Perfumer Josh Meyer.
Imaginary Authors’s stories read like the back covers of pulp stories that just might actually have been published. Setting is paramount and the stories live in a tarnished-golden post-WW II arcadia where privilege and ennui are counter-balanced. They play with the fantasies of looking to the past. They offer an era of end-stage bucolic dreams, planes, fast cars and red-baiting. A time before Watergate, Manson, AIDS or 9/11. The stories point to a slightly easier time–they are sinister but not catastrophic.
Because the stories point to literary archetypes many of us are acquainted with, they have a ring of truth to them. They point to a world of black-and-white choices and consequences. They’re instantly appealing against the hyphenated grey of the present.
Imaginary Authors Yesterday Haze is the perfumed sequel to Violet Disguise. Both books are penned by (imaginary) author Leonora Blumberg. An intentional obfuscation of the author’s life and those of her characters paints a blurry but inviting image of California. The author’s journey from jaded Hollywood to a more measured life in the orchards of the semi-mythical Ojai is reflected in the olfactory transition from Violet’s Disguise‘s chilled, metallic violet to Yesterday Haze‘s pale-fleshed fig cream. The perfumes transition from grey/violet to fruity iris, suggesting that a wide range of tones can be found within the pale lilac to blush spectrum.
A violet theme hints that the pair of perfumes, if not the stories, has a possible prequel. In terms of the fragrance plot, before landing on the West Coast, The Cobra and the Canary‘s protagonist drove a tarred vinyl-violet slick from the East Coast to the desert of the SoCal. The timelines don’t match, but the stories line up.
Seen as a Violet Trilogy:
The Perfume. (The narrative summary.) The olfactory story.
The Cobra and the Canary (2012). (Dilettante On The Road. East Coast uptight individuality heads West chasing freedom via Steve McQueen fantasy ride.) An ostensible tale of leather and violet hides a more interesting story: smoking peel-outs and hairspray-florals. Though the perfume settles into a quieter woody-floral territory, the opening is all tarry asphalt and vinyl plasticizers. The rough graininess of the accord gives it a spiky snarl. More roadburn than luxury leather seats.
Violet Disguise (2012). (A simulacrum of eternal youth set against a backdrop of California’s faux-eternal Spring as reflected in Liz Taylor’s eyes. Or, the mis-en-scène of disillusionment.) High-pitched but not high-strung. The perfume’s plastic topnotes launch past so quickly that you easily fall under the woody floral heartnote where doe-eyed good-girlness coos. Suspicions return in the basenotes as a cyborg smile doesn’t quite soothe. Deliberate ambiguity foreshadows a sequel in the works.
Yesterday Haze (2014). (Fig orchards set against the pink sunsets of Ojai’s Topa Topa mountain. The perfect setting for the uncertain world-weariness of an author’s bruised ego. Worlds away in terms of milieu, the 2 hours drive to LA suggests the author is poised for a return to the fast times of Hollywood.) Sweet woody florals with nutty vanillic tones balance simplicity and presentation like a ripe fig with crème anglaise. Not savory, but the sweetness is cut with the other aspects of fig: bitter sap, starched leafiness, dusty nose-feel. The coziest of the trilogy, but not slack.
(Samples from Imaginary Authors, and there’s another story. I spent some time with Josh Meyer earlier this year around the AIX Fair at the Hammer Museum in LA. Over lunch one day we talked about perfume and writing and how the two intersect. We had a great discussion about the risks of narrative. I talked about the limitations of writing about perfume in a review format and stated plainly how dicey I found the quid-pro-quo of perfume for review. How it hobbles any decent discussion between perfumer and writer. He questioned me on the idea and I described how the arrangement sets up complicated expectations and undercut the potential for dialogue.
The next week he sent me a box filled with perfume samples and bottles. I contacted him–did he even remember the discussion? He said, ‘Yeah. I thought you’d laugh.’ A simultaneously endearing and ballsy gesture.)
Image sources unknown.