Those of you who still come by now and then will have noticed it’s been very quiet around here. Things slowed down last spring and summer and then this past August they came to complete stop. It took me longer to quiet down on Facebook, but I’ve been almost completely absent over there, too. (Though very present, for reasons I’ll explain, on Twitter.) Once I stopped posting I found it very difficult to resume. I even considered taking down the blog altogether.
But as soon as I let myself imagine quitting I began to have ideas for blog posts and other ways I wanted to continue communicating with you all, so I’m clearly not done over here. I do think, though, that the way I use this space is going to change, and I want to see if I can explain a bit about how and why and to say something about where I’ve been and where I’m going.
With great excitement and that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling, I present to you the dates, times and places for the West Coast COMING TO MY SENSES paperback mini-tour! (Tour name suggestions welcome.) I will be leaving Austin and heading to the West Coast in early August for book events in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle .
Please share this post freely with interested friends. I don’t get a chance to meet readers in person very often–some days it feels like I barely leave my office–so I’m hoping to see as many of you as possible. (P.S. I’m talking to local writers at some of these events and hoping some of my favorite perfume bloggers will turn up, so there will very likely be more than one writer to meet!) (P.P.S. I am planning something for those of you who can’t be there or don’t live in any of these cities. I grew up in a city few people visited.)
Green Apple Books and Music, Thursday, August 1, 7 p.m
I’ll be reading, sharing a few rare perfumes, and having a conversation with Anne Zimmerman, author of the M.F.K Fisher biography, An Extravagant Hunger and editor of two collections of Fisher’s work including this lovely collection of her writing on wine and spirits. Anne and I have had many conversations about women, pleasure, writing an memoir so I’m sure the interview will be a lively, thoughtful one. There will be time to chat and sign books afterwards. (And I hear there’s an excellent dim sum place right next door!)
The Scent Bar Saturday, August 3, 4-6 p.m.
The Scent Bar is the brick and mortar version of LuckyScent, one of the best hard-to-find perfume boutiques in the U.S. and pretty much a character in CTMS. I will read, share perfumes and L.A. Times journalist and noir author Denise Hamilton will be interviewing me. (Check out her latest novel, DAMAGE CONTROL) In addition to being a writer, Denise is a fellow perfumista well-known (and envied) for her vintage perfume thrift scores. We’ll also be soliciting stories of perfume and transformation from the audience. It should be quite an evening. Drinks and appetizers will be served!
The Perfume House, Wednesday, August 7, 6-8:30 p.m.
The Perfume House is a very special boutique full of rare perfumes, including some that have been discontinued or reformulated. They will be preparing a packet of perfume samples to give away with each book purchased and I’ll pick some rare things out to present at the event. Note: Because The Perfume House is an intimate space, we are ticketing this event. IT IS FREE, but please register here if you want to come:
(We needed a way to make sure we wouldn’t be turning people away and to start a wait list so if a crazy number of people want to come we can find some other way to accommodate you all.)
Third Place Books, (Lake Forest Park Branch), Monday, August 12, 7-9 p.m.
I’ll be reading, then having a conversation with local writer and blogger Tara Austen Weaver, author of The Butcher and the Vegetarian and the wonderful blog, Tea and Cookies, where she celebrates many of the small pleasures and connections I write about over here. Tara and I got to know each other over on Twitter during an exchange about writing, pleasure, fear and taking chances so I know it will be great visit. There will be rare perfumes to sniff, and of course I’ll be signing books.
Can’t wait to see you all!
Katie Gibson was one of the first people to give Coming To My Senses an official, oh-my-god-a-stranger-read-my-book review and boy, did I get lucky. She is a smart reader, a generous reviewer and a delight to read. This weekend she’s giving away a new paperback copy of CTMS. Do check out her blog, Cakes, Tea and Dreams, whether or not you want to put your name in the hat. I think you’ll be glad you did.
And stay tuned over here–as soon as I get through my next deadline I’ll have some things to give away here, too. And summer events to announce!
