Saturday, December 31, 2011

No Longer "Silent All These Years."

The Explosion of Young Adult Fiction and Its Impact on the Future Voices of Women

My IRL friend Marni is a young adult. She is also a fan and author of YA literature. We spend a lot of time chatting about pop culture and entertainment, but particularly we talk about the current explosion of interest in YA literature and the general dismissal of it, writ large, as a substantive genre of literature. Much like romance, YA gets a bad rap for being fluff. "Those books are for children/teens," people will say with a wave of their hand, as though C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, and even -- to some extent -- Tolkien's Lord of the Rings aren't all successful and enduring series with primary appeal to younger readers. FN1.

There are a lot of things I find remarkable about the virtual explosion of the YA market in the wake of Harry Potter and Twilight. One is simply how many books there are for young adults, so many more than there were when I was that age. After reading all the original Nancy Drews, Babysitter's Clubs, and Sweet Valley Highs by age nine, I moved right into adult fiction, toting copies of Larry McMurty's Lonesome Dove and John Jake's North and South into my sixth grade reading class. There simply weren't a lot of young adult books available, and though I read my share of Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine, they didn't hold a lot of appeal for me.

The thing I find the most thrilling, though, about the recent uptick in YA novel publishing is the explosion of role models, characters, and voices for young women. Though I've been thinking this for about a year, I was watching this video inspired by Josephine Angelini's Starcrossed series, and it really finally hit me. FN2. I was watching an all-female rock band named DemiGoddess in a video they made and shared with the world.  In it, they sing a song they wrote about a female protagonist superhuman that reclaims an infamous female character of Greek literature in a series written by a woman.  It was like a tiny explosion of women reclaiming and rebuilding stories about women from the past for women, inspiring other women to create further works capturing women's voices as the primary storyteller of a world where women can both fall in love and save themselves.

When I was fifteen, there weren't shelves and shelves of books like this.  I survived for a long time on the works of female musicians, '80s pop stars and rockers and '90s riot grrls like Madonna, Joan Jett, Johnette Napolitano, Chrissie Hynde, Kathleen Hanna, Kim Deal, Tanya Donelly, Ani DiFranco, Liz Phair, and Tori Amos. They were my voice; I couldn't find a corollary in books, television, or film. FN3.

I had to search for female protagonists in literature to identify with, to be inspired by.  While I eventually discovered the works of Dorothy Allison, Virginia Wolf, Connie Willis, Alice Walker, Annie Dillard, bell hooks, and Toni Morrison (all of whom I still recommend), those writers didn't reach me until I was in my early-mid twenties.  It took a long time for me to find my voice, to tell my story, to know it was important and valuable.

When I go to bookstores now, I run into tons of twelve and thirteen-year-olds hauling stacks of books written by women about female protagonists to the cash register. When I go to the library, they haunt the same bookshelves.  These girls are growing up with a vision of the world that tells them their stories matter. They are superheroes.  They are smart, strong, magickal, powerful, capable.  Their voices are worth hearing, and as a consequence, they will themselves demand to be heard.

In ten or fifteen years, these girls will graduate from college and enter the workforce.  They will have careers and incomes and purchasing power.  And their experiences with these books will tell them that their stories deserve time and exploration.  Their adventures are every bit as important as their male counterparts.  Their lives are valuable. Their knowledge is powerful.

And they will have learned it from writers like Josephine and Marni, like Beth Revis and Lauren Kate, like Jennifer Lynn Barnes and Leigh Fallon, like Suzanne Collins and Sophie Jordan and Sara Zarr, Melissa Marr, Jeri Smith-Ready, Margaret Stohl, Kami Garcia, Maggie Stiefvater, Stacey Jay, Victoria Schwab, Carrie Ryan, Sarah Rees Brennan, Kelley Armstrong, Alyson Noel, Melissa de la Cruz, Richelle Mead, P.C. Cast, Laini Taylor, and probably tons of others I am forgetting. FN4.  And yes, even Stephenie Meyers and J.K. Rowling, who helped expand and relaunch earnest interest in the genre, even if one wrote a less than perfect female protagonist and the other wrote primarily about a boy, because there are strong female characters in those stories, too. FN5. And those stories are quickly being turned into movies and television series, which will inspire more and more stories, echoing forever forward.

