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Perfume
by Patrick Suskind






To: ALL Date: 10/29 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 3:52 PM PERFUME by Patrick Suskind This was a reread for me and I found the impact to be much greater the first time, probably because the subject matter is so extraordinarily original and bizarre that it was hard to resurprise me. It doesn't change the fact that this book explores regions of human perception that I find fascinating--the power of scent. Suskind takes an almost science fiction approach to his "hero's" abilities. I wonder if bloodhounds can smell as well as Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. Can anyone remember reading a piece of literature which takes the point of view of a sociopathic murderer before? I'm not well enough read to say unequivocally that this is an original approach, but it is an original approach for me. Many of our other readings have explored the idea of evil and I suppose this one does, too, the difference being that there is absolutely no doubt that our main character is evil. In fact only the reader and the main character are absolutely sure of this fact, since the reader cannot be influenced by Grenouille's artificial scent. All other characters in the book are fooled at one time or another. How do you all feel about the ending of the book? Strange. What do you think it means? Do you think Suskind is making some kind of statement or is he just telling a story with no moral implications? =============== Reply 1 of Note 61 =================
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 10/29 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 6:38 PM Sherry, I remember reading someplace that the sense of smell is more closely wired into our brain than any other sense. This would explain why a mere whiff of a certain smell can whisk us back to a remembered situation or place. The smell of a match can catch me unawares and I'm immediately back on a foggy morning in our little cottage in Laguna and my mother is lighting the stove. But I digress. It seems to me that one reason that this book was so interesting is, important as it may be, the sense of smell is one that is less often described in literature and poetry. Less often certainly than sight. The descriptions here are a nice piece of writing. Yes, I can remember reading a piece of literature which takes the point of view of a sociopathic murderer. You read it, too. I hesitate to post the name, because I don't want to be a spoiler for others who have yet to read it. It's been mentioned on the board. Beautiful cover. Is Suskind making some kind of statement or just telling a story with no moral implications? All the time I was reading this book, the same question was running in the back of my mind. I kept finding a socio-political statement, and then losing it and then finding it again. I kept thinking of how people have blindly followed leaders, perhaps for reasons no better than that their scent was pleasing. It was not lost on me that Suskind is German. I'm not sure I found the ending satisfying. Somehow, it seems to me that the deliberate act of what amounted to suicide was out of character. I think I would rather that Grenouille was destroyed by hubris. By the fatal flaw in his character that would make him use too much of his perfume, in a vast stretching for power, and thus inadvertently cause his own destruction. By the way, I believe Grenouille means "frog" in French. (Jane?) Surely this name was not idly chosen. What do you readers make of it? Ruth, who thinks Sherry is doing a bang-up job getting these discussions going =============== Reply 2 of Note 61 =================
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 10/31 From: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Time: 7:05 PM Sherry, Just got started on the book and was surprised to find that it was originally written in German. Hope I make good progress as I am still loaded down with Byatt, C.S. Lewis, etc., **** TEXT MISSING ****
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 11/02 From: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Time: 1:18 PM Ruth, I was struck, too, by Grenouille as a parallel to Hitler. Moving large groups of otherwise decent people to bestial behaviour is an apt illustration of the powern of evil. And not only Germans responded to Hitler. I was aware in reading PERFUME that I had no sympathy for Grenouille, even though the story is presented entirely from his point of view. Generally, I am influenced by the point of view to such an extent that I find myself wishing for the protagonist to succeed, even when the success would be that of an evil person. But not with Grenouille. I never felt anything for him but disgust. And I think it is disgust and a sense of completion that lead Grenouille to expose himself to the group that devour him in the end. G has finished with people, for whom he feels nothing, individually or as a group. He has accomplished the ultimate in his one passion, he has perfected a scent that gives him power over people, and his reaction is a great weariness. He values the process and the achievment, but beyond that is nothing, for he is nothing but the skill he has so passionately employed. This is why he has no scent of his own, for he has no identity beyond his talent. So there is nothing more for him, and his final sardonic use of his power is to turn the group around the fire into animals, causing him to vanish from the earth. with a slight shiver, Felix Miller Malt does more than Milton can/to justify God's ways to Man. 11/2/96 1:15PM ET =============== Reply 2 of Note 8 =================
To: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Date: 11/02 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 5:39 PM Dear Felix, What a brilliant interpretation! I agree with you that I felt nothing at all for Grenouille, except maybe a morbid fascination. I thought that the beginning, where he was a child, was very skillfully written.How did the author get us to dislike an unfortunate child? But he sure did do it. Has anyone besides me tried to become very aware of the smell of things? I try to describe things according to their smell, and when you get right down to it, smell is the lowest common denominator. If something smells like an apple, you know exactly how it smells, no need to go further. Sherry in cold sunny Milwaukee =============== Reply 3 of Note 8 =================
