Notes from the Editor: Throughsmoke’s Power Over Perception

Much to my pleasure and joy, a short nonfiction piece titled “throughsmoke: an essay in notes” made it through the final cut and landed in the interns’ laps this semester. Beautifully written, it explores the author’s growing relationship with scent and perfumes. The piece had been one of the manuscripts I screened last semester, and it drew me in with its first line: “In a dark time, I am in love with something frivolous.” Hook, line, and sinker.

It’s a strange thing, the effects a story can have on you once you devote so much time to it. I come together with fellow interns weekly to discuss the intricacies of this collection of notes, (much like the notes of perfume, quick and fleeting but often lingering.) I comb over the author’s words in my own time, bundled up in bed with the manuscript balancing on my knees, and I leave each encounter with her writing in a trance of sorts, feeling light like the wisps of scent the author has put so much time into describing, looking at the world, for at least a few minutes afterward, not with my eyes but with my nose.

Before starting edits on this manuscript, I had never concerned myself too much with the world of perfume. I only owned four different bottles of perfume, purely because they were released by Taylor Swift, my purchase of them having nothing to do with the smell of the liquids at all. But now, whenever I find myself at Target or TJ Maxx, I pick up the strips of paper and spray them with the different bottles of perfume. I try to pick up the different notes of scents coming from the perfume—grapefruit lingering in one titled “air,” notes of jasmine in the bottle designed in the shape of a woman’s handbag.

Even away from the confines of perfume, I greet new classmates and subtly smell the air around them, familiarizing myself with their preferred detergent. I arrive home and am momentarily stunned by the scent of apples overcoming the room, my sister working her way to homemade applesauce. I wear a man’s coat and inhale the faint scent of mahogany and cigarette smoke. Smells that define a person or place or thing, all suddenly at my attention, and all because of an essay in notes.

While the release date of “throughsmoke: an essay in notes” is yet to be announced, I encourage you to keep your eye out for it. It’ll be worth the wait, and your sense of smell will never be the same.

Written by Ashley Thorpe
Originally posted March 22, 2018
Images via