Smell: The Secret Seducer

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Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997 - Psychology - 226 pages
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Smell: The Secret Seducer is a cultural history, a compendium of odd facts, and a kind of tribute to the sense of smell, which, of the five senses, is the one we most commonly take for granted. Piet Vroon is a psychologist in the Netherlands, and in this odd and surprising book he demonstrates that the sense of smell is vital to our experience of the world, which would be much less interesting and intelligible without its odors, fragrances, aromas, and scents. Imagine being overcome unexpectedly by poison gas, being unable to smell the slyly fruity bouquet of a fine wine, or having no idea what one's lover smells like. A world without smell would be a sadly diminished place. How we smell is Vroon's subject and his metier. In a brief history of smelling, Vroon shows how over time some cultures have exalted strong smells (associating them with passion, virility, and excitement), while others have considered them the evidence of decadence and barbarism. In Vroon's view, Western culture has been so thoroughly cleansed of unpleasant odors and stenches that we take the olfactory sense for granted.

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