic read.

    I’m off to write down all suggestions. 🙂

    • March says:

      I’ve heard of that one, thanks!!

      Hmmmm … nobody recognized the bottle.

      I’m going to try typing all these up into a list.

  • kuri says:

    Ooh, look, people read a lot. Mostly I’ve been reading comic books and sci-fi/fantasy lately, but have you read
    “84, Charing Cross Road” by Helene Hanff? Short and hilarious non-fiction book about a woman and a bookstore. I’d also second Michael Ondaatje’s work. I loved the writing in the English Patient really lyrical. For non-fiction, I’ve enjoyed rereading “The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours” by Marian Wright Edelman. And Miss Manners; very pithy.

    • March says:

      I adore Charing Cross and Miss Manners! (Miss Manners lives in D.C.) I have a few of her memorably snippy books.

  • Bryan says:

    I would feel like a bad son if I didn’t shamelessly plug my own mother, Julie Garwood. I love Killjoy. Truly a fun read. There, I can sleep better now.

    • March says:

      No way?!?! What are my kids going to say about me?


      “She spent a lot of time on the computer. She smelled funny. She had trouble focusing on us sometimes. I rememeber there were vials all over the house.”

      Eulogy For My Mother, The Crack Addict.

  • BBliss says:

    This is a fantastic post! I’m going to keep it to help me get unstuck next time I can’t find something to read (like right now). I especially have trouble getting started/finishing things when I’m pregnant and hormones are out-of-whack (which explains my current lack of reading material other than food magazines). It’s like my brain can’t concentrate right…

    I’m an enormous fan of anything from A.S. Byatt or Ondaatje…and not a fan of the “bad things to children” category!

    Here are a few others – all ones I couldn;t bear to end and just wanted more after I finished them:

    The Abyssinian – Jean-Christophe Rufin
    Lost in Translation – Nicole Mones
    The 16 Pleasures – Robert Hellenga (also the Fall of a Sparrow)
    The Love of Stones – Tobias Hill
    Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
    I Capture the Castle
    All This and Heaven Too
    A Very Long Engagement
    Maybe a Miracle
    The Map of Love
    A Woman of Independent Means
    Auntie Mame
    Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate
    Their Hearts Were Young and Gay – Cornelia Otis Skinner and ? -out of print, but well worth it.

    Anything by Isabel Allende (Paula is heartbreaking but fabulous-breaks the children rule), Jean Plaidy – used to be out of print, but some is coming back (historical fiction)

    Lighter Reads: almost anything by Rita Ciresi, Anna Maxted, Lee Smith, Michael Lee West, Beth Gutcheon

    And 3 Nonfiction books that I constantly refer to as a Mother -these have truly shaped me as a person and made me feel not alone as a parent:
    The Mother’s Almanac
    Everday Blessings: Mindful Patenting by the Kabat-Zins
    Whole Child/Whole Parent – Polly Berrien Berends

    Sorry for the missing authors, they should be found easily enough on Amazon -I’m too big and lazy to trudge to the downstairs bookshelves. Thanks March for starting this, and for all who posted – what a great resource!

    • March says:

      Bliss — you know what your list reminds me of? My much-mourned, defunct book catalog, Common Reader, which bit the dust around Christmas (I think.) Run by and for bibliophiles, its books were carefully selected and almost always a good read.

      That’s where I got I Capture the Castle, which is a great book (failed to get Diva to read it, though.) And I loved the last two (three?)fictionn on your list. Their Hearts Were Young and Gay makes me tear up just typing those words.

      How far along are you? Not that it’s any of my business.

      • BBliss says:

        March – I should look into that Common Reader which I’ve heard about – thank you for reminding me! I never thought I was a serious enough reader, though I did play library a lot with my childhood books. My kids still find ones with my dad’s old business cards glued into the book. I liked stamping dates – weird kid that I was. Anyway, I’ll try and read almost anything, but anything underdeveloped or predictable usually just starts to irritate me after awhile.

        I’m 8 1/2 mos. thanks for asking – and SO uncomfortable – but I know it really just gets worse. I figure I have about 2 good weeks of mobility left. Love the end result, though – very worth it! Anyway, this explains my spotty appearance lately…too many things to do, and too few brain cells at this point to comment. Still – you guys are a great distraction -thank you!

        • March says:

          They closed up shop last Christmas, which makes me very sad. They were a wonderful resource; I’m not aware of anything else like them.

          Is this your first? I’m thinking not, based on your comments…. they are worth all the trouble, definitely.@};-

          • BBliss says:

            Oh – they are GONE, really gone – not just your particular catalog – duh! I think I missed a great thing. Book Sense 76 used to do monthly lists and sometimes genre lists – they are recommendations from independent book sellers. Haven’t been there in awhile, but the archives were a good resource.

            This is number 3 – we are excited to meet this child – they are each so different!

            And if you do figure out the bottle or get a list together do let us know!

    • Lauren says:

      Oh, yes! A Very Long Engagement! I forgot all about how much I loved it.

      • BBliss says:

        It was a great one – I remember being surprised that the movie that came out later was fairly well done. But the book was still better.

  • Lavanya says:

    book recos: Possession by A.S. Byatt,
    Unbearable Lightness of being by Kundera..oh..I just scrolled up to read
    some of the comments and saw that you loved too..:)..
    And sometime back I had started to read Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book
    (which I never got back to..:(..)..but it seems an interesting read..
    Also if you like that kind of stuff Murakami’s Wind up Bird Chronicle is niiicee
    as is Calvino’s Invisible Cities

    oh..and I’d like to be in the drawing.

    • March says:

      Calvino!! My dad loves his books. I’m … more baffled? Maybe I do have a small, cold, dead soul…:-?

      I have never read Unbearable Lightness. I feel like I should at least try.

  • PanteraLily says:

    8-| Oh Hecate and Buckethead, I beseech thee to choose me!!! Thanks.

    • March says:

      Hah! Hecate and Buckethead cannot be beseeched!

