Category Archives: Writing

You never know what’s going to happen

 

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Duncan is very good at choosing what to watch on Netflix. I had discounted ‘Strong Island’, simply because I thought the name was so crap and unevocative (and it is: a real shame in my opinion for a documentary so overwhelmingly raw and brilliantly executed).

But this was coruscating, searing : we couldn’t really speak throughout. But we both dreamed about it the whole night (literally in my case, my brain gripped like a leather glove); yes, the director was ‘performing’ his pain, but it was in the name of something deep and wounded and guilt drenched that had to be expurgated (not that it ever could be).

The unvarnished rawness of the film – unlike anything I have ever seen I think – was accentuated, and emphasized beautifully, and very noticeably ( the aesthetics were so good they made you uncomfortable ‘with the fact that you were enjoying’ it – often an intrinsic problem with documentaries I often feel ) with – FINALLY !- the minimal use of background music, which my cold heart rejects after a while no matter how tragic the story: I am simply too musically and cranially sensitive to endure too many overwrought strings or pianeggios ripping off the dreaded score of The Hours: ::: here, the pain was left to burn itself into your brain preconceived but unadorned :: my heart was palpitating as I watched it but I couldn’t actually ‘take’ the emotion as it happened : it had to be stored, and worked around, later.

Yes, it verged on emotional or experiential pornography, if you want to think of it like that. But the director, pictured – so unflinchingly earnest, honest, and assured in the rejection of the cliche ( which I fucking HAIL, personally ; YES to looking straight into the camera and addressing the audience directly when it works; yes to letting people stutter or go back on themselves or cough on camera or backtrack slightly, just as people actually do; yes to art where a person excavates, and illuminates, their family’s most unbearable agony for the common truth): was so intuitive, and merciless, that the film added up to something beautiful, and devastating.

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Filed under art and politics, New Beginnings, Organic, this is not a perfume review, Uncategorized, Voyeur, Writing

‘PERFUME : IN SEARCH OF YOUR SIGNATURE SCENT’ – RELEASE DATES AND PERFUME SOCIETY READING EVENT

 

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Well, here it is !

 

The only reason I haven’t done this before  now is that I wanted the cover and the physical reality of the book to be a surprise for my parents, who finally got their hands on an advance copy on Wednesday ( ‘look, Roger ! It’s arrived!’ shouted my mum as a book-shaped parcel was carried by the postman down the driveway and they weren’t quite sure how to proceed ::: should there be some kind of special ceremony or ritual for removing it from the envelope and bubblewrap? In the end they just released the book from its package and were, I think, thrilled.)

 

 

 

 

They love it ( how it looks, anyway : I don’t know what they will make of the florid nonsense inside), and spent the exhilarated day clutching and caressing it and carrying it around the house with them everywhere they went

 

 

( as did I ::::  :: the design team have done a great job I think, and I had no idea it would all turn out so sumptuous.  Initially, there were many things to be worked out – inital concepts were too fey and girly; the title was different, so was the essential composition of the book, but from the back and forths  over the spring and summer we eventially settled together on a contemporary Art Deco feel, which reflects the luxuriance of all the perfume reviews quite well,  my love of vintage, and it is all just something I can’t help but feel rather delighted about.)

 

 

 

 

The book is HEAVY: a proper tome. Like a book of spells, or a volume from an old library,  and though not as lengthy as my blog ramblings nor quite as personal, hopefully the new concision and the new taxonomy of the world of perfume I have come up in this guide with will appeal both to perfume people and also the curious neophyte. My goal is to induce passion for the subject – obviously there are just too many perfumes in the world to be definitive : the book is called ‘In Search Of….’ for good reason; I wanted it to be immersive and indulgent and also a little strange…

 

 

 

 

Anyway, the book comes out in the UK on March 21st, published by Hardie Grant, and on April 2nd in the US, distributed by Chronicle, as well as being available to order worldwide on Amazon. I also have an event being organized by The Perfume Society at Rouillier White in south London on March 28th, where I will be doing a reading and a book signing (!); I am really looking forward to gathering family and friends and mingling with perfume maniacs while sniffing the marvelous selections of Michael Donovan ( this really is one of the best perfumeries, so I am delighted the party is being held there).

 

 

Unfortunately, though, space and tickets will be quite limited, so I can’t make this a big thing I can invite everyone to, much as I would like to. I was wondering, though, if any UK people, particularly London people, reading this,  can think of any venues where I might have a more casual sip and sniff type of affair -or even just straightforward event with books and bubbles –  Hardie Grant will ship books there if it becomes an event. I would love a Black Narcissus hook up !

 

 

 

I don’t know. I am just so excited ( if daunted : you never know whether anyone is going to like what you have created), but this time last year, when I was still wallowing in self pity with all the aftermath of my operation and arduous rehabilitation, I had no idea whatsoever what was just round the corner – nor the year of extraordinary pressure that was ahead of me, with a full teaching schedule and book deadlines constantly looming)

 

 

 

– but I DID IT

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I want to C E L E B R A T E

 

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Filed under Antidotes to the banality of modern times, LUXURIANCE, New Beginnings, PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE, Perfume Reviews, Psychodrama, Vintage Bonanza, Writing

‘A PASSIONATE MEDITATION ON PERFUME’

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Issue Two of Shooter Literary Magazine, a new London publication that features short stories, poetry, and non-fiction, includes a full-length, 7,000 word essay I wrote this Spring on perfume, memory, family and identity titled ‘Through Smoke’.

It was an interesting project. Each issue of the magazine features contemporary writing from a selection of international writers gathered around a thematic nucleus – the inaugural, fiery and pulsating issue was fittingly called ‘Pulling The Trigger’, but in contrast, this time the concept that the writers submitting work were given was ‘union’.

I am a very compulsive, impulsive and instinctive writer, just expressing and blurting out what comes to mind when it comes to me (as you will be quite aware if you read The Black Narcissus regularly), and I must admit it wasn’t easy for me, at first, to ‘fit’ my writing to a theme and tailoring it to another person’s vision. Initially, at least. As I thought about it more though I realized that perfume and ‘union’ do go hand in hand in so many ways, and I ended up exploring varying, different tangents on what perfume is, how scent, and smell, are, in many ways, our ‘invisible link’.

In the introduction, the editor of Shooter, Melanie White, writes:

“….More unusual unions, too, provided rich sources of inspiration. Neil C Chapman’s passionate meditation on perfume, ‘Through Smoke’, gives tremendous insight into the connections between scent and memory, fragrance and identity, as well as the increasing (and dismaying) commercialisation of the perfume industry. He rounds off his essay with a mesmerising section on the significance of scent in Japan, showing how deeply the sense of smell is rooted in Eastern culture”.

I don’t know if the piece is mesmerising, but it is interesting, reading through the magazine as I have been these last few nights, coming home from work, how it fits in with the other selections, which, though seemingly disparate at first, are all threaded with a touching, often poignant atmosphere, reflections on loss, the ephemeral nature of existence, love, and the death-transcending ties that bind us.

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Filed under Writing