Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ Free Shipping
Remembering Smell: A Memoir of Losing--and Discovering--the Primal Sense Hardcover – June 16, 2010
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
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.
A Q&A with Bonnie Blodgett, Author of Remembering Smell
(Photo © Ann Marsden)
From Publishers Weekly
Minnesota garden writer Blodgett (The Garden Letter) lost her sense of smell after using Zicam nasal spray for her cold and had to relearn the central role of smell in the entire makeup of her life. In this thoughtful, informative work, she delves with a laymanÖs tenacity into the complicated science of smell, its role in evolution, memory, and survival, and how the deprivation affected her own life with her longtime husband, Cam, and two grown daughters. Before the full-fledged anosmia (loss of smell) set in, however, came phantosmia, or being plagued by false smells--in BlodgettÖs case, a bad odor like rotting flesh, such as she recognized from the stench of the corpse flower. Traced to the use of Zicam (its ingredient zinc gluconate proved toxic to smell receptor neurons; the FDA has since pulled the nasal spray from the market), her anosmia brought on depression and loss of sexual desire (the role of pheromones). Through her dogged research to understand what was ailing her, Blodgett discovered olfactionÖs intimate relationship with the limbic system, which regulates our emotional and instinctive behavior. Thus, robbed of the rich memory tapestry that smell imparted, she couldnÖt write, stung by the fear of losing what was real--the pleasures of being human. General readers will find her memoir richly nuanced and broadly researched.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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.
During my teenage years I tended to overdo the use of mouthwash and deodorant for fear of offending, convinced people were holding their nose behind my back. It was a fear I lived with constantly, possibly a result of being met with revulsion on the couple of occasions I had lovingly cooked spoiled food for my family, or walked around with cat poop on my shoe because I couldn't smell anything amiss. So I gargled and splashed, and I wish I had a dime for every time my Mom told me I had on too much perfume. Later, at work, I was the person chosen to wait on the smelly customers because I could do it with a straight face. My coworkers would occasionally play bad jokes on me, a favorite being someone silently breaking wind while standing next to me, then walking away and leaving me in a stinking cloud I had absolutely no hint of. In a way, this was the comic equivalent of moving a footstool into the path of a blind person. I refused to lose my sense of humor about it.
When I was pregnant with my first child I read that the very first and most important step on the path to successful bonding was triggered when the new mother caught her baby's particular scent. Well, so much for successful mothering I thought. But from a practical standpoint, the things I couldn't smell really did matter. My own mother could smell when one of my children had a fever - I could not. Everyone else knew the minute a diaper was ripe - I did not. And when I lost my son just after his 24th birthday and was sitting shell-shocked in his room with his little sister, she picked up one of his undershirts, held it to her nose, said, "It smells like him," and burst into tears. At that moment I might have traded my soul to the Devil to have known my son's scent and been able to experience it when everything else about him was gone. When my mother passed away some years later and I was clearing out her house, my daughter would pick up a scarf, a box of tissues, a pair of gloves, put it to her nose and say, "I always know when you've brought something of grandma's home," and the sweet melancholy in her face made me ache for that connection. My mother, who was always forgetting and holding something out to me saying, "Doesn't this smell good?"
I've learned not to try to make people understand what I mean when I say, "I have no sense of smell." They think I'm saying I can't smell as well as the next person, not that my sense is just totally nonexistent. In December I lost one of my horses, the one dearest to me, and it was my lack of a sense of smell that killed him. When Sundance finally started staggering around from the diseased internal organ that ended up killing him, and I called the vet in, he took one whiff and, waving his hand asked incredulously, "Do you not smell his fetid breath?" I shouldn't have, but I felt every bit of the guilt implied in that one question, and as he was being euthanized, I knelt beside him whispering over and over in his ear, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
There are far more serious challenges to the "unscented" than unexpectedly chugging back a glass of sour milk, or eating something that has taken a bad turn in the refrigerator. Things like being unable to know if ones house is on fire without visually detecting smoke - a fear that has caused me to lose sleep on several occasions. But it is important to come to grips with, and work within the limitations of Anosmia. You must refuse to let it diminish you. And that, I think, is a philosophy I share with Ms. Blodgett.
That's what happened here. I'm quite interested in the sense of smell. I have such a good sense of smell that it's sometimes problematic, but mostly it's a pleasure. I've quite enjoyed Oliver Sacks' essays on the subject of smell (gone wrong) and was delighted to see that an entire book was devoted to the subject.
The author shines when she is talking about her personal experience. She's engaging, and weaves science into the narrative beautifully. However, when the writing is "pure science" it falls a bit flat. This is what gives the book a sadly uneven quality. I say "sadly" because there's some great writing here and I enjoyed much of this book, but by page 100 or so I felt I'd had enough of the subject. Now, I already have read a number of other books about the sense of smell, so that might be one reason I didn't feel compelled to continue reading. One book that stands out (and is an example of a five star non-fiction book) is The Emperor of Scent (The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession).
However, this book is worth a perusal, and I would venture to guess that those new to the subject of smell may find the entire book engaging.
Most recent customer reviews
If you have any interest in the subject, get this book and read it; you will profit from the...Read more