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Remembering Smell: A Memoir of Losing--and Discovering--the Primal Sense Hardcover – June 16, 2010
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In November 2005, Bonnie Blodgett was whacked with a nasty cold. After a quick shot of a popular nasal spray up each nostril, the back of her nose was on fire. With that, Blodgett--a professional garden writer devoted to the sensual pleasures of garden and kitchen--was launched on a journey through the senses, the psyche, and the sciences. Her olfactory nerve was destroyed, perhaps forever. She had lost her sense of smell. Phantosmia--a constant stench of "every disgusting thing you can think of tossed into a blender and pureed"--is the first disorienting stage. It's the brain's attempt, as Blodgett vividly conveys, to compensate for loss by conjuring up a tortured facsimile. As the hallucinations fade and anosmia (no smell at all) moves in to take their place, Blodgett is beset by questions: Why are smell and mood hand-in-hand? How are smell disorders linked to other diseases? What is taste without flavor? Blodgett's provocative conversations with renowned geneticists, smell dysfunction experts, neurobiologists, chefs, and others ultimately lead to a life-altering understanding of smell, and to the most transformative lesson of all: the olfactory nerve, in ways unlike any other in the human body has the extraordinary power to heal.
A Q&A with Bonnie Blodgett, Author of Remembering Smell
(Photo © Ann Marsden)
From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
We don't think about it when everything is functioning properly - our early warning system, the ways we protect ourself, the ways we grieve, the ways we love: sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch. Like the blind girl in "A Patch of Blue" who could remember only what a small piece of sky looked like from her sighted days, I have a memory of only a very few scents from my childhood. I remember what the lilacs on the fence outside the kitchen door smelled like; I remember the smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree and the smell of the fur on a kitten's throat; and I remember the smell of baby powder because my little brother, celebrating his fiftieth birthday this July, was born the summer I lost my ability to smell every blessed thing on earth. I was eleven years old.
Probably the result of a botched tonsillectomy, it started (or rather ended) when I woke up one morning to the overpowering stench of burning rubber everywhere I turned. We were on vacation in New England and all day I hung my head out the car window, saying, "Eew! What IS that?" The stench stopped within a day or two, but it heralded an incalculable loss.Read more ›
But for fellow sufferers, and the people who care about them, the book is compelling, eye-opening. It's a shame that it's so sloppily edited: the author needed a sit-down with a good editor who would ask her what kind of book she intended to write: a personal memoir, a disease-of-the-week sob-fest, or (nudge, nudge) a story about a woman fundamentally affected by a little-understood and lightly-regarded medical catastrophe, and how she educated herself and came to terms with it. This is an interesting woman, so if you can good-humouredly put up with the occasional personal digression, you'll be fine. If you're a fellow sufferer, you'll quickly get hooked because you'll find familiar "friends" in here, like phantosmia: the brain's initial response to anosmia by creating strong unpleasant smells out of thin air. Did you know there was a word for it? I certainly didn't.
The real value in the book is how doggedly she did the research, how much thought she has put into how the condition affects her, and how competently she lays out some of the many non-obvious consequences of anosmia, including depression and reduced libido. If you are a fellow-sufferer whose approach to the problem has been like mine - just soldier on and think about it as little as possible - you might also find something familiar in here that will knock you sideways, like I was when she mentioned that she no longer reads fiction. Reads fiction? What POSSIBLE connec... but it's there, if you crawl inside your head and look for it.Read more ›
One October day, Bonnie Blodgett began to experience a distorted sense of smell. All things, no matter what their normal aroma, began to smell as if a concoction of all things putrid put through a blender. An ear, nose and throat specialist she subsequently saw attributed it to the Zicam nasal spray she used several weeks before to combat a cold.
On the following Christmas Eve, Bonnie's sense of smell departed entirely.
REMEMBERING SMELL is Blodgett's account of her odyssey through an ordeal incomprehensible to most. Lost to her were the comforting scents of her home, the ravishing scents of her garden, and the familiar scents of her husband. Perhaps most devastating, the "tastes" of food were reduced to sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami; foods' flavors, now lost to her, are a function of olfaction.
At this point, I must digress for a long, though not completely irrelevant, paragraph.
In the summer of 2007, my sense of taste became distorted. I could, and can, no longer sense "sweet". What was sweet now tastes salty. Furthermore, whatever I eat, whether it contains salt or not, tastes over-salted. And after I eat, for a period of about 90 minutes, I experience a strong salty-sour aftertaste. Though I can still sense flavors, the taste of all foods is off. Though some foods may still taste OK depending on what they are, the aftertaste is a punishment that makes the exercise of eating almost not worthwhile except to ease hunger pangs. The neurologist and ENT specialist are stumped; an MRI of my skull showed nothing pathologic.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Started out quite interesting, then it just got draggy and repetitive. Finished it but wouldn't recommend it to anyone.Published 2 months ago by tara stocker
I was told by an ENT guy in Cambridge MA that I would most likely never smell again, after a case of the flu or a bad cold. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Highlandbird
She compares losing her smell to someone losing their hearing or vision. Says it is the same. I don't think so, nope! Read morePublished 3 months ago by Lin
ugh, this was horrible to read. I lost my sense of smell due to a head injury and I didn't whine and complain as much as this lady did. Read morePublished 6 months ago by kitchenscientist
I thought the book would be more about the author's journey living and coming to terms with her diagnosis, but it turned out to be more like an anatomy of smell text book! Read morePublished 13 months ago by M. Acosta-snustead
I bought the book with the hope of learning enough to help me understand my own phantosmia. This was not a memoir. this was a thesis. Read morePublished on February 28, 2014 by Phyl
I'll make this short and sweet. This book was just a whine-fest. I've known many people who have lost their sense of smell, including my own grandmother, and none of them whined... Read morePublished on October 14, 2013 by Nedra
My main attitude towards the book REMEMBER SMELLING is that a fine book combines personal experience with scientific theory, but does not have an identical purpose. Read morePublished on September 29, 2013 by Wen Xu
I must admit I only read half of this book. I could pretend I read more, of course, but I'm betting you have had this happen to you: You start reading a book that interests you. Read morePublished on April 5, 2013 by julesinrose