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 11/02 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 5:50 PM Felix: Beautiful note indeed. I've been working out of town and am just now back and beginning PERFUME, but I'm already enjoying the discussion. Dale, trying to catch up in Ala. =============== Reply 4 of Note 8 =================
To: VMMN97A FELIX MILLER Date: 11/04 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 7:06 AM I really enjoyed your note, Felix. Also, thoroughly enjoyed the little couplet that you closed with. A really highfalutin' way of saying, "Beer makes me smart!" For me there was a great disparity between the first half of this book and the second half. The book took a hard right turn at the point Baldini's shop and the bridge on which it was located collapse into the Seine. Up to that point it was as hot a page-turner as I have come across lately. After that point I felt it turned into just another vampire book--a great vampire book, but a vampire book nonetheless. This is not to say that I did not enjoy it. Quite the contrary. Notwithstanding my reservations concerning the second half, I still got a kick out of the episode involving the marquis de Taillade-Espinasse and his "fluidal theory." Really quite funny. A great satire on all those that are convinced that they have found simple answers to complex questions. Couldn't agree with you more about point of view. Point of view usually sucks me in, too. Not here though: "Feelings of humility and gratitude welled up within him. 'I thank you,' he said softly, 'I thank you, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, for being what you are!' So touched was he by himself." Felix, folks that are as touched by themselves as this guy is are not our kind of folks. I know some like that though. On the other hand I wouldn't have minded attending that execution. Sounded like great fun. Kinda like an outdoor rock concert I once attended many years ago. Your pal. =============== Reply 5 of Note 8 =================
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 11/06 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 9:10 PM greetings SENSATIONAL SHERRY and all those who have read PERFUME or who have hopes in the future... i finally discovered some worthy bio for our CR's on PATRICK SUSKIND...the elusive SUSKIND, i might add! my scanner hopefully wil be operating friday evening.. (CBJ..kenny is the only nerd who can fix itand i am praying it is in operable conditon so i can scan it over) gail..hp..a passionate reader who wouldn't let you down..even if i have to type it..which is not my favorite pastime... =============== Reply 6 of Note 8 =================
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 11/08 From: FDLX59B MARY ANNE PAPALE Time: 9:25 PM Sherry, I just finished PERFUME, and I will never again take the sense of smell for granted. You wondered about other books that were in the voice of a sociopath, and I was thinking about INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE LESTAT. Then I read Steve's comments about the similarities to vampire stories. So much for my original thinking. It seems to me that the story was rather dispassionately told. This could possibly be a result of the translation, but the reader is tempted to respond with a "Ho hum. He's just killed 24 girls." Or has Suskind placed a kind of literary musk around his work and drugged my responses? The compelling forces of this book are the major themes. For example, one of Grenouille's obsessions and ironic discoveries was his own lack of human scent. His attempts to give himself a variety of odors, each with a different impact on others, was a terrific parody on today's cosmetics industry. In a world where one can change something so fundamental as the color of one's eyes with a pair of contacts, Suskind aptly points out that others reactions can be easily manipulated. And oh what dangers there are in that! MAP =============== Reply 7 of Note 8 =================
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 11/09 From: NMTT86A JAMES HEATH Time: 1:47 AM I am only about halfway through PERFUME, but I get the feeling that this a sort of philosophical fable along the lines of Kafka. The general theme would have something to do with knowledge and what we do with knowledge. The idea of the odorless Grenouille being an expert on scent reminds me of Wallace Stevens' Snowman who, being nothing himself, "sees nothing that is not there and the nothing that is." Of course, I've never been able to say why I like that bit of Stevens, so I may not have much more luck with Susskind. Usually philosophical novels leave me saying something that is either trite or pompous, if not both. As for books in the mind of the sociopath, how about CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, Ruth Rendell's LIVE FLESH, some of the Jim Thompson books from the 50's, and of course everything Mickey Spillaine ever wrote, although he seems to think the sociopaths are heroes. --Jim in Oregon =============== Reply 8 of Note 8 =================
To: FDLX59B MARY ANNE PAPALE Date: 11/09 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 11:25 AM Mary Anne: Good point, about the emotional distance we feel from Grenouille's crimes, and it sets me to wondering exactly why that's so. Despite the beautifully vigorous writing style, the plausible characters, and the wealth of historical detail, from the early scene at the cloister gate, of the wet nurse and the monk, I had no doubt that PERFUME was to be a fable. But for the life of me, I can't figure out what I base that on. Anybody else feel this way, or recognize any specific hints in the narrative that a fable's in the offing? Or is it something Susskind is doing completely with tone? Hmmmm, Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 9 of Note 8 =================
