Reading Michael Chabon’s latest Telegraph Avenue. I actually started reading this novel a couple months ago and then set it aside, realizing I wanted to read it when I had the time to give it the full attention it deserves. This book is not only colossal but written in a style that is hard to describe—chock full of description that is dense with metaphor and simile and absurdly-creative word use, yet which does not come across as labored, but rather as something organic and, by nature of that quality, naturally sprawling. I eventually plan to write about this novel in another post, but for now I simply want to trot out an excerpt that blew me away. Two of the main characters in Telegraph Avenue own a record store mostly dedicated to jazz, and this passage below describes what one character hears when he’s listening to a recording by the (fictitious) jazz-great organist, Cochise Jones, of a cover of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar:
Fisherman Sandals—and my DIY paving job. Does anyone else remember when Frye boots were all the rage … back, oh some thirty-odd years ago?!! :-D Frye leather goods used to be first rate (I'm not sure that's still the case, since the company was sold and moved overseas), and in high school and college I wore my Frye campus boots with a devotion I haven’t felt towards any other footwear, before or since. A few weeks ago, I was excited to stumble upon these Frye fisherman sandals online and decided to purchase them in two colors, butterscotch and slate gray, which isn't something I normally do (get the same item in two colors), but I'm really glad I did. The slate gray color is so versatile and pairs well with almost all of my summer clothes, whereas the butterscotch pair gives me a great shot of color when I'm wearing black, which is frequently. I'll often pair black capris with a textured, black knit top, and the butterscotch sandals keep the ensemble from looking yoga-mama boring. I bought them for nostalgia’s sake—remembering the great wear I got from those Frye boots—and all in all, I'm pretty pleased with them.
They're photographed next to the home improvement project I did recently, mostly by myself! I tore out the old bricks in a small walkway next to our front stoop and figured out a way to repave it with blocks that look like granite stepping-stones and pea gravel. I thought the end result was great, and it involved no grout or cement work (which surely wouldn’t have turned out great if I’d attempted it).
At the Moment: More Midsummer Delights
It won’t take long for you to figure out from this post that I’m not much in a writing mood. But I am in a happy summer mood: hot, sunny weather returned to my part of the world this past week, and I’m getting ready to go on vacation a week from now to Stone Harbor, New Jersey. Here are the things I’ve been loving, wearing, doing and reading in the meantime.
Daylilies. There are a profusion of them that grow at the very corner of my front yard, and though they once wove their way around and between two giant oak trees, now they lean away from the one oak tree that was left standing and form a frame around a stump which I decided to make use of as a stand for potted impatiens. I like the interplay of color and shape between the two kinds of flowers, and I even love how the larger of my terra cotta pots has a huge crack in it, with moss growing over the crack. It mirrors the nature of the stump as being imperfect, and perhaps the kind of thing you ought to do away with, yet you can’t because it’s all the more interesting with its patina of age and its ragged testament to a life of usefulness. I had planned to do a spiral of terracotta pots in a slow progression of sizes all around the stump, but in the end I only planted four pots, and now I wish the other three were aged and cracked like the largest one. Perhaps that's something I can accomplish next summer—figure out how to pre-age terracotta pots!—when I plan to do the full spiral and photograph it from above (at a date when the lilies are at the peak of their blooming cycle, rather than near the end of it, as they are here).
July 20, 2013:
As for new perfumes I’ve been sampling, this past week has been all about Aroma M Geisha Noire perfume oil, which is sultry, leathery, powdery and gorgeous—but which smells so much like the heart and base accord of a fragrance I already own that I can’t see this fragrance as being original, in the way that I see Geisha Green or Geisha Rouge as being original. From the first time I put it on, I thought that Geisha Noire smelled a lot like Jean Desprez Bal a Versailles (the edt concentration), and now having worn them side by side for a couple of days, I can say for sure that they smell, not identical, but a very good deal alike. Geisha Noire is an amber-heavy oriental perfume from which leather emerges in a slow but steady progression, until it’s a dominant feature of the scent, but a leather that is always touched by something elegant: a flicker of powder and vanilla, a sachet of whispery florals and spices that kiss the leather here, there and here again, gently, like a seduction that is taking place between the two. Black amber, sandalwood and tonka bean are the notes that Luckyscent.com lists for Geisha Noire, but one only has to spend a day in this long-wearing scent to know that it contains far more than that. I wore it a couple times on my morning runs, and in that state of heatedness, I smelled a dark and camphorous patchouli note that I couldn’t smell an hour later, when I was sitting in the shade with a glass of icewater, cooling down. I mention this only as a means of saying that, quite often when you wear a perfume in various conditions, you become aware that its composition is far more complex than a perfume company’s list of notes lets on. Geisha Noire has that kind of complexity—and being a perfume oil, it has amazing lasting power—but for being so much like a perfume that I already own (a perfume that is gobsmackingly good and can be purchased for a song), I can’t give it the endorsement I would give the other two Geisha perfume oils that I’ve reviewed from the Aroma M brand.