These young female readers, as grown women, will be creating and managing and participating in media and the marketplace of ideas, and they will expect, as a matter of course, that their ideas, stories, desires, and experiences be treated with dignity and respect and given equal opportunity to flourish.  This was the thought that gave me hope when I saw the heartbreaking documentary Miss Representation, a film about the continuing shortage of women in positions of power, the biased view we see of women in media, and the disproportionate lack of coverage for women's stories and issues. FN6.  These young women are hearing a different message every time they pick up one of these books.

When I was fourteen, Tori Amos had her first hit with "Silent All These Years." Twenty years later I still remember the desperate urgency that made me cling to that song, lying in my bed and listening to its words over and over again:

I got something to say, you know, but nothing comes.
Yes, I know what you think of me. You never shut-up.
Yeah, I can hear that.
But what if I'm a mermaid in these jeans of his with her name still on it?
Hey, but I don't care 'cause sometimes, I said sometimes,
I hear my voice and it's been here --
silent all these years...

My scream got lost in a paper cup.
I think there's a heaven where some screams have gone...

Years go by.
Will I still be waiting for somebody else to understand?
Years go by.
If I'm stripped of my beautyand the orange clouds raining in hand?
 Years go by. 
Will I choke on my tears till finally there is nothing left?
One more casualty.
You know, it isn't easy, easy, easy.

But what if I'm a mermaid in these jeans of his with her name still on it?
Hey, but I don't care 'cause sometimes, I said sometimes,
I hear my voice...
I hear my voice...
I hear my voice.

And it's been here: silent all these years.
I've been here, silent all these years.

If I were to hope for one thing for the daughters of the world present and future, it would be that they wouldn't spend so many years in silence, reaching for their own voice, wondering if its been stolen away to some heaven that holds the silenced screams of generations of women past.  My brother recently told me my sixteen-year-old niece is hard at work on her first novel.  She is sixteen, but she already knows her voice matters.  I see the same thing over and over when I go to book readings -  crowds of women and girls, all clamoring for more stories about themselves and the people they hope to be.

When I look at the stories crowding Young Adult fiction shelves today, with all their flaws and foibles, I still see something revolutionary: an overwhelming sense that women have stories of heroism and adventure to tell and to hear. These writers may be sparking the most important feminist change in media today, one that will continue to bear fruit long after these books leave the New Release shelves.

So I'll let the haters who dismiss the growth in YA fiction as a trend hate all they want; I'm a historian, and I think history will bear me out. Right now YA fiction is sparking a subtle feminist revolution that we will feel the tremors of for decades to come.  These writers are creating a more equal world by virtue of their contributions, by responding to a need young women didn't even know they had because they lacked the language to express it.

Viva la revolution, my young readers! Your story gives me hope, and it is the story I hope to hear next.
FN1. I find it irksome that someone would dismiss the Harry Potter books because the protagonist is a child and teen; the series will likely last a millenia over. Over 450 million individual books have been sold, more than any other series of books. If generations hence there are archaeologists trying to determine what people were reading and thinking during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, you'd be foolish not to realize the trial and tribulations of a small bespeckled wizard would be high on the list. You can knock plebeian literature all you want, but I always think it is worth remember that Shakespeare was written for the masses, as was Jane Eyre. Sometimes what makes literature great is not its rich lyrical writing or thick subtext, but that it moves people of all kinds the world over. The Boy who Lived will, indeed, live -- long after the critiques who have dismissed him have been returned to dust.

FN2. You can see the video that inspired this post below.

FN3. Okay, maybe BTVS. And also possibly Felicity, a little. But both those shows were created by men.

FN4. This isn't to say there haven't been authors doing this for years (two that immediately spring to mind are Tamora Pierce and Ursula La Guin, who deserve their share of high praise and glory) but more that the sheer volume now sends an overwhelming message that women's stories are valuable, in the same way that having to hunt for a female author and/or protagonist in the past sent the message they were not.

FN5. I remain decidedly Teams Hermione, Alice, and Bella Should Go To College.

FN6. Trailer available below. I highly recommend seeing it if you can.

2012 New Years Thoughts

Normally at the end of the year, I do a lot of navel-gazing internal self-reflection. This year, I'm going to take some advice from my favorite fictional deejay, Debi Newbury: "Hey, I know everybody's coming back to take stock of their lives. You know what I say? Leave your livestock alone."

So instead, I'm going to tell you about all the things I'm already looking forward to enjoying in the new year.