To: NMTT86A JAMES HEATH Date: 11/09 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 11:32 AM Hi, Jim: I had just posted to Mary Anne about feeling that PERFUME was a fable, as opposed to realism, when I found your note that says it better. Definitely echoes of Kafka, I think, and I love Susskind's dark humor around the edges. When in the narrative did you first get the fable feeling, and did anything specific set it off? The prose is so poetic it's hard to believe this is a translation from German, which I don't speak but have always thought of as not among our most lyrical languages when it comes tripping off the tongue. Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 10 of Note 8 =================
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 11/10 From: NMTT86A JAMES HEATH Time: 11:12 AM Dale: I cheated. There was a note on the cover to my copy that said something about POISON being a grown-up fairytale. If the basic premise didn't tip me off, the business about living in the cave for 7 years would have. Nobody in real life lives anywhere for 7 years. As for the poetic qualities of German, I think our attitude toward Germany is still effected by the Worl War II stereotypes. Like you, I find it hard to think about Germany without thinking of some Nazi firing off short, gutteral commands. Then I think about Rilke. If you're looking for a German poetic sensibility, this fellow makes Dylan Thomas sound sound calm and matter of fact. And of course, Kafka wrote in German. --Jim in Oregon =============== Reply 11 of Note 8 =================
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 11/10 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 2:36 PM Just finished PEFUME and could not resist immediately turning on the computer and downloading all the notes I had so far resisted reading. I have really enjoyed reading all of your observations, but I can't say that I enjoyed this book. I agree with Steve that the middle caveman sequence slowed things down to a crawl, although I found that I couldn't put the book down during the final 60 pages or so. Several people commented on the fact that they could feel nothing for Grenouille. I thought that was because for the most part he was described as subhuman. Remember all the references to him as a tick. He was also described as a crab and a spider, and most of the time seemed to most resemble a reptile. No wonder it was difficult to be taken in by his point of view! For me Grenouille represented pure animal instinct, and only the instinct based on smell at that. I am rather intrigued by the analogy to Hitler, however. I'll have to think about that one. I wonder if it would have come to mind if Susskind had not been German? According to the blurbs in my paperback, PEOPLE magazine (of all authorities) described this book as a "tour de force of the immagination," and I guess it struck me most as an elaborate intellectual game. But then, I could have totally missed some deep message hidden in this book. It wouldn't be the first time. At any rate, reading it was certainly an interesting ride. Ann =============== Reply 12 of Note 8 =================
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 11/10 From: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Time: 3:29 PM Dale, I felt just like you reading this book (I am not finished yet) that it is a fable, but can't for the life of me figure out the underlying meaning. Will keep on reading and thinking about it. An earlier note compares Suskind to Kafka which I don't agree with. Kafka's stuff reminds me of neurotic dreams we all may have. But Perfume is not about dreams we all may have. There is one aspect to this book which reminded me about something I read in a science report, namely that we have an unconscious sense of smell which enters into how we select people, especially spouses. Also Freud was very puzzled that the sense of smell did not play a more important role in humans. Well perhaps the sense of smell is truly more important than we ever thought and so there may be a message in Perfume after all. It is always good to read your postings Dale. I was hoping you would attend the Book Conference in San Francisco so that we would have another chance of getting together. Hope you will stop by our place in Napa once more in your travels. Ernie =============== Reply 13 of Note 8 =================
To: NMTT86A JAMES HEATH Date: 11/10 From: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Time: 3:32 PM James, do you read German? There are some fantastic poets and writers in the German language. I am thinking of Goethe Chamisso, Schiller etc. Ernie =============== Reply 14 of Note 8 =================
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 11/10 From: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Time: 3:38 PM Ann, I liked the comment by someone that the book is a Tour de Force. There is some truth in it. I also had trouble identifying or even have feelings or sympathy for the hero of our story. The strange part was the initial rejection of the nurse that he was a child of the devil since he had no normal smell and the priest examening the dirty dipers. (What a story!!!) I would like to get your and other bb reader's opinion to the theory that while our psychic interpretation of smell may be in part unconscious, perhaps there was an individual born who had consciousness of the subtle psychology of smell i.e. attraction, rejection, personality, etc., Would be interesting! Ernie =============== Reply 15 of Note 8 =================
To: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Date: 11/10 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 8:30 PM Someone here remarked about reading in translation. And someone (maybe the same person) remarked that they felt a sense of distance reading this book. I find that I often have that sense of distance when reading books originally written in another language. I wonder if it's due to the translation or to the differences in approach by the writers of other countries, or the vagaries of the language itself. Ruth, where November is summer (90 plus degrees) =============== Reply 16 of Note 8 =================
