Review: Perfume

  • Cover for PerfumeTitle: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
  • Author: Patrick Süskind
  • Printed Pages: 263
  • Publish Year: 1987 (Penguin)
  • Recommended For: People that haven’t felt disturbed in awhile, enjoy macabre thrillers, vivid language.

First Lines: “In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His story will be told here.”

Sometimes I find it easier to write about a thing by first talking about how it made me feel. Perfume fits into that category. It’s a story that disturbs, yet fascinates. It repulses, yet somehow does it beautifully. For me, it was the literary equivalent of smelling something you know is going to smell bad but can’t help but to do it anyway. And I say all of this and still assert that this book is among my favorites.

The story is an homage to the power of smell. It’s an exploration into the ability of smell to both attract and repulse, both of which are emotions that this story imbues. How is it that a sociopathic murderer can find himself adored, tricking the world into thinking he’s a man of beauty and perfection? By appealing to a sense that only the murderer fully understands. By misleading with a perfected sense of smell and meticulously-crafted perfumes. By turning one of a person’s senses against the rest.

I don’t want to give a synopsis. I want to let the story unfold for you in the same way the tones and flavors of a fine scotch whisky reveal themselves: naked in a glass, exposed to air and judgement.

I’ve had this book on my list to read for a couple of decades now. I first heard of it from an interview with Kurt Cobain. Perfume was one of his favorites, a copy of which was always with him. He related to certain aspects of the main character of the story. He was so inspired by the story, one of the songs he wrote with Nirvana, Scentless Apprentice, was based upon the novel. I found that the book recently became available in Kindle format, which prompted me to snatch it up and finally partake in the experience.

After I read the book, I learned that it was adapted for film of the same name, starring Ben Whishaw and the recently-deceased Alan Rickman.

While not a book that I would recommend to everyone (if you’re more of a humor or romance novel reader, this might not be your flavor), I do recommend it to people with strong stomachs that aren’t afraid to visit a truly grotesque and gruesome mental place.

Selected Lines:

He would often just stand there, leaning against a wall or crouching in a dark corner, his eyes closed, his mouth half open and nostrils flaring wide, quiet as a feeding pike in a great, dark, slowly moving current.


Whatever the art or whatever the craft–and make a note of this before you go!–talent means next to nothing, while experience, acquired in humility and with hard work, means everything.


She had a face so charming that visitors of all ages and both sexes would stand stock-still at the sight of her, unable to pull their eyes away, practically licking that face with their eyes, the way tongues work at ice cream, with that typically stupid, single-minded expression on their faces that goes with concentrated licking.


This world molded in lead, where nothing moved but the wind that fell sometimes like a shadow over the gray forests, and where nothing lived but the scent of the naked earth, was the only world that he accepted, for it was much like the world of his soul.

My Rating: 4.5/5 – For being able to invoke contradicting emotions simultaneously, for inspiring me with descriptive language that I could almost smell, and for serving as a metaphor for humanity.

Review: Paddle Your Own Canoe

PaddleYourOwnCover
  • Title: Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living
  • Author: Nick Offerman
  • Printed Pages: 353
  • Publish Year: 2013
  • Recommended For: Fans of Nick Offerman (or Ron Swanson), people that like to laugh, a glimpse into the acting industry, advice on delicious living

First Lines: “I am a jackass living in America and living surprisingly well.”

You probably know Nick Offerman from his highly-popular role as the mustachioed Ron Swanson on NBC’s hit comedy: Parks and Recreation. Having never seen the show myself, I had no real idea who the man was. (I don’t watch a lot of television, but don’t worry: I’m working on that!) So, what am I doing reading the memoirs of a person I was nary aware of? I’m not sure: Someone mentioned it to me, the cover looked cool, and the summary sounded funny. I’m glad I read it, as now I count myself among Nick Offerman’s fans (and I started watching Parks and Rec).

At first I feared this book would be some sort of celebration of clichéd masculinity, a sort of literary representation of Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor’s signature grunt. My fears, however, were unwarranted. Paddle Your Own Canoe reveals the man behind the mustache, and exposes him as a man of sensitivity, passion, and a remarkable work ethic. Sure, there’s a bit of machismo sprinkled in, but oftentimes it’s ironic or, at least, sarcastic. The entire book is laced with comedy and self-deprecation. What stuck with me the most was Offerman’s humility: this is a man that doesn’t take his success for granted, nor does he allow it to transform him away from his roots as a hard-working boy from rural Illinois.

There were two things I admired most while reading this book:

First, Offerman has a lot to say about the virtue of hard work. He goes to great (and entertaining) lengths to imbue the importance of accomplishment, of fixing and creating. He recounts the time when he moved in with his now-wife and star from the popular sitcom Will and Grace, Megan Mullally. By the time he and Megan purchased a home together, she was already substantially successful. He found himself dumbstruck one day, with the fleeting realization that he “made it”. He was a “well-off dude living in the Hollywood Hills like a king!” He recounted a fantasy that he had while growing up: if he ever was able to afford such a lifestyle, he would “smoke some weed and listen to Neil Young and float in the pool.” So when he was finally able to live that fantasy out, it lasted all but two songs. “What am I, an asshole? What am I gonna do, buy a yacht and just be a rich asshole floating on my yacht? Jesus, man, look at yourself. The sun is up. You should be getting something done!”

The second thing I admired about Offerman was the way he spoke of his wife and their relationship. They had been married a decade by the time Paddle Your Own Canoe was published, and yet he still speaks of her as if they were still on their honeymoon. Both working hard in a demanding industry, they made a pact to never accept a job that would have them apart for more than two weeks. His admiration for Megan melts the heart. Of course someone will go out of their way to paint a beautiful picture of their spouse and love-life when writing about it for a large audience, but it is clear to me that Offerman was very careful with his descriptions of their life and I’m confident that their love is as genuine as he portrays it in this book.

So, I guess I’ve become a bit smitten with Nick Offerman. I found his stories interesting, hilarious, and motivating. What I thought was going to be a quick comedy–a time-killer, really–turned out to be an inspiration: a book that has me re-thinking my own philosophies.

A fair warning: this book has some colorful language, some sexually-explicit scenes, and takes some swipes at organized religion.

Selected Lines:

For some strange reason, we never could fully reconcile our farm flavor with the hardscrabble aesthetic of inner-city street dancing.


If you engage in a discipline or do something with your hands instead of kill time on your phone device, then you have something to show for your time when you’re done. Cook, play music, sew, carve. Shit, BeDazzle. Maybe not BeDazzle. The arithmetic is quite simple. Instead of playing Draw Something, fucking draw something! Take the cleverness you apply to Words with Friends and utilize it to make some kick-ass corn bread. Corn Bread with Friends—try that game.


In my head, I was absolutely living out a fantasy as the cool protagonist in my very own John Cusack superromantic comedy, when in truth, I was 100 percent stalking this poor young dancer. Terrific!


My Rating: 4.5/5 – Inspiring, humorous, and surprising; an added benefit of providing a look into the world of professional acting and the path of a successful career.

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