New Perfumes
Though I admit that my last perfume purchase of 2011 will be from the L'Artisan sale, this year I discovered a lot of new perfumers and I am looking forward to trying more offerings from them this next coming year. Crowding the front of my collection these days are scents from slumberhouse, DSH Perfumes, and Olympic Orchids, all of which I hope to explore more deeply as they create new glories in 2012. I'm also hoping to delve more deeply into offerings from Serge Lutens, The Difference CompanyLe Labo, Mandy Aftel's Aftelier Perfumes, and JoAnne Bassett Perfumes. Plus, all the things I don't even know I'm missing!

New Music
You know what I'm going to be spinning into the new year? Top of the list is Florence + the Machine's new album Ceremonials. I am already in love with the first single, "Shake It Out." I predict the following will also continue in heavy rotation: Neko Case (all the albums!), The Watson Twins, Feist's album The Reminder, The Naked and the Famous' album Passive Me, Aggressive You, Mumford & Sons and The National. That will probably get me through, I don't know, January 15th? <grin> (If you think I'm obsessed with perfume, you should see my music collection.)

New Books
So many books coming out this year to look forward to! Cynthia Hand's sequel to Unearthly, Hallowed releases in January, along with Lauren Kate's Fallen in Love: A Fallen Novel in Stories. The last book of the Fallen series will also be out this year. Also, and this is the one I'm most excited for, Josephine Angelini's sequel to Starcrossed, Dreamless, which is slated for May 2012.

I recently read and loved Marni Bates newly released novel Awkward. The book is a terrific YA novel, particularly for those who are so over the supernatural/scifi/fantasy trend. (Not me, necessarily, but I know plenty of people who are.)

I just finished Leigh Fallon's terrific Carrier of the Mark and hoping for more in that series. (Update: I confirmed with the author herself via Twitter that a sequel will release in 2012!) I read Ally Condie's excellent best-seller Matched, so now I need to get my hands on a copy of the sequel, Crossed. I also want to read Beth Revis' Across the Universe (finally!) and Jennifer Lynn Barnes' Every Other Day, plus I need to finish Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone and read Stacey Jay's Juliette Immortal, which is sitting on my shelf, calling to me.

New Television
Okay, yes, it's mostly the return of shows I watch, but these are the shows I'm missing most right now. Vampire Diaries comes back next week (not soon enough!); haters can hate all they want, but I love Hart of Dixie, and will be sad when it inevitably gets canceled in May; I can never get enough Braverman drama on ParenthoodOnce Upon a Time and Grimm are filling a fairy tale television hole I didn't know existed in my schedule; Two Broke Girls is my fav new sitcom of the season; How I Met Your Mother needs to show me a mother, already!; Eureka will return for its criminally short and undeserved final episodes; and I am already anticipating summer returns from Haven and Psych.

Also, super psyched for the new mini-movies in the BBC's Sherlock series. Also, Christmas Dr. Who wasn't enough for me -- the Doctor cannot return soon enough.

New Adventures
I can already tell you 2012 is going to be a year of bittersweetness. In July, David and I will finally be leaving Lewis & Clark, his employer and the home of both my degrees. We've spent a collective 22 years working, living, and learning here. That means a new house for us both and a new school for David as he enters law school.

Where? We don't know yet. If could be a lot of places: here at Lewis & Clark (which still means moving, because he's leaving his job either way), other places in Oregon, or somewhere much further. The list of possibilities includes: Washington D.C.; Madison, Wisconsin; Seattle, Washington; Palo Alto, California; and Williamsburg, Virginia. If I were a betting woman, I'd put money down on remaining in Portland, with side bets on Palo Alto or Williamsburg, with Seattle as a long shot. That means moving, potentially, to the other side of the country!

It's strange to think of moving because we are happy in Portland, but I'm excited for a new adventure. Moving would also mean a new job for me, so that is a whole other thing to worry about when/if the time comes.

Speaking of developments in my work life, did I mention here that I am now a member of the Board of Bitch Media, publishers of the wonderful Bitch Magazine and the Bitch blog? It's an amazing publication that has been helping me clarify my feminist views and strengthen what I call my "third eye" (i.e. my analytical lens) for over a decade. I'm extremely proud to be a part of its endeavors. If you've never checked out the blog, you should do it now, and if you already love Bitch, now is a great time to consider a subscription, now available in digital format for easy reading on your various and sundry electronic devices.

