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Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume Hardcover – November 5, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; First edition (November 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762784385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762784387
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

 

About the Author

Barbara Herman has been the go-to expert on vintage perfume since she began her popular blog, Yesterday’s Perfume. A former editor for TresSugar.com, she earned a master's in Rhetoric at the University of California at Berkeley, and her writing on perfume and scent culture has appeared in Newsweek, Refinery29.com, Vintage Life magazine, Time Out New York, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.  Visit her at yesterdaysperfume.com


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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Readable, interesting, and well-researched.
K. A. Parker
Her book Scent & Subversion is a must have for any perfume addict.
lucy martin
Yes it is worthy flanker; a great companion volume.
Jordan River

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ro on November 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Barbara Herman's outstanding book is a compendium of perfume reviews similar to Turin/Sanchez's "The Guide," only the reviews in this book are primarily for vintage scents, plus this book contains many charming pictures of old-school perfume ads. Vintage perfume lovers will find that the gang's all here with reviews of classics like Chanel No. 5 and Shalimar, to slightly more obscure groundbreakers like Tabac Blonde, Iris Gris, and Bandit. And drugstore classics, discontinued lovelies, and rare gems are included too, with scents like Toujours Moi, Djedi, Jovan Mink & Pearls, Allysa Ashley Musk oil, Loulou, Poeme, and so many more. The book's lengthy review section includes fragrances beginning in the 1800s all the way to the year 2000.

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!
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Little Stevo on November 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book is like Turin/Sanchez's Perfume only for vintage enthusiasts. And without the riaaaaaaaow! cattiness. It does what this kind of book SHOULD do - in spades: it makes me crave scent and want to revel in its storied history. It makes me want to bumrush eBay, Surrender to Chance, The Perfumed Court and every back alley in perfumed creation for these scents. And the photos are amazing - this is the only book I've ever read that made me wish I had a Retinal screen to view it on.

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.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Jordan River on November 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I am walking along the longest path of the world, searching for the book of my heart.

Vien Tuc
Đà Lạt

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 ›
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