That Certain Scent

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The smell of the page pushes my consciousness somewhere — like, let’s say, beyond the stars where Asteroid B612 is found, or perhaps somewhere between this faraway desert valley populated by blue-skinned men strapped with bombs, knives, and rusty scimitars, or maybe deep within a vast labyrinthian catacombs of Paris where this huge albino man-mole resides, always salivating, ready to partake in a feast of gourmet meat made from lost, unfortunate souls.

While reading, your nose brings you to places far away, or somewhere near and familiar, like home.

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The books published by Del Rey smell best when they grow older, when the sides warp and the pages turn half-brown, almost to a yellow (“piss yellow” as my friend calls it). Penguin always has this scholarly smell, pulling me either to attention, or to sleep (mostly the latter). Penguin also smells very expensive, elite. Ballantine books, on the other hand, possess this musky scent which grows stronger when tucked in a wooden shelf, becoming sweeter as it ages — like wine.

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The scent directs my eyes towards the letters, towards words — then drives me through this narrow street made up of images designed in my head.

  • The scent of book-paper urges me to imagine fire, cue in the heat, smelling like aged vanilla.
  • The smell of this page, tinged with coffee (the ghost of a coffee ring encircles page 57) is nothing but a sad reminder of a character’s unforetold death.
  • The aroma emitted as I turn each leaf, as story unfolds to break away from the cage of the wrinkled spine, tricks my memory into recalling faces and associations which never have any relation to the narrative. Gandalf will forever be imagined as my lolo, and Paul Atreidis will always be this stranger drawn by Mark Zug.

The smell is a subtle signal which pushes you to take a seat in a corner, inviting you to participate in a sacred ritual of the mind. The smell is nothing more but a trick, a playful illusion.

Before I read, before I even look at the first letter — there is the scent.

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