In other news, my second draft of my first novel is out to my readers. After one more round of edits in January, I hope to kick my search for an agent into high gear in February. I am also approximately a third of the way through this novel's sequel and should finish a very rough first draft of a novel beginning a separate trilogy sometime in January as well. It's strange to think that when I began 2011, I'd never written an entire novel. Now I cannot imagine ever stopping.

So that's it for me, for us, for the collective Rosengardian "we" -- girlgeek, boygeek, and kittehs of various sizes, colors, and temperaments. I hope you are all looking forward to tomorrow as much as I am.

I got this great holiday card from my friend Sarah a couple of days ago that said: "For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice." It's a quote from one of my top five all time favorite poets, T.S. Eliot.

So let's all go find our new voice, shall we?

Happy New Year.


"Kick back and relax, and ponder this: Where are all the good men dead - in the heart or in the head? 

Now here's a cold cup of coffee from The Clash."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's the holiday season...

Oh Readers--

Dear lord, I am so sick.  I have slept the last eighteen of twenty-four hours.  My sniffer is broken. My head hurts so much I can't stop involuntarily crying.  I missed Solstice and Christmas Eve.  I'm stopping by to say hello before I knock myself out with drugs again.  I have people coming in the morning and I hope to be less zombie-like by then.

Without further ado, here is a list of Christmas-y things I enjoy:

Top Five Favorite Christmas Movies
Miracle on 34th Street - The original is my all time favorite, and continually reminds me you are never too old to believe.
Mixed Nuts - Steve Martin and a nutty crew run a suicide hotline over the holidays. Hilarious and sweet.
Muppet's Christmas Carol - The Best Christmas Carol, IMHO.
Harry Potter and the Sorcer's Stone - ABC Family runs it every winter, right about the time I reread all the books annually.  Therefore, it's become a Christmas movie for me.
Die Hard - The best action movie for the holiday season, bar none.

Current Top Six Favorite Christmas Episodes/Specials.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas  - A perennial fav, I cry every time the Whos sing despite their lack of things.
Charlie Brown Christmas - Another perennial favorite. I'll never be too old for this one.
A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All - It's the last song that seals the deal for me - "There Are Much Worse Things to Believe In."

"Call me silly, call me sappy;
Call me many things, the first of which is happy.
You doubt, but you're sad.
I don't, but I'm glad.
I guess we're even.
At least that's what I believe in
and there are much worse things."

Any of the Eureka Christmas episodes - They're all fantastic.  I love them all.
Community, Ep. 211 "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" - Funny, poignant, adorable.
Dr. Who 2010 Christmas Special "A Christmas Carol" - An incredibly sad and touching Christmas special.  I love it.

Top Three Christmas Stories/Books
The Worst Christmas Pagaent Ever
Miracle and Other Christmas Stories (1999) (yes, the entire collection)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Top Ten Christmas Songs
1.  Christmas Wrapping - The Waitresses
2.  The Christans and the Pagans - Dar Williams
3.  Pretty Paper - Willie Nelson
4.  River - Joni Mitchell
5.  Carol of the Bells - Mormon Tabernacle Choir
6.  We Need a Little Christmas - Angela Lansbury in the musical Mame
7.  Sleigh Bells - Ray Conniff and the Conniff Singers
8.  Blue Christmas - Elvis
9.  Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Perry Como
10. Silver Bells - As sung by my late grandmother, and only hearable inside my memories

Top Five Christmas Scents
1. Demeter Fragrance Library Frozen Pond
2. L'Artisan Tea for Two
3. CB I Hate Perfume The Fir Tree
4.  Smellbent Dead of Winter
5.  Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles

And with that, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

For the Love of Perfume: A Reflection on Favorite Perfumes

Love, Infatuation, and Perfume, Part 5 - fin.

My apologizes, dear reader, for the sudden drop in posting and tweeting. I am fighting off an evil plague-like thing that has been haunting my various bodily humors for nigh on two weeks now. This dreadful crud has taken host in my head, ears, throat, nose and lungs, making it impossible to sniff for you as I wish to. The timing is terrible so close to the holidays, and it makes it hard to smell anything, but I soldier on for those of you who still have a few gifts left to purchase.

Here, for the final installment of 2011, are three last favorites of mine, scents I cannot imagine regretting ownership of that might make a good gift for someone in your life.