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 11/10 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 8:34 PM PATRICK SUSKIND...is a passionately private man..he has given only a handful of interviews; he refuses to appear on the telly and he has authorized only one photograph of himself to be distributed by his SWISS publisher. he flabbergasted MARCEL REICH-RANICKI..the powerful czar of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's literary section, by declining the newspaper's $5,000 prize for the best first novel in GERMAN..the newspaper serialized the novel....Suskind said, no, thank you, that he did not plan during his lifetime to accept any literary prizes. his relentless irony..a tone of barely suppressed hilarity that also permeeats 'perfume' Has led to factual errors creeping into the skimpy public record about Suskind...after writing a play called 'DOUBLE BASS'..a monologue by a melancholy musician..he was asked to furnish an autobiographical sketch. displaying a crooked finger on his right hand, Suskind said it had long been a family joke that this minor physical defect had prevented him from becoming a great pianist..an in joke that he slipped wryly into the curriculum vitae. by the time this tongue in cheek factoid reached the dust jacket writers of his italian publisher, Suskind had been elevated to an accomplished pianist who had 'studied in the conservatory.' on the american dust jackets of 'perfume' knofp says that 'a problem with his hands' prevented SUSkind from pursuing an ambition to become a concert pianist.. 'this is all very embarrassing,' said the author savoring the joke, 'because when i get to America people are going to say. 'oh, please, sit down andplay us something.' The son of a German journalist whose own youthful literary career was cut short by the Third Reich, HE STudied history at Munich University and at Aix-en-Provence but never took a degree, then collaborated on televison scripts here. But the critical acclaim for 'Double-Bass' - and the attendant royalties from the Diogenes Verlag inZurich gave him the self confidence and the money to work out an idea about a monomaniacal murderer who manages to exercise a mesmeric sway over the victims of his terror..this is the culmination of 'perfume' and for post hilter germans its allegorical message should be clear enough. 'THE end of 'PERFUme' was always in my head." 'but i saw that it didn't work and that i would have to write the biography of this man from the beginning." tbc..to be continued... =============== Reply 17 of Note 8 =================
To: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Date: 11/11 From: NMTT86A JAMES HEATH Time: 1:12 AM Ernie. Sorry, but I don't read German. I have to take my Rilke in translation. Goethe and Schiller seem to have survived just fine without me even if I haven't done so well without them. I may not be up to learning German at this point, so maybe I can find good translations. As to the Kafka comparison, Grenouille reminds me of many of the characters in the short stories who seem to be monomaniacs living in some sort of desolate landscape. He is very cold and distant like many of the characters in Kafka, and PERFUME seems to have the same surreal tone. Of course, you're right to think that there are differences as well as similarities. --Jim in Oregon =============== Reply 18 of Note 8 =================
To: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Date: 11/11 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 7:26 PM Ernie, Good point about our reaction to smell being significant even though it is unconscious. I thought that Susskind's development of this idea was very intriguing. Ann =============== Reply 19 of Note 8 =================
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 11/11 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 7:27 PM gail, Thank you for posting this very interesting information. Ann =============== Reply 20 of Note 8 =================
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 11/11 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 7:27 PM Ruth, I like to read books by foreign authors because they so often force me to think about things in unaccustomed ways. However, I don't usually feel as detached from their charcters as I did from the characters in this book. When I saw that this book was a horror story, I was afraid it might keep me awake nights. I needn't have worried. Ann =============== Reply 21 of Note 8 =================
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 11/11 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 7:42 PM PERFUME..part two.. continued from prior.. Suskind said he originally thought of fixing the action in the present but was attracted to 18th century France because "this was when this type of modern man appeared, this dark side of the Enlightment." moreover, he said, it was in the 18th century that city planners tried to banish foul odors that were thought to cause disease. He wrote the story of the odious jean=baptiste grenouille so secretly that friends and relatives only learned about it when it began to appear in installments in the frankfurter allgemeine. 'I THOUGHT it was such an absurd story..THAT if i ever finished it ..it might have a certain level of readers, people interested in history and literature ..maybe 5000 copies. since its appearance in the spring of 1985 in west germany..440,000 hard cover copies ar still being sold weekly and it remains no. 2 on der sp;iegel's best seller list...the grenouille saga has already been published 12 languages and is being translated into 16 more. Suskind is wary of success..he ahs no plans to move out of his small apartment in munich's schwabing district or to give up his room on the boulevard raspail in paris... his publisher, DANIEL KEEL, said that Suskind's insistence on excellent foreign translations actually cost him royalties in selling 'perfume' outside west germany and that the author was personally overseeing the movie right. PATRICK SUSKIND was born in 1949..studied history at Munich university and at Aix-en-Provence... CAREER;..television scriptwriter, playwriter and novelist AWARDS, HONORS...best first novel, frankfurt alllgemeine zeitung, 1986, for DAS PARFUM:die geschichte eines moerders (declined); world fantasy award for best fantasy novel, 1986, for PERFUME; THE STORY OF A MURDERER.. Suskind's works have been translated into French..Spanish DUTCH..and more than twenty other languages.. thank you ANN.. gail..hp..a passionate reader in cooler weather in san francsico..where i am impatiently awaiting till seven p.m. =============== Reply 22 of Note 8 =================