      You could bribe them, though./:) Good thing they can’t read anything more complicated than their names … although I think Hecate can read the word “cookie.”

  • Gaia says:

    Book recommendations:
    The Lost Legends of New Jersey by Frederick Reiken (fiction, coming of age story, funny and touching).
    Manhattan Memoir by Mary Cantwell (a memoir that starts with a New England childhood and continues to NYC of the 50s and 60s. A little-known gem, like watching an old movie)
    Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld (fiction, the story of a midwestern girl who goes to a New England prep school in the 80s).

    And I’d like to be in the drawing.

    • March says:

      Gaia — you’re in! Thanks for your recommendations. I’ve heard about the Lost Legends one, and I have a soft spot (I don’t have any idea why) for NJ.

  • benvenuta says:

    Fiction: anything by Graham Greene. lighter fiction: David Lodge, Nick Hornby, Gerald Durrell.
    Non fiction: clinical stories of neurologist Oliver Sacks (in Anthropologist on Mars he writes about Temple Grandin) – The Man who Mistaken his Wife for a Hat, A Leg to Stand On… He`s fascinating.

    Please include me in the drawing.

    • March says:

      Thanks! I think I have read all the Oliver Sacks books — they are so interesting. I actually turned Diva onto them recently, she used one for a book report.

  • HopeB says:

    Ok, I was totally wrong–it’s not Bath & Body Works, its the Body Shop that makes a car diffuser. Check it out on their website:


    • March says:

      Hope — thanks! I’m going to the mall today (natch), and there’s a big Body Shop there, I’ll check it out.:)

  • HopeB says:

    Obviously, I’m having an “off” day–I meant “correctly”!

  • HopeB says:

    If I recall corectly, Bath & Body Works makes a car freshner that you plug into the cigarette lighter, a la a cell phone charger. It has a pad you can saturate with scents, oils, etc.

    ((Not affiliated with BBW, etc.)


  • ahtx says:

    Well I am a big fan of Middlesex and Posession both so I feel safe recommending a few more to you to add to your evergrowing list!

    I think “Posession” is one of those novels where a writer who has wrestled with big serious themes decides to let herself go for the sheer pleasure of storytelling. As readers we can really feel her exhiliration, don’t you think? (I found her Potter trilogy an almost impossible read by comparison, but I think that’s because I hate the main character.) A couple others in that category are Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando,” which is really just a big love letter to Vita Sackville-West, and Mary Gordon’s “Spending” a hilarious, sexy novel about an artist in her fifties who get a rich, handsome, brilliant lover/muse/patron and creates a brilliant series of paintings as a result–its really a book about getting what you want and having that be a *good* thing.

    For pure smart fun, I recommend Lauren Henderson’s Sam Jones detective series (you can check it out here: I particularly love “Freeze My Margarita” since it is a light-as-a-feather noir tribute to Midsummer’s Night Dream. Smart as a whip and twice as funny. Why oh why she stopped writing these to start producing mediocre romantic comedies I will never know…

    And just to add one classic, if you haven’t read Anna Karenina yet, go for it. I put if off for years thinking, “Oh great, another book with a dead woman at the end.” And also, vaguely, that Tolstoy was the Preachy Russian compared to Dostoevsky. What a fool I was! This is one of those Great Classics that also happens to be a lot of people’s personal favorites. Its a stupendous page turner that swings from a treatise on Russian labor (that manages to be interesting) to a five page description of what it is like to be deliriously in love without missing a beat. As soon as I finished it I wanted to start all over again!

    And I clearly have to read The Master and Margarita now!

    • March says:

      Yes — definitely. There was a sense that she just let herself go into the story; I felt like she was so excited to be telling it. It’s a wonderful book.

      Anna Karenina …. I read that as an adult, not so many years ago, when I was in one of those difficult periods. I credit that novel with bitch-slapping me back into reality. If a shy reader asked me to recommend a “serious” book, I might go for that one — it is so beautifully told, and immensely readable. Gigantic book.

  • minette says:

    have been reading mostly fluff lately, but there was a decent novel about a CIA agent imbedded in the middle east in the stack. i think it’s called “the faithful spy.” there was also one called “the hard way” that was entertaining, and a fun little read called “the winter of frankie machine.” also two by lisa unger, “beautiful lies” and “sliver of truth” which would be good poolside reads. and “devil in the junior league” also fits into that category – total fluff, but fun. can’t recommend plum sykes’ “debutante divorcee” though – if socialites’ lives are actually that vapid and boring, they really ought not write about them. snore.

    i’ve been getting books for free from our morning show bookshelves(promotion books), so my reading of late has been eclectic to say the least. i’m now reading a narrative of the taking of the u.s. embassy in iran back in 1979, and a history of our involvement in the middle east, from 1776 til now.

    i read a bunch of dean koontz a few months ago, and those were entertaining. though the last odd thomas book was not nearly as good as the first two. the villain was obvious and the climax dull.

    please enter me in the sirene drawing.

    • March says:

      Minette — you’re in! We’re taking a trip this summer; I need some good fluff reading, thanks!

  • delondraw says:

    If you haven’t read VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, it’s a great weekend, read-it-in-the-bathtub kind of romp. It’s hilarious, juicy, and chic in a throwback way–definitely one of my all-time favorites. Also, I really enjoyed a non-fiction book called THE SEX LIFE OF FOOD about humanity’s relationship with food throughout the ages. There are some really gross but fascinating chapters about things like Hitler’s diet and cannibalism.

    Love to be in the drawing, too…

    • March says:

      Actually, the Sex Life of Food sounds like something that would be just perfect, in the right mood.:-“

  • Solander says:

    I used to hang around the BPAL forum a lot, and a lot of people there scented their cars by soaking cotton or cloth in perfume oil and putting it in some kind of diffuser hanging in the car. Putting on a lot of perfume and stepping right into the car might work too, that way you avoid scent clashes… As for me, a car smelling of, well, car AND perfume would make me even more nauseous…

    A great book with perfume in it is Angela Carter’s Wise Children. It’s about two identical twins who can be told apart because one wears Mitsouko and the other Shalimar.

