“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, April 24, 2010

the manufacture of smell, judged from Maslow's ladder

So where does smell rank in the order of things?

Cesar Birotteau is fascinating not only because the characters often seem to be mere vehicles for monetary transactions, but also because Balzac has a fine sense for the infra-class differences that pit supplier against manufacturer, the building owner against the tenant, the proprietor of the shop against the landlord, the financier against the client – all differences that are at once matters of money and matters of stations in the circulation of capital.

Over this whole construct, this speculative web, sits the changes in a perfumery. One which, as Balzac saw, was on the verge of shedding its old form as a mere outgrowth of the revenue of the great bourgeois and the nobility, and donning a new form as a mass luxury provider. Now this thing requires marketing and chemistry, the annexation of the third life and the use of science – embodied, in Balzac’s novel, by a natural philosopher in the old mold, Vauquelin. The old natural philosopher was not part of a team, and did not have at his disposal the statistical tools that restructured the whole of experimental science. Rather, the heroic myth of the experimentum cruces is metonymic with the individual genius, the artisan-manufacturer of discoveries. Balzac, in one way, was just such an individual genius – Baudelaire was astonished by the absolute nullity of Balzac’s juvenilia, and all the more appreciative of the effort, the act of the will, that seemed to make Balzac a genius. And, of course, metonymic with the genius and his discovery was the financier and his coup.

Confusing notes on a topic I must get back to this weekend. But time is waiting in the wings...

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