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.