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Scent and Subversion: Decoding A Century Of Provocative Perfume Hardcover – November 5, 2013
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"I believe that the effective use of perfume is a vital stepping stone in the art of creating glamour, and I've always sought out rare and distinctive perfumes. In Scent & Subversion, Barbara Herman weaves an enchanting tapestry of words about the world’s most spectacular perfumes, a must read for any sensualist or maestra of glamour." --Dita Von Teese, the queen of modern burlesque and creator of the fragrances Dita von Teese, Rouge, Fleurteese, and Erotique
"It's impossible to overstate the importance of scent in your glamour arsenal. In Scent & Subversion: A Century of Provocative Perfume, Barbara Herman tells you how to slip into multiple identities, define your narrative, and star in your own life." --Mx Justin Vivian Bond, international cabaret superstar; author of Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels; and co-creator of The Afternoon of a Faun perfume for État Libre d'Orange
"Scent and Subversion collects Herman’s reviews, but its genius lies in putting them in chronological order based on when each perfume was first produced. This allows Herman to develop a theory of perfume’s evolution in the course of the past century: review by review, evidence piles up. The story is about evolving gender roles and societal norms, from the smoky, sharp, groundbreaking fragrances of the twenties all the way to the watery, unisex 'office smells' of the nineties, and beyond . . . . According to Herman, when you pay attention to the narrative of how perfume actually smells, rather than how it is marketed, the story becomes delightfully non-linear." -- Emily Gould, The New Yorker
"Barbara Herman is an oracle of social history, and her sacred vapor is vintage perfume. For Herman, perfume is a time machine that reveals each decade's particular obsessions with gender roles and sex. Scent & Subversion explores how in the space of a century, women went from smelling like animals while behaving like ladies--to smelling like detergent while pretending they weren't animals. A rip-snorting olfactory perspective on 20th century culture, Scent & Subversion is entertaining reading for fumeheads and casual sniffers alike, and destined to become a classic of perfume research." --Katie Puckrik, journalist, broadcaster, and perfume writer of katiepuckriksmells.com
"Like writers who have understood history through painting, architecture, and music, Barbara Herman has laid out the 20th century through one of the most fascinating, personal, and innovative of lenses, the evolution of its olfactory art." --Chandler Burr, author of The Perfect Scent and creator and curator of the Department of Olfactory Art, Museum of Arts and Design, New York City
“Illustrated by vintage ads, Herman's decade-by-decade study is followed by engrossing interviews with 'scent visionaries,’ and tips on boosting expertise and creating a collection of classic scents. The book will delight perfume lovers.” --Publisher’s Weekly
"Barbara Herman’s Scent & Subversion (Lyons Press) is a tidy overview of perfumes and their marketing." --Cathy Horyn, The New York Times
"Herman is a deft and inventive writer whose talent is to make the scents come alive in your mind’s nose. To a literary genre still hung over after an early overindulgence in bitchy snarkitude, her approach is welcome as a fresh breeze. This splendid little volume (it fits easily in the hand) is beautifully produced and generously illustrated with original color advertisements.” --Avery Gilbert, FirstNerve.com and author of What the Nose Knows
“Barbara Herman has written a delightful book that offers a great value to anyone interested in perfume of the past and present. She educates us without preaching . . . and provides a treasure trove of information, both in prose and in images, as she has included a large number of vintage advertisements that are entertaining, revealing, and often very satisfying for those of us who are interested in design and culture of decades past.” --Gaia Fishler, TheNonBlonde.com
"In this book you will read about perfume set to music; this book is perfume set to words, erudite words that bespeak a mountain of research. Barbara has walked a long path, searching and researching. This is the book of her heart." --Jordan River, thefragrantman.com
“Barbara's book may be one of the more informative as well as entertaining books on the subject of perfume to come out yet. She covers many aspects: why the siren song of vintage fragrances spoke to her senses, aesthetically and viscerally; how she became embroiled in the Perfumed World; her examination of trends in the twentieth century, with examples/descriptions/impressions of several benchmark perfumes; the future of 'scent subversives,' including the more avant garde scientists/perfumers/seers among us; a beginner's guide to animalic notes from an historical perspective--and pointers on how to start one’s own vintage collection.” --Ida Meister, Fragrantica.com
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Top Customer Reviews
You will know Barbara Herman from her popular vintage perfume blog, Yesterday's Perfume, and her mouthwatering descriptions and delightful turn of phrase are captured beautifully in the book's reviews. For example, this is from her review of Balmain's Vent Vert: "It sounds off with a bitter, verdant blast of galbanum like a trumpet's call, and shortly thereafter other flower notes run and swirl onto the stage like a ballet dancer in a production of Nijinsky's paganistic 'The Rite of Spring.'"