    One I haven’t gotten around to reading myself yet is the late 19th century Decadence classic A Rebours (I’m sure there’s an English translation called something like Against Nature or Against the Grain) by Joris-Karl Huysmans. The protagonist constructs a “scent organ”!

    By the way, have any of you seen the film “Harold and Maude”? Maude builds some kind of “scent organ” too as an artwork.

  • violetnoir says:

    Two books of fiction that come to mind right away, March, are “Middlesex” (one of my all-time favorite books) and “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan”(insightful look at female friendships and Chinese culture).

    I recently got into this queen phase (I’m such a diva sometimes!), so for non-fiction, I recommend Antonia Fraser’s “Marie Antoinette, the Journey” (long, but simply fascinating), and her “Wives of Henry the VII,” which I am currently reading.


    • March says:

      Gad — you guys are killing me with the Middlesex. Even the Cheese, who hates fiction, loved it. Somehow I cannot get into it. Okay. Will. Try. Again.

      I read the Antonia Frasier in Vienna, which was a great combo.

  • Lauren says:

    Hey, March

    I also loved Smilla and am still baffled by the end, even though I’ve read it at least 10 times (just the end!) I’m going to write to Peter Hoeg and ask him to write a sequel so we will finally know what happens. PH also wrote another stunning novel, The Woman and the Ape, with a slightly less ambiguous ending. I loved it and was heartbroken by it. Right now I’m reading She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel. It’s the sequel to A Girl Named Zippy. Both books are Haven’s life story in a small town in Indiana. Very eccentric and moving family story. I’m loving it.

    Good luck finding a good read (also, The Shadow of the Wind and The Birth of Venus are very good). And please add me to the drawing.

    • March says:

      I loved Zippy!!! Didn’t realize there was a sequel. Very sweet book.

      • Lauren says:

        Yes, the sequel is just as good as Zippy, I think.

        And please keep us updated on the Temple Grandin book – I’m very curious about it.

  • Judith says:

    A couple more really good ones that I didn’t see recommended here yet (you may have already read these, but they are worth mentioning in any case)–
    Middlesex, J. Eugenedies
    Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson (Gilead is also good).

    Rushing off to read Mating. . .

  • tmp00 says:

    I second the potpourri in the ashtray trick, but I might have to try the soap under the seat as well.

    Books? I’ve been in a book rut as well, but there’s always E. F. Benson’s “Lucia” books (hilarious and beautifully written in that dry English way) and one of my favorites, Joe Keenan’s “Blue Heaven” about two unscrupulous people who decide to get married for the gifts. One of the two books I’ve ever read (Fran Leibowitz wrote the other) that I had to stop and put down every few minutes because I was laughing so hard. I’ve been reading too many books that are heavy and depressing, I need to pull these two out again and lighten up.

    Can’t help on the bottle, but I’d totally like to own it. Looks like a prop from “Space: 1999”, and that’s a good thing.

    Can I be entered in the drawing? [-o<

    • March says:

      The soap under the seat is working for me on several levels: cheap, I have some wonderful scented soaps I think would be perfect, out of view, easily changeable, and the kids can’t make a mess of it in the car.

      Those Lucia books were wonderful! I’ll look for Blue Heaven, I love a good laugh.

      You’re in!

  • Teri says:

    Years ago someone suggested to me that I should put a fabric softener sheet under my car seat to scent the car. As you drive and the car warms, the scent is released just as it is in the dryer. Granted, it’s not fine perfume, but if you have a ‘flavor’ of Downy or Bounce or whatever that you like for your clothes, you might like it in your car, too. I’ve been using Downy Simple Pleasures with Water Lily and Jasmine. Because I use the same scent in my laundry, sitting in my warm car reminds me of being wrapped up in a big fluffy towel straight from the dryer. Not at all a bad thing. 🙂

    I love the reading recommendations everyone has been giving you. I’ve read many, but not all, and have added a few to my own list. I do have one to add that I didn’t see mentioned above. It’s non-fiction, but it is compelling a read as any suspense novel and when I started it, I simply couldn’t put it down. It’s called “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson. It’s a unique combination of history and mystery, being both the story of the Chicago World’s Fair and a tale of a dastardly lady killer (literally!) who was active during this time period. It’s impeccably written and draws you into the story immediately. As an extra plus, you get painlessly educated. If only history could be taught this way in school, none of the kids would dread it.

    • Teri says:

      Oopsie….I forgot to add that I’d like to be in the drawing, too. I like ’em strong and sweet and somewhat skanky. 😉

      • March says:

        Teri — thanks! I remember that book — it sounded interesting at the time, will add it to the list!:x

    • Melanie says:

      I love that Downy fabric softener!! I’ve been using the Rose & Violet one–I actually couldn’t believe that anyone was selling a rose & violet fabric softener, I would’ve thought it would be considered too heavy for people these days. I use the liquid and the sheets, it makes towels soo fluffy, and the bed sheets smell sooo good.

      As far as fiction-before my present subject phase, I read a ton of Augusta Evans books– Beulah, Macaria, Infelice, St Elmo, etc. You can download quite a few of her books from the Gutenberg site for free(and tons of other classics). I put them on the PDA to read when I have to wait at the doctors, etc. That Gutenberg site is great–to a bookworm, it’s almost like winning the lottery.

    • Theresa says:

      I have this book, but I have yet to read it…because wuss that I am…I thought it looked too scary. So, is it? Or is it just mysterious and mildly creepy?

  • AngelaS says:

    Once my car stank, and it seemed to be something caught in the air vents. I turned on the car’s fan, then went outside and sprayed Fresh Linen Lysol into the vents at the base of the windshield, so that it blew through the ducts and into the car. It seemed to work. Now you’ve got me thinking about stashing a handkerchief soaked in something in the ashtray, though. Maybe the old Azuree? Somehow that seems right.