Olympic Orchids Carolina. One of my favorite smells in the world has got to be smell of baking banana bread, and Carolina holds an amalgamous hologram of that smell by combining the scents of piney woods and old men smoking out on the porch while aging magnolia blooms float from trees like snow flakes to the ground, where they turn to a sticky brown paste underfoot. It reminds me of half-remembered summers running barfoot along black tarred roads between my relatives houses, ideas so lost to time they seem more like a dream of something that happened to someone else. It's a great scent, and supremely reasonably priced.

Price: $.
Recommended for: those of who like warm homey scents; those who love Gone with the Wind.

L'Artisan Dzing!.L'Artisan says it is supposed to smell like a circus. Me? I think it smells like the best parts of a state fair and carnival on a warm day. Sweet hay, candied popcorn, funnel cakes, musky animals, oiled robber belts and gears grinding round and round on rides, and a heavy dose of incense wafting from a fortune teller's tent nearby. She wants you to come inside and hear your future. You say you don't believe in such things. Dzing! makes you want to go in anyway.

Price: $$-$$$.
Recommended for: those of adventurous spirit; those who like big, sweetly spicy foods.

Ayala Moriel L'Amour Immortelle. Sticky sweet amazing hot cocoa and maple syrup, one of the most delightfully realistic maples on the market. I was lucky enough to win a little bottle in a drawing, but I'd buy one even if I hadn't. It's delicate for all that sugar, a delightfully decadent experience. True bliss for lovers of gourmands.

Price: $$-$$$.
Recommended for: Your friend who always wants to go to brunch, your friend who thinks holidays should consist of hay rides, late nights, and big pancake laden breakfasts with family.

So that's it! Twelve wonderful scents for twelve days of seasonal giving.  I hope you all get lovely scented things this winter, even if you get them for yourself.  I know I got a lovely package in the mail just today...

Come back tomorrow for some thoughts on the Winter Solstice for those of us here north of the equator.

Part 1   ~    Part 2   ~    Part 3   ~   Part 4   ~   Part 5
$ - $1-$75.
$$ - $76-$130.
$$$ - $131-$200.
$$$$ - $200-$300.
$$$$$ - $300+.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

For the Love of Perfume: A Reflection on Favorite Perfumes

Love, Infatuation, and Perfume, Part 4

My favorite scents, and thoughts on who they might make good gifts for.

L’Artisan Iris Pallida LE 2007. Everybody’s got an iris. This one is mine. I once described it as smelling the feeling of having a sob caught in one’s throat, as hearing the sound of Roy Orbison’s "Crying" sung in a heart-wrenching Italian. It moves me to tears, the opposite of DSH Sweet Honey because it plucks my heartstrings in a way I find unavoidable. Easily the most expensive perfume I’ve purchased (it was my law school graduation present to myself) and I never regret it, though I do keep metally chastising myself for not wearing it more. I keep leaving it in the beauitful wooden box, forgetting that perfume is made to be worn. This week I promised myself to whip out that exquisite tragedy and spray it on, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. Maybe this weekend. I'd say that meant it wasn't a favorite, but I know that's not true, because every time I smell it, there's magic all over again.

Price: $$$.
Recommended for: the hipster, the coffee lover.

Worth Je Reviens. I like Worth perfumes for so many reasons, not the least of which being that the house was founded by a man who eschewed his family's traditional vocation of calling -- lawyering. Je Reviens is, in my opinion, the best scent gem hiding in the roughs of your local drug store, bar none. Yeah, that's right. I said it. Bar none. You want to walk into the drug store and for less than $20 buy a scent that is, to this day, unique and wonderful and well-made? You cannot go wrong with Je Reviens. The scent itself is hard to describe, because it's a little bit sweet and a little bit floral and a little bit salty, and yet comes together in a terrific mingling.

Price: $.
Recommended for: the eclectic friend; the lover of an excellent bargain.

By Kilian Back to Black. I truly love many tobacco scents, but I admit to loving this one the best.  I tried not to.  It's so expensive.  But i keep coming back to that tiny sprayer.  Not overly sweet, delicately spicy, lucious and warm, Back to Black is wonderful and sexy and reminds me of the slightly bitter yet undeniably passionate Amy Winehouse song of the same name.