Gorgeous, such an evocative description...
The book also includes appendices including interviews with people in the perfume industry, a guide to animalic ingredients, a glossary of terms, and various other articles placed as bookends to the meat of the book, the reviews. As a vintage perfume wearer and lover, I'm so happy to have this resource. I strongly recommended it!
This book restores me. So much of modern perfumery, especially the fashion house stuff (Armani, CK, insert-your-mall-brand here) drains the full life out of their scents in favor of blocks of sculpted cheese reclining poolside. This book reminds me that perfume is pure artistic fantasy at its heart - 80 or 90 years ago, the ads alone put more sizzle and heat into just their posters than the entire fashion scene puts into even one of its fragrances now.
S & S is a gorgeous reminder that perfumery has something to say, that it's not just a wan, sanitized, "corporate", safe accessory to someone's career ladder. A good bottle of scent can stop time, release you from the world, and create curious pathways to study. S&S is crammed full of those possibilities.
And I think that's the part that I love the most about it - that someone else gets this. That the author went out and fell down the rabbit hole, then mucked about and slathered herself in stink and reported back to us of all the riches in the dragon's lair.
This book is a must for 'fumeheads everywhere, or any casual fan of perfume who wants to see how serious glamour was in fashion back in the day. An absolutely gorgeous and informative addition to scent literature.
Imagine a whole world where everyone smells of CK One. You probably don't have to imagine; you have probably been there as has Barbara Herman from the website Yesterday's Perfume. One day Barbara rebelled against office-friendly scents and went searching for the rude, the loud, the odd, the weird and the impolite. What she mostly found was vintage perfume and then some cutting edge 21st century olfactive artists. This led her on a fragrant journey through the 20th century which became her book Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Fragrance.
Throughout the book are pictures like posters for a scent cinema or as Barbara writes...
"like movie posters to perfume's invisible cinema."
These posters have been collected by Barbara over many years and reveal a lot about perfume, society and marketing `art'.
This is not a picture book though there are many full colour pictures. Barbara starts off with the thoughts of Aristotle and Plato and continues through Fliess and Freud to Chandler Burr, Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. She quotes Olivia Giacobetti, Christophe Laudamiel, and Avery Gilbert. In Part 3 there are interviews with Étienne de Swardt, Antoine Lie, Sissal Tolaas, and Martynka Wawrzyniak as well as a profile on Christopher Brosius.
In Part 1 Barbara courses through the development of `Perfume: is it art? I like Barbara's conclusion that Perfume is a language.
Part 2 is a tour de force of 300+ vintage fragrances, including drugstore, all with back stories that you may have never heard before. I am not a vintage connoisseur so I learnt a lot from this book.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It's hard to find information about vintage perfumes. This book is the most comprehensive source I've found so far. Read morePublished 4 months ago by little white gloves
Fascinating look at the "meaning" of perfumes, with welcome attention to the evolution of popular taste in scents over the past 80-90 years. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Timothy Hallinan
This book was informative, and very well written. I had put off reading this forever, and then devoured it in one sitting. Read morePublished 11 months ago by C.F.
Vastly superior reviews and opinions when compared with the more established "scent bible".Published 13 months ago by Sadie BluesLady
I have long been a fan of Barbara Herman's blog Yesterday's Perfume, and now her book is just as much a joy to read. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Avid reader
Fantastic read for fume-heads. Great pictures of vintage scent ads. The writer is knowledgeable and engaging. A must for any fragrance fanatic!Published 14 months ago by E To The
I love that she focused on vintage scents as I have many and hope to acquire more. Reviews of many of the ones she covered are hard to find on line, so this book will be helpful as... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Renee Stout