Suzanne's Perfume Journal
Perfume. I can’t believe how much I’ve been wearing Amouage Epic Woman lately; its combination of mint-green geranium, lush rose accentuated by tea, and frankincense-dusted oriental base is shimmeringly beautiful in the heat. Epic amazes me in the way that its very complexity seems to achieve two things at once: it allows the central rose accord to shine while at the same time it takes the weight off this note and makes it seem every bit as dewy as it is lush. I understand now why the bottle for this perfume is a deep emerald green: Epic’s composition delivers up a fluid, living rose—like a rose trellis climbing the walls of a Moorish castle (I’ve seen photos of an open room in the Alhambra where the arched windows are occupied by rose vines that have climbed up from the outside walls and are now poised on the ledge, like an ardent suitor intent on wooing a fairytale princess.) And having come to know it so fully now—that’s how much I’ve worn it this year—I almost feel like I should re-visit my original review and expand on it. Given my writing laziness I know I won’t; instead, I’ll be adding Epic Woman to the top-twenty list that I keep on my “contact me” page. Naturally, it can only occupy a place on that list by bumping off something else that I keenly admire, and I always hate to do that, but Epic Woman has become a staple and has won its place there. (And now I’m laughing as I write this, because I realize that a non-perfumista reading this wouldn’t understand how important The List is … but, yeah, it is important: we like to define who we are by these lists.)
It’s absolutely true that there is nothing new under the sun, but when you own something, study it from every angle, and decide to give it new life, that is highly original. That's art. The fictitious Cochise Jones does it with music, and Michael Chabon does it with his writing. There is something in this excerpt that reminds me of a perfume review—the one I’ve never written but have encountered at various times at other perfume blogs, and which reminds me of why perfume writers do what they do. Even a review can be written in a way that produces something as exquisite as the creation that inspired it. Not that this should necessarily be the aim of a review, only that it's possible.
†Excerpted from Telegraph Avenue, copyright © 2012 by Michael Chabon (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2012, pp. 278-279)
Amouage Epic Woman eau de parfum and Aroma M Geisha Noire perfume oil can both be purchased at Luckyscent.com. Epic is currently priced at $265 for 50ml, while Geisha Noire is currently listed at $55 for 8 ml. My review for the latter is based on a complimentary sample I received from Luckyscent when I was purchasing another perfume.
Photos of flowers and shoes are my own; bottle images are from LuckyScent.com and AromaM.com.
Book image is from idlethumbs.net.
Cochise Jones always liked to play against your expectations of a song, to light the gloomy heart of a ballad with a Latin tempo and a sheen of vibrato, root out the hidden mournfulness, the ache of longing, in an up-tempo pop tune. Cochise's six-minute outing on the opening track of Redbonin' was a classic exercise in B-3 revisionism, turning a song inside out. It opened with big Gary King playing a fat, choogling bass line, sounding like the funky intro to some ghetto-themed sitcom of the seventies, and then Cochise Jones came in, the first four drawbars pulled all the way out, giving the Lloyd Webber melody a treatment that was not cheery so much as jittery, playing up the anxiety inherent in the song's title, there being so many thousand possible ways to Love Him, so little time to choose among them. Cochise's fingers skipped and darted as if the keys of the organ were the wicks of candles and he was trying to light all of them with a single match. Then, as Idris Muhammad settled into a rolling burlesque-hall bump and grind, and King fell into step beside him, Cochise began his vandalism in earnest, snapping off bright bunches of the melody and scattering it in handfuls, packing it with extra notes in giddy runs. He was ruining the song, rifling it, mocking it with the antic edge of joy. You might have thought, some critics felt, that the meaning or spirit of the original song meant no more to Cochise Jones than a poem means to a shark that is eating the poet. But somewhere around the three-minute mark, Cochise began to build, in ragged layers, out of a few repeated notes on top of a left-hand walking blues, a solo at once dense and rudimentary, hammering at it, the organ taking on a raw, vox humana hoarseness, the tune getting bluer and harder and nastier. Inside the perfectly miked Leslie amplifier, the treble horn whirled, and the drivers fired, and you heard the song as the admission of failure it truly was, a confession of ignorance and helplessness. And then in the last measures of the song, without warning, the patented Creed Taylor strings came in, mannered and restrained but not quite tasteful. A hint of syrup, a throb of the pathetic, in the face of which the drums and bass fell silent, so that in the end it was Cochise Jones and some rented violins, half a dozen mournful studio Jews, and then the strings fell silent, too, and it was just Mr. Jones, fading away, ending the track with the startling revelation that the song was an apology, an expression, such as only the blues could ever tender, of limitless regret. †
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