For as long as I can remember I have loved books. I used to make my parents read me the same stories over and over again until I had them memorized and then I would recite them verbatim, impressing their friends and my aunts and uncles by telling them I was reading. When I actually did learn to read you couldn't get my nose out of whatever book I was reading. My dad, an English teacher, would take my sister and I to the library often to ensure we always had a stack of books to pick from, especially during breaks from school. Even the fact that I got motion sickness from reading in the car couldn't tear me away from a good story. I once vomited on a whole stack of library books strewn across the back seat, angering my father who then had to purchase all of the books and upsetting me who couldn't finish the one I was reading. From then on I was sedated with Gravol for road trips. My favorite books of all were the new ones I was able to order every few months through the Scholastic Book Club at school. The catalog would come and I would pore over it oh so carefully, feeling heavy with the weight of my decision. Would it be The Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High? Oh dear. Finally the books would come, packaged together, banded with an elastic. I remember how those books felt, their smooth covers, the way they smelled when you first opened them, the freshness of the new, crisp pages. I still appreciate the joy of a new book.
Does this interest you? Perhaps not. But perhaps my memories have evoked some fond ones of your own. Maybe you, like me, will be interested/amused/disturbed/skeptical/elated to learn that the new book smell is now available as a fragrance. That's right. There is a new perfume out called 'Paper Passion' which "conjures the smell of your newest bookstore purchase". It is a collaboration between Wallpaper magazine, German book publisher Gerhard Steidl, fashion designer extraordinaire Karl Lagerfeld who designed the packaging, and perfume designer Geza Schoen who perfected the scent. For id="mce_marker"15 you get the perfume cleverly packaged in a panel inside of a book with it's same name. Why a perfume that smells like paper?? According to Steidl “To wear the smell of a book is something very chic. Books are players in the intellectual world, but also in the world of luxury,” Chic? Hmm. Some books or series have gained cult status. Examples: The Secret, the Twilight or Hunger Games trilogies, the Harry Potter series, and the recent racy 50 Shades series. Devouring these books along with hordes of others can make a woman feel like part of something, give her a sense of belonging in a community. By reading works by undiscovered authors, or touching on controversial or unsavory material some may be trying to showcase their individuality and their desire to go against the grain, and perhaps their dissent from and hostility towards popular culture. Depending on genre or subject matter, possessing a certain book can make a woman feel sophisticated or intelligent or worldly. And apparently it's looks and not just smell that matters when it comes to books. Recently publishers have been revamping the covers of their classics in order to attract more readers. Splinter, a division of Sterling publishing, hired Manhattan fashion illustrator Sara Singh to do the watercolor-like illustrations for the covers of their Classic Lines series. With the worlds of fashion and literature colliding perhaps books are becoming chic after all.
Let's explore further. Scent is very much tied to memory and emotion. While the smell of a new book may lead men to think of sexy librarians, I doubt it will conjure up such racy imagery in women. Most women I know wear perfume because they like the smell but also because they like the way it makes them feel (sexy, happy, confident) or it evokes a nice memory. The smell of a book makes me think of my childhood, and it makes me feel happy and content. I have described some of the memories it conjures up above. Perhaps such warm, fuzzy feelings would be incentive for some women to make this perfume their signature scent. Only time will tell how sucessful this product will be, but if the popularity of similar products are any indication, Mr. Lagerfeld may want to stick to selling clothes. For example, the perfume "In the Library" by renegade perfumer Christopher Brosius with scents of paper, leather, and even dust, has managed to slip under the radar of popular culture.
The problem is that while many people love the smell of paper, much like many love that "new car smell" or the smell of gasoline (some people do!), I don't know that a desire to wear this scent follows the adoration for it. When I long for the smell of a book, I can go to my bookshelf, inhale deeply and drink it in. I can go to the local library or bookstore for an extra dose. Some predict a day when books are no longer available. When ebooks and tablets will be our sources of literature. My children may never experience that new book smell. In that case I may wish I had a bottle of 'Paper Passion' available to waft under their little noses as I tell them all about my childhood and the wonder of holding a new book in your hands and opening it for the first time, the cover still stiff, eagerly anticipating the unknown world inside. Perhaps this perfume should be "put on the shelf" for now. Pun intended.
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