    For books, well you have loads of great suggestions here, but don’t forget Nabokov! Pnin was brilliant, and a collection of his short stories is a sure winner. Also, Notes on a Scandal is a great trashy book that is really well written.

    • March says:

      Angela — yeah, the handkerchief in the ashtray seems like a good idea, too. I think first, though, I’m going to try Melanie’s scented soap idea (above) because then I can explore smells I like that I don’t own as fragrances…

      Nabokov. Not since college! :”> Trashy, well-written books are always welcome.

  • Melanie says:

    I put scented soaps under my car seat, the fragrance lasts forever. I’ve also got a little car diffuser that plugs in to the lighter outlet, you put a few drops of something on a little cardboard piece that goes in it. That gives a strong blast of fragrance at first, but the soap lasts longer.

    • Melanie says:

      Oh, and reading–I’ve been on a yacht race disasters kick lately–I’m reading books about the Vendee Globe, the 1998 Sydney-To-Hobart Race, the 1979 Fastnet Race, and the first around-the-world single-hand race won by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. People who do these things just amaze me and excite my admiration.

      • March says:

        I don’t know why but your “yacht race disasters kick” made me laugh out loud — hey, whatever genre you want, there are probably several books out there to serve …

        You know what? I am TOTALLY loving your scented soap thing. There are several scented soaps I adore the smell of (Pacifica makes wonderful ones) that I’d love to smell in the car, and they have the added advantage of being cheap.

      • Melanie says:

        Uh-the names of the books might be helpful, if anyone cares for these types of stories—

        A Voyage For Madmen by Peter Nichols—about the first round-the-world non-stop solo race

        An Extreme Event by Debbie Whitmont–1998 Sydney-To-Hobart

        Fastnet, Force 10–John Rousmaniere–1979 Fastnet

        A Hard Chance –Kim Leighton–1998 Sydney-To-Hobart

        The Proving Ground–G. Bruce Knecht–1998 Sydney-To-Hobart

        Close To The Wind–Pete Goss–1996 Vendee Globe

        Godforsaken Sea–Derek Lundy—1996 Vendee Globe

  • Tigs says:

    Yikes – there’s also (if you can handle some gross-out factor) Mary Roach’s really funny “Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers”. The follow-up, “Spook” is not as good. I really will shut up now.

    • March says:

      Tigs — I read the review of that, actually … still trying to decide if I’m up for it. Things tend to stick around in my cranium and haunt me when I least expect it, and I’m never clear up front what will gross me out. Still undecided.

  • Robin says:

    M, you already know that L’Artisan & MPG both make car scents, right?

    • March says:

      R — yes!!! But that seemed too … obvious.:-” I guess I was looking for something that I’m not spraying directly around in there (those *are* sprays, right?) I’m thinking someone’s L’Occitane suggestion up there (solid scent tins) sounds good too.

      I could just spill that vial of Human Existence in there ….:-?

      Then we’d have to junk the car.

  • Tigs says:

    I just read “An Instance of the Fingerpost” for a bookclub, and second its nomination.

  • Tigs says:

    Good luck, March – I have recommended “Mating” to literally hundreds of library patrons and so far I’ve gotten my husband to read it. He pronounced it: “Absolutely wonderful and completely unreadable.” (He’s kind of like that.) It is truly one of my favourite books ever – and I read about 50 books a year, people – so please, please, please, please read it. For a similar, historical take on a utopian colony, you could try Barry Unsworth’s fabulous Booker-prize-winning “Sacred Hunger”. It *is* deep, and it’s 630 pages long (and, oh, okay… it’s a little slow for the first 100 pages until they get to sea) but it’s also a suspenseful, character-driven read. I’d also recommend Lorrie Moore’s surpassingly great, funny “Birds of America” (don’t worry, her son gets better!), Helen DeWitt’s “The Last Samurai” (NOT the movie), the middle novels of Richard Russo (not “Empire Falls”, the Mr. and Mrs. Bridge novels and, for shorter ones, “Turtle Diary” by Russell Hoban and “The Bookshop” by Penelope Fitzgerald. I also like Claire Messud and any number of war books, but bad things happen to children and everybody else. For biography, “American Prometheus” the new one on Oppenheimer that won the Pultizer (after I read it – much deserved) is great and there’s one of my faves, now out-of-print, but still available, the fictionalized “biography”/novel of Wittgenstein (and Russell and GE Moore) “The World As I Found It” by Bruce Duffy. I shall shut up now.

    • March says:

      Tigs — babe, you and I have sung the glories of Mating on your blog, many moons ago. My friends are divided into two camps: those who’ve read Mating and those who haven’t. Yet.:-w But being a librarian must be particularly vexing.

      Your other recs look great too. Richard Russo writes with great style, but eventually I got bored — they’re all the same book on some level[-(, at least the ones I read.

      O … m …. G!!!!! The World As I Found It!!!!! Now THERE’S a book you can get absolutely *nobody* to read. What a freaking great book.@};-

      • Tigs says:

        Ah March, as Anne Shirley would say: “We are truly kindred spirits!” I thought nobody on earth except for me had read “The World As I Found It”. I have always felt like writing to Bruce Duffy and telling him: “I’m here! I bought it! I love it!”

        Richard Russo’s book *are* all the same. I love them anyway, though. “Straight Man” is dead funny and very accurate, but “The Risk Pool” and “Nobody’s Fool” are probably my favourites.

        Warning: I have just remembered, of course, that the last Lorrie Moore story in “Birds of America” called “Terrific Mother” starts with the accidental death of a baby. It’s really worth reading anyway.

        • Maria B. says:

          I’d just like to warn March that I found The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald to be something of a downer, as much as I admire the author’s work. If you’re looking for FUN, this may not be it. I found The Golden Child to be much more actual fun. I did find Russo’s Straight Man hilarious. I was working at a college at the time. Francine Prose’s The Blue Angel is another English dept. takedown.

