Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Nosy Interview: Emily Gould

Emily in Bright Star Regulus near the Leo I Dwarf Galaxy, © Chris Cook

Emily Gould writes beautifully observed nonfiction, the sort of writing that risks making strangers on the internet feel like she's their friend. When she wrote about her smell sensitivity shortly before announcing the launch of her independent ebookstore, I definitely felt like we would have a great time eating lunch together. You'll probably feel similarly after you visit her blog, read her book, or join the conversation over at Emily Books.

What do you smell like?
I just made chicken soup so right now I smell like garlic and chicken fat and parsnips. In general I try to smell neutral most of the time. I spend a lot of time in yogaworld, where having an aggressive smell is rightly discouraged, but when I'm getting in people's personal space to adjust them I try to ensure that I at least don't smell like flop sweat.  I use Soapwalla natural deodorant cream, which smells like lavender and clay. For my birthday I asked for and received Hermes Un Jardin en Méditeranée which I like because it smells like the outdoor shower at a rich person's beach house, and I wear it when I know I'm going to a party where I'll be hugging people or when I want to seem rich.  

What do you like to smell?
At the University of Maryland my grandfather became friends with a fellow professor, Norton Dodge, who until his recent death lived on a former tobacco plantation in southern Maryland called Cremona. Norton provided a field there for my grandfather to grow grapes, and a barn that became his winery. We go there in the fall to help harvest the grapes. The smells associated with Cremona are my favorite smells.  Most of the fields there are now given over to soybeans but when I was younger some of the tenant farmers still grew tobacco, and you could walk through barns hung with huge brown drying tobacco leaves.  A lot of people say they like the smell of a freshly lit cigarette on a cold day; this is that smell but only its best aspects and multiplied.  It's how you imagine a cigarette will taste when you've never smoked a cigarette. Cremona is situated on the banks of the Patuxent River, a brackish estuary of the Chesapeake. So there's a salty muddy smell and a dry grass smell, plus all the smells associated with horses and dogs, a sun-baked brick and dusty gravel road smell, and then the smell of the grapes and the winery itself: damp, cork, yeast, cold stone and wet wood.

Other than Cremona I like: the smell of the concrete deck of a chlorinated pool, something being deep-fried near the ocean, and the rotting seaweed and woodsmoke smell of a New England beach.  Basically if it takes place near the water I'm into its smell. Except the Pacific, I have never been as moved by its smells. I don't have a history with them.

Oh I also like the smell of Moscow: harsh rich perfume, dry indoor heat, cigarettes, snow, mud, petrol, unventilated cooking areas, tea, a little vodka-piss.  I guess because I associate these smells with mystery and falling in love!

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

You bring the cigarette into a new light by your appreciation of the smell. Not my favorite, but you bring life to places and time. I smelled every one of your Cremona aromas. Spot on! MB

langloislane said...

Great featured writer!

I love this: "it smells like the outdoor shower at a rich person's beach house" .. particularly because I'm terrible at describing perfumes. You give us places and feelings, not just smell words or dropped brands. Love it.

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