To: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Date: 11/11 From: FDLX59B MARY ANNE PAPALE Time: 9:07 PM gail, Thank you so much for this glimpse through the window onto Suskind. Sounds like the profile of an intellectual genius to me. One can only imagine what a stir his turning down a literary award might cause. MAP =============== Reply 23 of Note 8 =================
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 11/12 From: NMTT86A JAMES HEATH Time: 1:53 AM I finished PERFUME and agree entirely about the unusual ending. The book certainly didn't finish in the direction that I thought it was headed. The theme of the book in light of the finish seems to be the futility of power. Grenouille spends his life developing a scent that makes him absolutely irresistable, and discovers that it's no better having everybody love you than it is having nobody love you. Admittedly, this is a gross simplification but that's why Susskind gets paid to write novels and I don't. As I was reading about the detailed dissection of one of the bodies, I couldn't help but think of Jeffrey Dahmer. Wasn't he from Milwaukee? Isn't Sherry from Milwaukee and didn't she recommend this book? Has anyone looked in her refrigerator lately? --Jim in Oregon (where our women just use chain saws on trees) =============== Reply 24 of Note 8 =================
To: NMTT86A JAMES HEATH Date: 11/12 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 8:32 AM Dear James, Oh my, my secret is out. I am now living in Milwaukee, but moved here AFTER the Dahmer thing. Milwaukee has many, many good points, I mean, we've got brats and beer and summerfest and Bud Selig. I invite you all to come and examine my refrigerator! (Can I throw a few leftovers out first?) And btw, I DIDN'T nominate PERFUME, our miss gail did. I seconded the nomination pretty strongly though. If you will look at the slo-mo nomination list I nominated BONE PEOPLE (this isn't looking so good). Sherry in Milwaukee who while reading PERFUME was going around trying to smell things like doorknobs and dirt =============== Reply 25 of Note 8 =================
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 11/12 From: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Time: 6:41 PM Ruth, I think you are right on both accounts. Translations by some very talented bi-linguals are sometimes considered better than the original but I would say that this is rare. No, we should never forget the cultural differences and the way "they" see and feel things. Whenever I visit foreign countries I note that facial expressions differ, that concerns and interests differ that cultures don't entirely understand each other. Since I am a product of two cultures I feel keenly about this and perhaps more sensitive than others. Have you ever read Gunther Grass The Tin Drum (I am not sure about exact title). You may see similarities in the characters. Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain will tell you a great deal how German Youth think. In the Tin Drum you may see a similar type of dissociation in the hero that you find in Suskind's book. Ernie =============== Reply 26 of Note 8 =================
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 11/12 From: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Time: 7:10 PM Sherry, Ann, Gail and James, Enjoyed reading your notes and finally finished this gruesome story myself. It fascinated me and had to think of this recent study I read about the unconscious processing of smell which takes place in the brain and which is supposedly making crucial unconscious decesisons (why do I like this guy or gal hum?). SO ITS THE PERFUMY SMELL THESE PEOPLE GIVE OUT. But to be serious for a minute, this is a fine description of a rather true psychopath. Essentially totally selfish and unable to feel for others or identify with them. Another characteristic is the striving for power. Lack of any human feelings, etc. After this great portrayal I started wondering how Suskind (which means sweet child) knows so much about it. Strange....Has anyone besides myself noted the power motive on the part of Grenouille? Now comes an important question: What next on Slo-Mo? I am presently reading Edith Wharton's Madame de Treymes and the Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by A.N. Roquelaure ala Anne Rice . Both books picked up at a second hand book store. I heard a great deal about the Bone People, it's supposed to be excellent. =============== Reply 27 of Note 8 =================
To: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Date: 11/12 From: ZRAK98A ROBERT AVERY Time: 9:36 PM Dear Earnest, I'm curious to hear your opinion ofthe Wharton book. I just had my first exposure to her - ETHAN FROME - also picked up on the bargain table. I was quite taken by her style and command of the language, and although the book was a bit of a downer, it was a quick read, and came closer to INTERRUPTING MY LIFE than anything I have read in awhile. I definitely want some more Wharton; question is, which? Any help out there? Bob, in Tenn, but heading for D.C. Thursday, where I can buy almost any book I want! (One is Sir Richard's IN PRAISE OF THE STEPMOTHER) =============== Reply 28 of Note 8 =================
To: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Date: 11/13 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 0:14 AM Ernie, Interesting comment about facial expressions differ in different cultures. I've noticed something similar. Its the unspoken vocabulary of smiles, nods, meetings of the eyes and other acknowledgements we make towards strangers we meet or pass or share an elevator with, etc. My American vocabulary of these gestures, seems to be totally out of place in Europe. And yes, I have red THE TIN DRUM. I loved it. But I admit that I saw the movie first. It was an excellent film, marvellous. I think it helped me a great deal in what was not an easy read. As for THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN, I made it through 3/4 of the book before throwing in the towel. One person I find almost impossible to read is ITALO CALVINO. I always feel like I'm on the outside looking in. And wasn't there a recent (withing the last 2 ord 3 years) issue of DISCOVER which feature the sense of smell? And what about the "frog" connection. As I said in my first note in this thread, "grenouille" means frog in French. Why do you suppose he chose that name. Your comments regarding psychopaths were interesting, too. Ruth, who has again wasted another day with reading, writing and other such frivolous pursuits =============== Reply 29 of Note 8 =================