          • Erin Tigchelaar says:

            Oh, yes, total downer, I agree. It’s just I have not found the rest of her books hook me in the same way. Have not tried “The Golden Child” yet, though.

  • James Dotson says:

    Last week the lords of synchronicity guided me to write an article on car fragrancing for the sniffa mag. It should be there next week with the title, “Auto-atomizer.”
    I have the SMN potpourri in my car, and it gives it a great Listerine-Imperial sort of thing that I like.

  • Jennifer says:

    Add me to the drawing.

    I really did love Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, powerful and quite a few times made me cry, as for now well I have a lot of recommendations but time to post them, other than I think this book would totally match the love of skanky scents: The Fall of The Kings by Ellen Kushner.

  • Judith says:

    First, I want to second David Mitchell’s BlackSwanGreen (and unlike Lee, I also enjoyed his first book, Ghostwritten), Pairs (esp. An Instance of the Fingerpost) Perez-Reverte, (esp. The Club Dumas, The Flanders Panel, and The Seville Communion) and Byatt, Possession. If you enjoy Possession (or have already read it), you might try her series of four books centering on the Potter family. It’s not necessary to read all four (each stands alone), but I would read them in order. The first is The Virgin in the Garden. I am also thinking of Kate Atkinson, Case Histories (a very literate mystery) and her other books as well (esp. One Good Turn, another mystery, and Behind the Scenes at the Museum–not a mystery). David Carkeet’s Double Negative (a mystery revolving around linguistics) is fun, and he has other books (not mysteries) featuring the same main character. writing this reminds me that Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn (a literate mystery featuring a main character with Tourette’s syndrome) is very good. Sarah Waters (lesbian historical fiction, if that makes sense:) is very good too; I especially recommend Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith. In very recent books, I enjoyed Marisha Pessl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics, although I think it’s a bit self-indulgent, and Clare Messud, The Emperor’s Children. OK, that’s enough for now. Off to copy Elle’s list:)

    • Judith says:

      WHen I said “Pairs,” I meant Iain Pears. His art history mysteries are good, and I think An Instance of the Fingerpost (a different sort of book) is great. This reminds me that Eco, The Name of the Rose, is also great, and definitely worth your time if you haven’t already read it.

      • March says:

        I looooooved Possession. Wonderful read. So now I will have to find a note pad and copy down all these recommendations…

        • Louise says:

          After you copy them, can you pay a teenager to put together a list? Then we can start a book club! Whooooweeee!

    • Elle says:

      Absolutely loved all the books you mentioned! But, mystery addict that I am, can’t believe I’ve not read anything by Jonathan Lethem! Off to remedy that immediately. Did you see the BBC adaptation of Tipping the Velvet? Quite decent.

      • Judith says:

        I didn’t see the BBC adaptation–I would really like to! Lethem doesn’t usually write mysteries; Motherless Brooklyn is sort of an exception. . .

        • Judith says:

          Oh, and Gun with Occasional Music is too, I guess; and there may be others that I haven’t read. . . but his recent ones aren’t, anyway.:)

  • Silvia says:

    I share some beloved ones with Elle above: Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Sister of my Heart (prepare to cry your eyes out), Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red and Snow, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight Children, Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, Patricia Highsmith’s Carol (actually anything by her), Alain Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes, Adhaf Souheif’s The Map of Love, Luther Blisset’s “Q”… please make me stop
    And of course the Master and Margarita is high up there.
    I think sometimes is good to take breaks from reading, makes you appreciate books more when you resume.

    • March says:

      Silvia — thanks for all your great suggestions! Durrell’s getting a lot of play. I’m hoping I can still remember how to read.;)

  • Allison in MA says:

    Hi, I recommend Possession, by A.S. Byatt. It’s about two literary scholars discovering a secret relationship between two Victorian writers. The book travels back and forth between the past and the present. They made a movie which miscast Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckart as the two scholars, but Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle are wonderful as the two writers.

    For something completely different and a shorter read, there’s Local Wonders: Life in the Bohemian Alps by Ted Kooser (previous poet laureate). He reflects about his life in eastern Nebraska. It’s very beautiful and poignant.

  • Rachael says:

    whoops, Life of Pi is written by Yann Martel

  • rachael says:

    A pretty ribbon soaked in perfume and tied around the neck of the rear view mirrow?
    I’m reading Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert, which is nice if you like the new-agey, self-exploration take on spirituality.
    East of Eden is my all time favorite book ever.
    Life of Pi is enjoyed by almost everyone I’ve known to read it. It’s about an Indian boy who gets shipwrecked and stuck in a life raft with a few animals from his father’s zoo, including a tiger. (They were moving to North America). It’s a fun take on the typical survival story, and it’s an easy and enjoyable read. It seems like if you liked the Poisonwood Bible, you’d like Life of Pi.
    Sirene sounds lovely, please include me in the drawing!

    • March says:

      You’re in! Life of Pi I read and enjoyed, although I read it while on a cruise (given to me for the trip by the friend) and the whole shipwreck concept gave the book maybe more of a cringe-inducing edge than I would have gotten otherwise.

  • Christine says:

    I’ve heard good things about The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and also The Kite Runner. Have I read them? Nope. These days unless it’s law related I’ve surely not picked it up. Unfortunately.

    Also, Smilla’s Sense of Snow? I just remember the god awful trailer for the movie. Which ended with, “Smilla has a sense of danger, Smilla has a sense of snow.” It left us all laughing.

    Hope all is well, and please enter me in the drawing!

    • March says:

      Gad, I forgot about that AWFUL movie. Plus I think that book would make a terrible movie. It was NOT one of those books you read and go, dang, this would be *great* onscreen! I thought it went straight to DVD…

      Kite Runner I read and, well … violates my Awful Things rule. I found it deeply depressing, and I’m just not in it for the emotional fireworks at this stage in my life, you know?

