The Black Narcissus is primarily a perfume blog. This is because I completely live through my senses and am totally obsessed with how everything smells in every waking moment of my life and the fact that perfume affords me a huge amount of pleasure – an olfactory soundtrack, a bottled library of memories. Not that I am especially obsessed with the past, I don’t think: I live in the present : there were no halcyon days for me; all times have been multifaceted, light and dark, beautiful and terrible; yes, some periods have been lighter overall, more carefree and others more difficult and depressing, but despite the ups and downs, if I were to die tomorrow I would feel fulfilled. Ultimately I love life, and like all the other pleasures that mark the flow of time; music, photography, film, remembered experiences, perfume is an incredibly potent medium that encapsulates so much sometimes that it can be heartrending.
At the same time, it can feel incredibly shallow and boring. There is so much inane crap on the market, piled high with truly embarrassing, illiterate PR copy that is unreadable and often risible (when you find yourself exposed to too much of the overdesigned spiel from perfume companies, big and small, in their syntactic quagmire of hopeless hyperbole, where sentences don’t make sense, and the desperation to cover up the lacks within the perfume itself with all the ridiculous, towering excesses of inappropriately chosen words and often quite aesthetically abominable images sometimes create a dull, miserable abyss in the mind and soul of the thinking person; between the baffling and audacious claims and the quite often pathetically trite, mundane reality you are smelling on the back of your hand, it can all leave you more than alittle skeptical). Therefore, although sometimes I feel that I may have squandered my opportunities in not trying to become the number one prima donna of the perfume writing world (“I coulda been a contender ” : : after all, I won the Jasmine Literary Prize, have been in Japan Vogue five times and have a book that is sold in bookshops all around the world) – by not trying to jump onto the bandwagon more and ‘building up my brand’ or being a representative of the niche houses’ or trying to excitedly flog the latest foul flanker that is launched in the department stores or be the first person to get a scoop – imagine every day waking up and thinking you have to rush to your computer to bullshit your way through yet another ‘release’ that doesn’t excite you – I just wouldn’t be able to do it. It would be brain death for me. I want to do something more meaningful, more beautiful: I don’t want ugly adverts popping up on the screen and ruining the aesthetics of everything I have created, even if I could make money from doing so. I just can’t be bothered. My integrity is more important.
Which brings me to the main topic of this non-post. How I am supposed to keep writing about perfume when the world is falling apart? Of course I don’t have to write about perfume. I know that. And anyone who tunes in to this spontaneously hyperindulgent space will know that there are a lot of different things discussed on here, from the culture of Japan, to art and film, and especially current events and politics – because I simply would not be able to exist in the world ignoring what is going on around me (and inside of me). I could not merely ‘allude’ to the ‘difficult times we are living in’ or whatever and then plunge into the latest dire Dior nonetheless: it just wouldn’t feel right. Likewise the last two weeks I have attempted a tightrope between trying to discuss the utterly appalling war in Ukraine and days out in Kamakura, or the pleasures of a rose perfume on the wrist, or else the amusing horrors of python-like aubergines, or just devolving into maniacal tirades against Putin using ‘bad language’ (which I personally love and use whenever I feel like it as I feel it sometimes has more gumption and force that just newspaper formal politeness; sometimes you need to get real, like the billboards throughout Ukraine written in big looming red letters as a warning to the illegal invaders: JUST FUCK OFF RUSSIA).
Anyway, the point is that I am not entirely sure how to proceed. Do I just keep writing things randomly as they come to mind? Should I be waiting for that next holy grail perfume to arrive and then spend days, weeks, months, perfecting a flawless review, rather than the way I do write, usually, which is to jump off from the futon and just frantically type and find photos and then press publish? To be honest, the gap between the awful reality of the world right now and the poochy pamperings replete on here sometimes feels too guilt-inducing to enter into and I sometimes just can’t do it – I was just reading about the terrible ramifications for the global food supply now that the ‘breadbasket of the world’ in Ukraine and Russia is in chaotic upheaval and how it is going to potentially lead to starvation in many countries, not to mention the rapid rises in fuel costs, the economic devastation, the millions of refugees, the death and profound sadness and grief it is inflicting on so many……and all because ONE MAN HAS A GRIEVANCE AND A GRUDGE THAT HE WANTS TO AVENGE ON THE ENTIRE EARTH NO MATTER WHAT THE CONSEQUENCES. It is mind-shatteringly astonishing the way that one bad player can affect so much, and that he has chosen this precise time, just as we are emerging battered and bruised from the pandemic, to unleash this new hell. And so how am I meant to write anything other than about this, when all topics seem so petty in comparison? Does one just shut down a perfume blog and any other creative endeavour because one sinister fuckhead’s grotesquely horrendous actions have imperiled all of our safety and mental serenity? Or do you just plough on anyway in praise of mimosas and aldehydes and gardenias? Because you just need to offset all the evil?
I don’t know. That is why I am asking the question. All feedback/ comments very much appreciated. My own thinking is that probably, some balance is required, that while what is in the news naturally dominates our brains as it is affects us all, not just emotionally, but literally – (the whole world order is changing rapidly before our eyes! Don’t you sometimes just find your mind wandering or daydreaming for a moment and then remember? That heart-sinking feeling when you realize that everything has changed seemingly overnight and that we are still in the middle of it and have no idea what is going to happen next or what it is going to lead to? ……) – but still, we do, all of us, concurrently also have our own lives to lead; our complex, contradictory lives, with all the layers, problems, issues, joys and loves that entails; from the politer, more protected outer strata seen by others in our daily social interactions, to our most troubling fears and secrets; phobias; traumas; but also just the pleasing and absorbing and even wonderful daily minutiae of our lives – many of which are enormously pleasurable, just like watering the geraniums on the balcony. Is it wrong to actively feel positivity in such things, or is it in fact essential for the preservation of our sanity? I have never studied ‘mindfulness’, much as I believe it is important and very helpful to a lot of people (even if it occasionally carries with it an overprescribed whiff of commercial bandwagon) – because I ( perhaps erroneously )believe that I have been mindful the entire time to begin with. If there is one thing I know I have been doing throughout my life, it is in noticing, and feeling. And relating all of that, and connecting. The expression, and the catharsis. Which is precisely why I love writing about perfume on here; how it infuses our daily experience with an added dimension : augmenting the intricate web of experiences that make a life.