To: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Date: 11/13 From: NMTT86A JAMES HEATH Time: 0:46 AM Ernie: The thing that strikes me as odd about Grenouille's striving for power is that he really doesn't have anything that he wants to do with the power. He walks away from situations where he could have been in total control and goes looking for something else. The central irony here is that even when everybody else adores him, he is still completely unhappy with himself. --Jim in Oregon =============== Reply 30 of Note 8 =================
To: NMTT86A JAMES HEATH Date: 11/13 From: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 1:55 PM All: Recently finished 'Perfume' and have been cogitating on it a bit before posting. I doubt I've got much to add to the thorough and interesting discussion posted to date, but here are my two cents worth for Allen's archives: 1. (Since Ruth has waited 32 posts for a stab at this question): Why Mssr. Frog? My guess is it's that quasi-transparent European-style symbolism at work. Mssr. Frog is repeatedly described as 'cold' or 'cold-blooded'. A frog that sits and watches, inactive until the stimulus of the fly arouses it to momentary action, is not an inapt symbol for Mr. Grenouille. In addition, Mr. Grenouille undergoes something of a transformation (ala tadpole to frog) in the course of the book: from moronic slave, wallowing in offal, to a chrysalis stage buried in the mud of the mountain, to his transformed 'normal' and murderous adult self. Also, tadpoles and frogs are cannibalistic killers, with the 'grown-up' frog being the more efficient murderer. Acually, in some ways butterfly might have been better, but there's already a book called Papillon and adult butterflies don't consume the essence of their fellow critters. Mssr. Araignee would have been good but a tad obvious, and besides, spiders don't have intermediate stages, so the whole mountain deal wouldn't have worked. Anyway, that's my view on the frog thing. 2. Is Mssr. Grenouille human? This I doubt. Many posts spoke of a sociopath or a serial killer. I think the frog thing was literal enough to remove Mssr. Grenouille from serious contention as a member of our species. To me he was more a literary construct, a force of nature, a sublimated essence of a human trait carried to its most extreme possibility, than he was an actual character. More than one person mentioned Kafka in relation to this novel. I agree. The bleak world view, and most significantly, the bizarre, grotesque nature of the 'character' -- a frogman without intellect, surviving on pure intuition and instinct, driven by alien desires was very Kafkesque to me. And, I could easily imagine a large beetle, rotting apple buried in his carapace, trundling into the story at almost any moment.(Also, note my previous comment on the name 'Grenouille' and consider the notion of 'metamorphisis' in relation to this story, and others. Clearly, Suskind went to college and took notes). 3. The end of the book and the death scene. The only way any of this makes sense to me is for Grenouille and his existence to be a metaphor for the 'natural' portion of existence -- the savage, state of nature, perhaps. There, to transform oneself from humble beginnings in the primeval slime, to glorious adulthood on the sunny lily-pad, and then to be consumed yourself, is as natural, is as ecstatic an experience as any other in life. In the natural state, such an apotheosis is not merely natural, it is necessary. It is also quinessentially an inhuman experience. 4. Is this story a fable? I think it is. The dictionary definition speaks of a "supernatual story" which could fit, but the second definition is on target: a story intended to enforce a useful truth, especially one in which animals speak and act like human beings. Whoa! A talking frog, with a nose like a beagle? I like it. 5. Finally, if this is a fable, what useful truth is being reinforced here? A Republican truth (Keep your nose out of other people's business)? A Democratic truth (don't mistreat working people or you'll die in mysterious circumstances)? An eternal truth (people who eat dead bats will come to a bad end)? Actually, I'm open to suggestions on this one. Dick in Alaska, with just a dab of 'Old Spice' =============== Reply 31 of Note 8 =================
To: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Date: 11/13 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 7:21 PM Hi, Ernie: I found your note very interesting, on Grenouille as a classic psychopath. But it leads me to wonder how many of the leading figures on the world stage these days also qualify as one. I just heard an interview with a news correspondent who spent a lot of time with Serb president Radovan Karadzic, who's charged with war crimes by the U.N. tribunal for his attempts at "ethnic cleansing." The correspondent said he was surprised to find Karadzic an extremely intelligent and disciplined person, an effective administrator, etc., who could very charming at times, but that he found "a huge void at Karadzic's heart," namely that the man was apparently born with no concern at all for the welfare of other people, and no empathy for anyone outside himself and his family. Am I cynical to think that this "void" removes a lot of obstacles for someone so afflicted who wants to be in charge of things? Any other examples come to mind, of major figures who were actually diagnosed as psychopathic rather than just anecdotal evidence? (I'd sure hate to be the one making the diagnosis.) My best to Pat, Dale in chilly Ala. =============== Reply 32 of Note 8 =================
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 11/13 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 7:49 PM Dale, I believe that Karadzic is either a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Scary, isn't it? Ann =============== Reply 33 of Note 8 =================