  • Louise says:

    Oops-see thread below

  • Louise says:

    Temple Grandin was very gracious, with many “typical” features of high functioning autism (though I no longer beleive in typical). She is bright as hell, insightful, with a totally different world view. Polite and friendly, if not warm. She has learned a great deal about how “neuronormals” behave by observation-I recall her carefully watching the women at the conference on a powder break-giggling and re-applying makeup. Sort of adding to her social skills knowledge. Her empathy with animals is astounding. I highly recommend reading her work.

    • March says:

      Thanks — that’s what I was looking for. I don’t know anyone (that I’m aware of!) with high-functioning autism. I supposed she’d do what you described — careful observation. I think there are tons of Aspergers parents and kids around here; why don’t I know any?:-?

  • trinity says:

    Hey March
    Regarding scenting the car – get an unscented dryer sheet, you know, the kind that you put in the clothes dryer to stop static cling, and spritz it with your fave scent. Place one sheet under each seat. Works great!!! And you can easily change scents just by tossing the old sheet and spraying a new one!! The scent on the sheets last a few days, really it varies according to how strong the perfume is and how much you spray. Try it!!!

    • March says:

      Trinity — thanks! That’s one way I could use my regular scents and have them removable and not visually junking up the place.

  • Patty says:

    If someone can tell me why as I get older, I read less, I’d be grateful. I used to read 2-3 books a week, depending on length. The last five years, I barely manage that many a year, though I have starts on approximately 357 books right now.

    My two favorite books of all time, though I found them difficult to read because they move slow, but loved the ending — 100 years of Solitude by Garcia Marquez and Angle of Repose by Stegner. Both of those are particular good as you realize you are getting older and do that life examining bit.

    • March says:

      If I had a buck for everyone who suggested Angle of Repose … I could buy a bottle of Djedi!:d What is my problem? Adding it to my list.

      Who’s getting older?![-(

      • Patty says:

        Me!!! Angle or Repose is about … well, read it. It’s a trial to get through it, and I almost killed my friend who told me to read it before I got to the end, but the last 50 pages or so finally put it all together pretty brilliantly.

  • Marina says:

    Wow, the mystery-scent-wearer have been very active 🙂 It must be a wonderful scent since she is so desperate to find it.

    As for the books, I am in a book-rut at the moment, but would of course, always recommend The Master and Margarita.

    • March says:

      Colombina — I’m confused!? Did you get your package? That’s the Niki … I didn’t label it in case you got it early and peeked.:”>

  • Elle says:

    I’ve never used candles to scent my car, but that’s sounding like a great idea. Since most of them are in glass, I don’t think melting would be much of a problem and a lot of them smell fairly strongly even w/out burning.
    Total book sl*t here. For pure fun, I’d recommend anything by Alexander McCall Smith. I’m also a mystery addict and adore Iain Pears and Arturo Perez-Reverte are faves (aside from the classics).
    Would also rec Paul Coelho’s The Devil and Miss Prym and The Alchemist, Orhan Pamuk’s Snow, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, Jose Saramago’s Blindness, Lisa See’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Mistress of Spices, Amulya Malladi’s Serving Crazy with Curry, Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens (has a co-author whose name I can’t remember off hand), Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky, Kiran Desai’s Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, Bernard MacLaverty’s Cal and Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. OK…I could go on and on, but I’ll stop. Well, have to add that I’m also a biography and collected letters sl*t and I couldn’t survive w/out regularly rereading V. Woolf’s journals and letters. And Lydia Chukovskaya’s To the Memory of Childhood is brilliant and another one I regularly reread and I better stop now because there are far too many bios and journals I regularly reread. I also didn’t even bother putting down the classics I adore. Oh, and if pressed for my fav book of all time, it would be Master and Margarita.

    • Patty says:

      yes, Good Omens! It’s a riot. Terry Prachet, the guy that did that 300,000-volume Discworld series was the co-author, and he’s actually the funny one of the two.

      • Elle says:

        Patty, thanks! Yes, Pratchett really is hilarious. I just finished reading Gaiman’s American Gods recently, so he was the one more on my mind in the pre-coffee state I was in when I wrote that.

    • March says:

      Hah!! YOU don’t think my idea is boneheaded! Fine, I’m going to try a candle (yeah, I was picturing one in glass.)

      Adding all your names to my list… dang, hand is getting tired! Who knew we had all these readers?! And smart ones, too!:o

  • sybil says:

    Ahhh… the unfresh car problem. My dear dog is responsible for mine, not to mention the crumb-bunnies, so since I hate the stupid tree hangers, I got a L’Occitane “solid perfume” thingie in a little tin. There are four sugar-lump blocks which smell of chichi French scent, and you can open or close the tin depending on how much scent you require.
    I loved the Master and Margarita! It’s been years, but I can still remember the pleasure I got from it. And Diane Ackerman… wouldn’t I love her job!
    What I’ve read recently…I can recommend A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry. Bad stuff does happen to kids, but it happens to everybody in this book. It was an Oprah selection, but I just read it. It’s terrible, in a great way. (This makes it sound like I don’t like it…it’s just really, really intense).
    If you like magical realism, I’d recommend Jonathan Carroll. He’s probably my favorite author, and I am completely unreasonable about his work. If you don’t like his writing, don’t tell me!
    Oh, and both Viola (the 13 year old) and I finished the Princess of Roumania trilogy, by Paul Parks. They couldn’t be further from the usual teenage read…very good stuff!
    Oh, and if you like travel writing Sex Lives of the cannibals by J. Maarten Troost is a hoot.

    • March says:

      So far this and the scented soaps under the seat are my favorite suggestions.

      I love travel writing! That’s a great name, going up there on my list. Thanks! Maybe I’ll see if I can get Diva to join me in the other.

  • Lee says:

    I’ll try to recommend just British stuff, though I probably won’t manage it. I’ve read all but the first of your suggestions – loved the Kingsolver and the Bulgakov; a little less enamoured of Miss Smilla…

    1) David Mitchell ‘Black Swan Green’ – a coming-of-age tale set in the English countryside in the early 80s. Disturbingly like a journey into my boyhood mind – subtle, moving, funny. Mitchell’s often been accused of being clever for clever’s sake (I agree with that assessment for his first two novels – his third, ‘Cloud Atlas’ is brilliant), but this is an altogether less tricksy book. I love it.