"We only said goodbye with words. I died a hundred times. You go back to her, and I go back to...." I can easily imagine loathing this scent after loving someone who wore it. It is so beautifully elegant. I want not to love it.  I want not to love the entire line.  I want to side with all the other perfume bloggers who are like, "Yeah! By Kilian is not poorly made and way overpriced!" But I can't. I like a lot of the scents, and this one in particular.  So I will pony up the immense cost because, frankly, it's beautiful and I want it.

Price: $$$$.
Recommended for: The humidor collector, the person who loves a warm, snuggly sweater.

Part 1
   ~    Part 2   ~    Part 3   ~   Part 4   ~   Part 5

$ - $1-$75.
$$ - $76-$130.
$$$ - $131-$200.
$$$$ - $200-$300.
$$$$$ - $300+.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

For the Love of Perfume: A Reflection on Favorite Perfumes

Love, Infatuation, and Perfume, Part 3

My favorite scents, and thoughts on who they might make good gifts for.

L'Artisan Vanilia. Every time I sniff Vanilia, I can't believe it got discontinued. I love vanillas and I am always game to try new ones, but this one remains one of my singular favorites. It's so unusually green and sappy, not foodie sweet or liquored like vanilla extract. It has a lovely structure and drydown. I managed to grab a bottle after the discontinue about two months ago for a reasonable price, but I had to hunt for it. I recommend getting your hands on some while it can still be found.

Price: $$-$$$$, depending on size and deal you find. My almost full bottle after d/c was still only $$.
Recommended for: the quirky vanilla fiend, the collector.

Demeter Perfumes Salt Air. I know, it's a $6 bottle of perfume. So why can't I quit putting it on? I'll be the first person to admit that Demeter scents have a tendency to run the gamut from too-on-the-nose to trying-so-hard-they-are-harsh, but this one is right on the money for me. If you asked me to name the best thing I own for less than $10, this would win. Even if we ratcheted the amount to $20, which would include things like Coty Sand & Sable and Worth Je Reviens, this might still win. It's completely neutral and smells like the smell that hits me every time I get close enough to the ocean to feel my constant yearning to return to the sea unclench. I'd pay a whole lot more than $6 for that experience, but I'm really glad I don't have to.

Price: $.
Recommended for: the beach lover, the eclectic DIY fashionista who will enjoy the low price and unusual scent.

Bond No. 9 New Haarlem. My first Bond love still remains the strongest. There's something about the blend of coffee, patchouli, and vanilla that can't go wrong, and not because I live in Portlandia, where the air is virtually suffuse with those scents. The combination works effortlessly, and not only do I deeply enjoy smelling it throughout the day, but I get tons of compliments on it. Yes, it's on the sweet and foodie end, but if you can deal with that (or like me, love it) then you can't go wrong with this one.

Price: $$$.
Recommended for: the hipster, the coffee lover.

Part 1
   ~    Part 2   ~    Part 3   ~   Part 4   ~   Part 5

$ - $1-$75.
$$ - $76-$130.
$$$ - $131-$200.
$$$$ - $200-$300.
$$$$$ - $300+.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

For the Love of Perfume: A Reflection on Favorite Perfumes

Love, Infatuation, and Perfume, Part 2

And now we begin a week of my most beloved scents, in no particular order.

Slumberhouse Flou. I think I might be the person most in love with this little scent in the whole world. I want to explain to you what it is about Flou that makes it one of my all-time favorite scents after only five months together, but it’s so hard to explain that affection if you don’t feel it yourself. I think it’s strange and beautiful. I think it’s sad and sweet and lively and poignant. It manages to conquer a lot of different moods, and that’s part of the trick to be sure, because it means I pick it up often and yet never find myself disappointed. I’m pleased it was made here in Portland, and I hope this tiny new perfume house continues to get the attention I think it deserves for making terrific scents.

Price: $.
Recommended for: the eclectic friend, the friend who has everything, the friend who is loves modern art.

CB I Hate Perfume Black March. I have almost completely used up my 100ml bottle. Personally I find that fact alone astonishing. If you had asked me five years ago if the thing I’d be mostly like to smell like on any given day was rain splattered dirt and fallen greenery, I’d have laughed. It’s a sign how much this place has gotten inside me. I don’t think I’ll ever stop thinking of myself as a Texan in some ways, but I realized this weekend standing in front of the only Studebaker stage coach that made the journey across the Oregon Trail available for public viewing (the other three are in private collections) and listening to a lovely woman talk about the incredible difficulty and hardship those original pioneers had to overcome to get here that I am very proud to consider myself an Oregonian.