To: ZRAK98A ROBERT AVERY Date: 11/13 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 7:51 PM Bob, If you liked ETHAN FROME, I can highly recommend the movie, which stars Liam Neeson. It was absolutely wonderful. It appeared in the theaters for a very short time and then was broadcast on PBS, which is where I saw it. I think it is out on video. We read THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Wharton on Classics Corner about a year ago, and I enjoyed it very much. Wharton won the Pulitzer for it. The movie is good too. I have also read THE HOUSE OF MIRTH. I found that very slow, but I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had read it with some constant readers. MADAME DE TREYMES is an interesting short story. Did you like it, Ernie? Ann PS Bob,You have convinced me that I need to give Durrell another try. =============== Reply 34 of Note 8 =================
To: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 11/14 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 1:36 AM Dick, my esteemed pal in the north, I posted on the Grenouille/frog thing in the second or third post in this thread. 'Tis you, my friend, who took 33 posts to answer. But answer you did and a fine bit of analysis it was. You know when I first finished this book, my impression of it was that it was almost, but not quite, a thriller, almost, but not quite, a fable, almost, but not quite a morality play. Thanks to everyone for contributing to this interesting string of notes about a book that I found only mildly interesting, that is until I read what you all had to say about it. Ruth, ready to start THE MAKIOKA SISTERS as soon as she finishes BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1997 =============== Reply 35 of Note 8 =================
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 11/14 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 8:58 AM Dear Dick, Yes, let me add my kudo's to Ruth's for a very perceptive analysis. And Ruth, 1997? Sherry =============== Reply 36 of Note 8 =================
To: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Date: 11/14 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 11:21 AM Ernie: I've been thinking about your comments on Grenouille's 'drive to power' (and Jim's and some others as well). Is all this Nietzschean? Is Grenouille a kind of 'blond beast', creating his own moral values out of pure instinct and experience? I don't have enough philosophy background to analyze it, but there was a good discussion of Nietzsche's 'Geneology of Morals' (or 'Geneology of Mortals' as the typo in my copy has it in the chapter heading) in the Denby book Dale & I were posting on recently. I reread that chapter this morning and think that 'Perfume' probably does drink deeply at the well of German philosophy. Dick in Alaska, who has sipped sparingly and some time ago at that =============== Reply 37 of Note 8 =================
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 11/14 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 12:09 PM Ruth: You're certainly welcome to all my thoughts on frogs, now and in the future. I knew you had been waiting for some time, which is why, 'Why Frog?' went to the head of the paragraph list. An interesting book indeed, although not one that caught me up emotionally -- something I've noticed in many a translation. Very much the same feeling I have had when I've been abroad, sitting in a cafe or park, watching the mysterious foreign world move around me and thinking -- "You know, Haggart, you really belong in a Pizza Hut in Cleveland." And you know who hasn't posted her thoughts and feelings on this, her very own nomination? That's right: she who doesn't do guilt OR windows, she who arrives in gails of enthusiam, she who is a singer of tizzie-lizzies, she who is weighty but never gross -- well, you know who. Anyway, I'd be seriously interested in hearing what the hp thinks of her book -- what inner things it touched when she read it and what she expected when her selection was tossed to the CR pack to be worried, shredded and brought to its literary knees amid analytic blood and dust. gail? Dick in Alaska, who has apparently been watching too much Discovery Channel =============== Reply 38 of Note 8 =================
To: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 11/15 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 9:05 PM Richard and Ernie, I have thoroughly enjoyed your observations concerning PERFUME. Notwithstanding my reservations about the second half of the book, it is a fine work. We should also give a tip of the hat to the translator. Suskind's concern for the quality of the translations resulted in a gem here by this John E. Woods. This book reads very well aloud, which I think is the acid test. By far my favorite section of the book was that dealing with Giuseppe Baldini and his shop on the Pont-au-Change. I developed a very vivid mental image of this structure. And it was precisely when the shop collapsed and fell into the river with all aboard except Grenouille that I felt the story lose a bit of its grip on me. The history of bridges is fascinating, and bridges lined with shops or homes are an especially interesting phenomenon. I believe that there is still such a bridge in Venice, but I'm not sure. Perhaps one of our world travelers can help there. I do know that Old London Bridge was lined with shops and homes during its 600 year existence until its demolition in the early Nineteenth Century. I am curious as to whether the Pont-au-Change portrayed in this novel actually existed, but I am at a loss as to where to check this out. (And Richard, the note by Dale below has reminded me that I forgot to offer my thanks for that smoked salmon that magically appeared in Nashville. Incredible stuff! Belatedly. . .thanks.) Your pal. =============== Reply 39 of Note 8 =================
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 11/15 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 9:28 PM Steve, My favorite part of the book was the part on the bridge, too. It was so real to me. Really great images that didn't just tell you about it, but put you right there. And as far as real bridges go, the PONTE VECCHIO in Florence is lined with shops, mostly selling gold jewelry. Unless it's changed in the 20 years since I've been there. Ciao, Ruth =============== Reply 40 of Note 8 =================