    2) sticking with the theme, Jonathan Coe ‘The Rotter’s Club’. Instead of a remembrance of the 80s, this one focuses on a group of grammar school boys in the 70s. It’s laugh out loud funny and sad and a brilliant history of the period at the same time.

    3) Kazuo Ishiguro ‘Never Let Me Go’ – a seemingly blank account of one woman’s education at an apparently idyllic institution, this is a book about how we remember, how fragile and beautiful life is, and the strains of friendship. It divided critics – some saw it as empty, but Ishiguro is the consummate stylist (and if any of you have never read ‘The Remains of the Day’ I urge you to – one of the best novels ever written), and I think this is a stunningly profound piece of writing.

    4) JM Coetzee’s ‘Disgrace’. A brutal and bloody brilliant novel from one of the best writers I’ve ever read. Draws you, uncomfortably, into contemporary South Africa and makes you face a whole lot of pain. There’s no child suffering March, but it’s a raw book in many many ways, but probably the most powerful thing I’ve ever read (alongside Faulkner’s ‘The Sound and the Fury’). It is a clever-clever book whilst at the same time simply being a story of one university lecturer’s fall from grace and his attempt to rediscover his daughter’s life. It’s also very short. I LOVE THIS BOOK. Nothing else I’ve read in the past ten years has moved me as profoundly, or made me think as much. Except National Enquirer (that’s a joke, btw).

    As for the ‘fume, you know I don’t know. As for cars, I used to use essential oils in one of those plug-in doohickeys for your cigarette lighter. Now I use these drawer sachets you can buy at fancy supermarkets here, made by some lahdidah French sounding company whose name I very unhelpfully have forgotten. They’re probably made in Scunthorpe…

    • March says:

      Thanks! I’d not heard of the first two and had forgotten about the second two, both of which I wanted to read; I thought Remains was brilliant.

      I’m going to go with the scented bar o’ soap first, I think. I can think of several soaps I love the smell of.

      Scunthorpe! Of course everything new around here has those pretentious faux-English names like The Manses at Chesterfield or whatever.

    • Gina says:

      Lee, I LOVED Coetzee’s “Disgrace”! Beautifully written.

  • Masha says:

    Liberty Natural sells a plug-in diffuser which is just great. They are on-line, based in Oregon, I think. You just soak the little felt pad (there are about 5, so you can have different scents) in whatever you want the car to smell like, and plug the diffuser into the cigarette lighter on the dashboard. Works great. I make my own EO blends for the car, my favorite is orange, frankincense, cinnamon, and benzoin. Also, I confess to putting a little paper strip scented with Angel in the car sometimes…I can’t stand Angel on me, but my car loves it.

    • March says:

      Wow, there are some great suggestions today! This one is a bit tricky only because my phone is usually plugged in there … but it sounds like a good idea.

  • Louise says:

    Hey March-

    Thanks for a great ecclectic post.

    As for a car scent agent-have you considered using yourself (or one of your big girls if they agree) as a human wick? I find that if I seriously overspray/saturate myself (a necessity in my case) and sit in a warm car for a while, that the scent lingers a long while (actually longer than on me). Or, maybe not.

    A good book? I enjoyed “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night”-a mystery of sorts that describes a mystery from the point of view of a child with autism. Fascinating read, well written.

    It would be great accompanied by Temple Grandin’s writing-she reveals amazingly well the “real” interior life of a person with autism. I have met her on several professional occasions-she is an amazing woman, much to be admired. I very much enjoy pairing a fictional piece with a solid non-fictional on the same subject.

    • March says:

      L — the only way my car “gets” scented now is the way you describe; or sometimes when I apply scent in an atomizer in the car you get the same effect. But when I got that email I thought, it would be nice to get into the car and have it smell good already… it doesn’t smell terrible, I keep it clean, but it’s not fab either.

      You’ve met Temple Grandin!?!?! I find her awe-inspiring. How does she come across? BTW I’ve read The Curious Incident and enjoyed it very much. YEsterday I got Animals in Translation from the library and have just started it.

  • dinazad says:

    I don’t drive, but I’d scent the car with small sachets of potpourri. I got a bag of Santa Maria Novella’s potpourri last week, and that stuff is powerful! It resides in a closet, wrapped in three plastic bags, and still manages to scent the entire flat! I’d make tiny bags containing a bit of strong but pleasing potpourris like that and change them according to my mood.

    As for books:
    I’ve been reading Martin Page’s “The First Global Village”, a very personal and easy-to-read account of the history of Portugal. Fascinating stuff! (did you know the Portuguese brought tempura to Japan?).
    Now I wonder whether I should get Simon Shama’s “History of Britain”. It was spellbinding on TV, and if he writes half as well as he presents, I’d know more about British history than I do about my own countries’ (i.e. Switzerland and the Czech Republic).

    You might enjoy Helen Humphries’ “Afterimage”, a fictional take on the life of the eminent Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, which had me running for more information on Ms Cameron. Don’t you just love books which kick-start your interest in some new subject? Humphries’ “The Lost Garden” is also wonderfully poetic.

    And if you ever find anything by Thorne Smith, especially “Night Life of the Gods”, give it a go. His books are mostly about drinking, partying and such (all of them – reading a few in a row gets quite boring), but his language fizzes like a champagne cocktail, a flirt and the knowledge that you’re wearing pink lace underwear (step-ins, he’d call them) and silk stockings. Naughty and fun.

    And speaking of naughty: Lytton Strachey’s very naughty “Ermyntrude and Esmeralda” (especially with the Erté illustrations) should be read by everybody beyond the easily-shockable-by-human-relationships age!

