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Showing posts from April 18, 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 philosop

Reality and speculation in restoration Paris

Imagine a dinner. Much wine. An old Parisian ‘notaire’ – who combines the various offices of lender, soliciter, and financial counseler – confides his problems to a plausible young man he has met at various dinners given by one of his clients, a successful, though not very educated, perfumer. His problem, it turns out, is a passion – as one should have guessed from the beginning – as one did guess from the beginning, given the state of his nose, ‘ignoblement retroussé’. Having become, from the very wedding night, an object of the unsurmountable physical disgust of his charmingly rich wife, the notaire has found other outlets for the passion announced by his nose – one of which is the very expensive “belle Hollandaise”, whose lifestyle the notaire has supported by defrauding his client. The plausible young man is sympathetic – of course he would be! When the notaire reveals that his plan is to blow out his brains, the young man dissuades him – he even has the notaire empty his pistols b