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 11/15 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:43 PM Ruth and Steve, I was just getting ready to reply about the PONTE VECCHIO as well. I was there four years ago, and while I looked in all of the shops, I bought nary a thing. It was beyond my poor budget.In Firenza, they are quite proud of this bridge. Jane who loves to travel. =============== Reply 41 of Note 8 =================
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 11/16 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 9:47 AM Thanks for the refresher, Jane and Ruth. The Ponte Vecchio! Of course! Incredible thing. Built in the 14th Century. Those gold and silversmith shops on it date from the 16th century. Only bridge in Florence to survive World War II. Crosses the Arno, a river with which one must be familiar if one is going to have any hope of whipping the New York Times Crossword. I really don't know why bridges have bubbled up in my mind. Perhaps it is because of all the bridges built into the 21st Century during the late and entirely unlamented presidential campaign. Bridges did seem to play a big part in PERFUME. Grenouille was quite often crossing them to perpetrate his nastiness. Bridges are irrestibly symbolic. There were a good many in LES MISERABLES. In fact, come to think of it, every really, really great novel has to have a few bridges in it. Consider BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, for example. Your pal. =============== Reply 42 of Note 8 =================
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 11/16 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 1:17 PM Steve: Your question on the history of the 'Pont au Change' sent me over to the Web, and what an amazing world we live in. The original bridge was built in the 9th century under the tutelage of Charles le Chauvre (The Bald) and was of wood. Originally it was called the 'new Big Bridge' (apparently there were still unfortunate Teutonic influences loose in the Paris of 875). Later it was called 'Pont du Roy', and finally, after a fire in 1621 was renamed 'Pont au Change'. It was covered in houses and was occupied by silversmiths and moneychangers. The Web sources I checked don't say when the houses came down, but the bridge was rebuilt during the Second Empire. It currently is just one of many bridges, gracefully arched across the Seine. This particular bridge connects Ile de la Cite with the north bank, and lies between the Pont Neuf and Pont Notre Dame. If you do an Alta Vista search on Pont au Change you'll turn up all this, and more, including a photo collection by a guy named John Mack, who has memorialized his 1978 trip to Paris, and the photos thereof, for posterity. He has a fine night shot of the Pont au Change in it current incarnation. I conclude with this brief note taken from a website originating (I believe) in France, and which discusses the Seine Bridges and Pont au Change in particular: "One consequence of the fire of 1621 was a ban on "pissing chairs". There is no explanation of exactly what a 'pissing chair' was (although I suppose we can make good guesses) and more interestingly, why it took a great conflagation to get them banned. Perhaps it was damp rot that took down Baldini's building -- two hundred-fifty years of indoor piddling may have done for his foundations. Dick in Alaska, faithfully raising the lid to avoid a fate worse than Baldini's =============== Reply 43 of Note 8 =================
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 11/16 From: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Time: 7:50 PM Heck of job, Richard! One heck of job! There are 31 bridges across the Seine in Paris and its environs. This has been one of them. (Remember "The Naked City" on TV in our youth?) Your admiring pal. =============== Reply 44 of Note 8 =================
To: SEZG73A STEVE WARBASSE Date: 11/16 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:19 PM Steve and Sir R., Your notes about bridges make me think that we should have some future CR convention in Paris and stroll along the Seine. I will go to Paris at the drop of a hat. Jane who left a bit of her heart in Paris as well as another bit in San Francisco. =============== Reply 45 of Note 8 =================
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 11/17 From: ZRAK98A ROBERT AVERY Time: 8:12 PM Ann, Thanks for your note. Guess I'll add THE AGE OF INNOCENCE to my back-stack tomorrow, on my triply (like weekly, or daily) visit to B&N in Washington. And let me know when you've gotten through a couple of Durrel books. I'd love to get a good thread going on LD. Bob, still packing =============== Reply 46 of Note 8 =================
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 11/17 From: ZRAK98A ROBERT AVERY Time: 8:18 PM Jane, Re a meeting in Paris. I'm in. Bob, who loves all 38 of those bridges! (Although Warbasses reference to MADISON COUNTY makes me want to KWAI. =============== Reply 47 of Note 8 =================
To: ZRAK98A ROBERT AVERY Date: 11/18 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:35 PM That was a good one, Bob!! Jane =============== Reply 48 of Note 8 =================
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 11/20 From: ZRAK98A ROBERT AVERY Time: 8:44 PM Jane, Just wanted to see if anyone was paying attention :-) Bob

 
 
 
I just finished PERFUME, and I will never again take the sense of smell for granted.
Mary Ann Papale
 
this is a fine description of a rather true psychopath. Essentially totally selfish and unable to feel for others or identify with them. Another characteristic is the striving for power. Lack of any human feelings, etc. After this great portrayal I started wondering how Suskind (which means sweet child) knows so much about it. Strange....Has anyone besides myself noted the power motive on the part of Grenouille?
Ernest Belden
 
To me he was more a literary construct, a force of nature, a sublimated essence of a human trait carried to its most extreme possibility, than he was an actual character.
Dick in Alaska

 
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