    • March says:

      Another non-driver! Dang. I have my routine set up all wrong. I don’t like driving at all. Actually, I didn’t own a car until we moved to the country. Excellent recommendations! I think I’ll start with Thorne Smith — I totally get what you’re saying about the sameness, some other writers have that, but if the writing’s good they’re fun to pick up. Have never read anything by Strachey, although I’ve read about him.

  • A says:

    Patty thank you for entering me in the drawing for Vicky Tiel.

  • Gail S says:

    Hi March,
    Your taste in fiction appears to be a little more….highbrow… than mine, but there is one book I read a number of years back that I made everyone I knew read. It was “The Judas Child” by Carrol O’Connell. And I’m afraid there is some bad stuff toward a child, but it’s not perverse or anything like that. The characters are all hopelessly flawed but still somehow likeable and worthwhile and the ending just really made me feel that there’s still a chance for all the weirdos out there.

    I will pass on this drawing. I bought a bottle of Sirene several years ago on a whim (mostly because I liked the bottle!). I think I used it once. Totally not me!

    • March says:

      Well, Gail, I left off all the magazines (which barely count as reading — more like looking) and the bits of fluff the girls bring home (EVERYTHING now is about incest, eating disorders and alcoholic parents — ugh). Will check out your suggestion! Won’t send you the sirene.:d

  • Theresa says:

    I love to read, and my current job allows me plenty of time to do it…so a (possibly too long) list of suggestions:
    1. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel–engrossing, fast-paced, dramatic and funny in turns. Everyone’s who’s ever read it loves it.
    2. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje–very poetic and has substance in the plot to keep you interested. It may be a bit hard to get into right away.
    3. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood–three narratives that come together in an amazing way. Wonderful writing as always. It is a bit long and “involved” though.
    4. Eats, Shoots and Leaves–a grammar refresher presented in a laugh-out-loud funny way, if you can believe it.

    Hope you find something fun and interesting to read!

    • March says:

      I’d forgotten about Eats, Shoots and Leaves! Another friend told me it was very funny as well … I’ll confess, I read Life of Pi while on a cruise and it scared the *hell* out of me. When I got home I said to the woman who gave it to me for the trip, what were you thinking?!?!:”>

      • Louise says:

        So-which ending of “Pi” did you see as “true”???

        • Theresa says:

          Wow..I’m surprised…I’m really really easily freaked out, but Life of Pi didn’t actually unsettle me too much. Except for the teeth bit…if you remember what I’m talking about(trying to be cryptic to avoid spoilers).
          Ok…REAL Spoiler coming up:

          Also, I was just discussing with a bunch of friends who’d also read the book which version was true. And there was a lot of disagreement. I’d like to think the animals version is true. I feel like Pi was being very defiant with the interviewers and when they kept insisting on not believing his story, he made up the one with humans to satisfy them. But a friend brought up a good point: maybe Pi was so traumatized by the human drama, that he had to make up a story to keep himself sane.

        • March says:

          The one with the animals. I think it’s less plausible, but I’m sticking with it.

      • Theresa says:

        Oh silly me. I just reread your reply, March, and somehow missed the “read on a cruise” part the first time. Ok…yes! That would completely freak me out.

  • Maria B. says:

    Hello, March. I can’t help you with three out of four qustions. But books I can do. Thank you for your suggestions. They look fascinating. I love The Master and Margarita so much that I’ve read it, I believe, three times, and I’m not done reading it. Since we have that book in common, I feel confident enough to recommend the following. (Oh, I know the titles should be in italics instead of quoatation marks, but I can’t do italics with this setup.):

    1.) Penelope Fitzgerald, “The Golden Child.” This book changed my writing. It is so much fun! The child in the title is a statue–and actually nothing really bad happens to it. A valuable golden collection arrives at a British museum for exhibition. Shenanigans ensue. Fitzgerald was a wonderful writer. “The Blue Flower” is her most famous novel and it’s very, very good, but it is not fun like “The Golden Child.”

    2.) S. T. Haymon, “Death of a God.” I’m a mystery buff, yet I had never heard of Haymon. I just stumbled onto this novel at a used book store and got hooked. Her writing is utterly aborbing. I have gone on to read “Death and the Pregnant Virgin,” and I am now in the middle of “A Very Particular Murder.” They’re all good, but they’re out of print. Fortunately D.C. has several very good used book stores, and there’s always You can pick up her books cheap.

    3.) If you like witty repartee, do take a look at the four mysteries written by Sarah Caudwell. Her characters, young British barristers and an Oxford don of unspecified gender, speak in an archer manner than anyone on planet earth employs–but they’re a lot of fun. The first in the series was “Thus Was Adonis Murdered.”

    The three authors above, sadly, are deceased. I find that highly suspicious. Don’t you?

    I think the following writer is still alive and living in Canada:
    4.) Michael Ondaatje, “Running in the Family.” This is a memoir of his eccentric Sri Lankan family by the author of “The English Patient.” Beautifully written and even includes poetry. By the way, he breeds whippets, but that has nothing to do with the book.

    Congratulations on being freed up enough to read for pleasure.

    Please include me in the drawing. Thank you!

    • dinazad says:

      Hi Maria! Did you get my mail?

      • March says:

        She didn’t — she’s anxious — I’ve sent you a joint email, P’s out of town and I assume there was some sort of typographical issue. You guys feel free to bug me in the comments here if you don’t hook up. Maria’s ready to Do The Deal.

    • March says:

      Maria — those sound great!! I haven’t read any of them, and they all sound like “me.” Looking for a new mystery line too … yes, very suspicious that so many of them are dead.:-&#63;;)

  • Steve H says:

    Please count me in for the drawing.
    I couldn’t locate any helpful info about your bottle. Only “88”s that I found were VS Secret 88 Temptation and C&S no.88.

    Good luck on your info quest and please let us know if you find out.

    • March says:

      Steve — thanks for looking! I couldn’t find anything either. Given the rate of new perfumes and discontinuances, I’m not that surprised. I’m hoping someone recognizes the bottle, which is distinctive and I’ve never seen.

      You’re in the drawing!