There is something about getting here from another place to start a new life despite incredible obstacles that resonates, not only for me personally, but for so many Oregon transplants I know. Exiles, drifters, the lost, and the damned – the came here to start over. I’m one of them. When I smell Black March, I think about that, and how this place has changed me, about who I am now that I never expected to be. The west may be closed, but the idea that you can come to Oregon and find a new life remains. Here among the rain and dark earth and tall pines that were there before I was born and, I hope, will be here when I am gone, I was not born anew, but unexpectedly healed. If someone hands you a bottle of that, it’s hard not to love it.

Price: $-$$.
Recommended for: the outdoorsy friend, the friend who thinks they hate perfume.

DSH Perfumes Sweet Honey. Here’s how much I loved Sweet Honey. I bought one on a whim because it was on clearance. A week later I bought a second bottle for fear it was going to would disappear when Dawn launched her new site (very nice, I might add) and consolidated some of the offerings from her line. A lot of people would probably find Sweet Honey sickeningly so; not me. I find its overwhelming sweetness so thoroughly fantastic that I cannot get enough of it. I can close my eyes and actually see strings of think honey yawning between my fingers when I smell the scent. Life can be brutal and ugly and sometimes there is something so perfect about a golden sweetness that overcomes the bitter it literally drowns out the ashes in your mouth, the grim on your heart. To me, this scent does that.

Price: $-$$.
Recommended for: the friend who stops at every bakery.

Part 1
   ~    Part 2   ~    Part 3   ~   Part 4   ~   Part 5

$ - $1-$75.
$$ - $76-$130.
$$$ - $131-$200.
$$$$ - $200-$300.
$$$$$ - $300+.

Monday, December 5, 2011

For the Love of Perfume: A Reflection on Favorite Perfumes

Love, Infatuation, and Perfume, Part 1

Dear reader, let me talk to you about love and infatuation and perfume.

It’s a funny thing, love. The crazy rollercoaster emotions that typically come with it are usually sufficient to make even the sanest person loses all sense of proportion, propriety, and reason. It is hard to imagine anything that makes people act quite as crazy.

The problem with love, of course, is that in its incipient stages it look an awful lot like infatuation, a far more fickle and fleeting emotion. It’s got the same overwhelming, synapse exploding, gut wrenching potential in its early moments, but much like Romeo and his discarded Rosalyns, it tends to have a short shelf life.

I cannot tell you how many scents I have loved, or thought I loved, when I first sniffed them. How lovely! How wonderful! How singular and magical! A week later, I sniff again and think "ho-hum" or worse "eek." It is in these moments I feel glad I am forced to be judicious in my scent purchases, or I fear my collection would be overrun with Rosalyns, and the Juliette would be lost among them in the proverbial weeds.

Occasionally I will keep something on my "To be purchased" list a long time, sometimes for over a year or two. When I finally get together the money to buy the long sought after scent, I find I always have a moment’s pause. I cannot help it. After loving something for so long, I canot help but stop and wonder – do I really love it, or was I just kidding myself?

I will sniff and resniff, moving scents up and down the priority shopping list, sometimes removing them completely, as I think about what my collection is missing, what I’m most likely to war over the next three months or so, and I seem not to be able to live without. That’s why it sometimes takes me weeks or months longer to get around to reviewing a new release compared to my blogging cohort. I am stingy with my love, and I only want to promise you something is good if I feel sure it is, and that I wasn’t just moved in the moment to thoughtless oaths like fickle Romeo.

With that in mind, dear reader, I provide you the following list, which wil be posted over several daily posts this week. These are not necessarily the releases I think you should buy for yourself and another, for I am far too much of the mind that scent is singular to be able to cobble together a Gift Guide of Scently Proportions (though I might do one for other things because that seems like it might be a fun project if I have a little time this week). Instead these are the nicest perfumes I have found in a while, some of which I own already because their beauty demanded immediate acquisition and some which seem to constantly haunt my "To Be Purchased" list because they represent not that fleeting glance of infatuation that can turn one’s nose and heart for a few minutes or even a few months, but those scents I have loved for well on a year or more.

In the following days, I will post about scents I love, scents that make this list...

Part 1   ~    Part 2   ~    Part 3   ~   Part 4   ~   Part 5

$ - $1-$75.
$$ - $76-$130.
$$$ - $131-$200.
$$$$ - $200-$300.
$$$$$ - $300+.