Here she is, as my editor said in her little note to me, freshly attired and coming to a bookstore (or website) near you on June 25th. I loved my hardback cover. It was striking and fresh. But the paperback cover, by designer Olga Grlic, makes me want to use words like elegant, and sumptuous. I would love to see it peeking out of someone’s beach bag, or airplane carry-on. It says: Go on. Take me into the bathtub.
This month has really gotten away from me.
When I posted about flower crowns it was a week before May Day. I know what I’ll do, I thought. I’ll ask people to send in photos of themselves with flower crowns and then I can do a May Queen post. One or two people responded, May Day came and went, a few more people responded, I went away, and now here we are, with exactly three hours left in May for me to get this post up.
Well, why not? I mean, really, how can I resist, with my friend Dana up there looking like Puck in a crown of pink jasmine, with the green polka-dots behind and (as if all that weren’t enough) the tiniest bit of plaid.
I have some news for you, and I should have even more after the next couple of days go by, but let’s catch up a bit first, shall we? It feels wrong to just blurt things out over here. I mean, I”m not against blurting, generally, but it’s more of a Twitter thing, which is a place where I tell my bits of news in between quotes from Walt Whitman, descriptions of the perfume I’m wearing, reports on the tiny flame tattooed between the breasts of the hostess who is seating me (completely true, and she was wearing an outfit where you couldn’t miss it), and running commentary on the French Rom Com I watched last night about two neurotic chocolate makers who are scared of everything and occasionally burst into song. (Better than it sounds, mostly because Isabelle Carré is luminous and utterly watchable, emotions flickering across her face one after the other…)
So, what have you been up to?
Well friends, I’m still reeling from the terrible events and plain bad news pileup of last week. I’m sure that many of you are, too. But in spite of everything that has happened and will continue to happen and was happening all along while most of us weren’t paying attention it is still spring.* It just goes on being spring.
Sometimes that feels like heresy, a sacrilege. But most of the time it feels like grace.
My thoughts are with Boston and all of you who have friends and loved ones there.
When people talk to me about the scents they love, the ones they wish they could carry with them like talismans to ward off the evils of the world, they always talk about rain: Fat drops of summer rain falling on a hot city sidewalk. Thin, gray autumn rain stirring up the scent of fallen leaves. Foggy winter rains, smelling of salt and pine. Spring rains, smelling of cold mud, and then, a few weeks later, smelling of all the new wet green everywhere. Forest rain. Jungle rain. Rain on tomato vines at four in the afternoon…
I can imagine all of these rains and more as I write about them, but my own rain scent, the one that I daydream about without realizing it, is the scent of summer rain on tall blonde grass–and then the scent of the wet grass after the rain, when the sun comes out. I’ve never had any hope of finding that scent in a bottle. And then a couple of weeks ago I did just that.
I never loved The Wind in the Willows as a child. My version was abridged in the same way that many children’s copies are–it left out two chapters about Rat and Mole* and put the emphasis squarely on Toad, who baffled and frightened me. This year I picked it up again and I can’t seem to put it down. I still don’t understand Toad’s appeal, but I love Rat and Mole and their friendship with all my heart, and I have a definite crush on Badger, whose varsity sweater (as imagined above by Robert Ingpen) I’d like to borrow and never give back.
What I love best about the book, more than any one character or adventure, is the peculiar yearning sweetness of its tone. It’s a story that’s about longing and restlessness and fear as much as it is about friendship and gentleness. There’s a constant tension in the stories between risk and retreat, adventure and comfort. Toad is on the far end of the risk spectrum, happy-go-lucky, greedy for new experience, chaos personified. Mole is a homebody, worried and nervous, but just as often full of surprise and delight to find himself capable of traveling in a wider world. (And now you know which sort of animal I am most of the time.)
The passage I noticed for the first time today, and want to share with you here, is a moment when Mole is reminded–sharply, poignantly–of the home he leaves behind at the beginning of the book. He and Rat and have been on the road for some time. It’s pitch dark and they are