Friday, June 22, 2012
Another Great Goes Silent; Adios for Now, Olfacta
Yesterday, one of my favorite bloggers, Olfacta of Olfactarama, announced a sort of early retirement.
Coming after the recent retirement news from March at Perfume Posse and Dane over at Peredepierre - who, like Olfacta, announced that they had, if not nothing more to say, then at least nothing new - it's feeling a little like the advent of the talkies. Big changes. End of an era. Ain't like it used to be. Etc. The picture's getting smaller. More and more people have discovered their voices and are talking - and I like a lot of them, but I don't know if I love the sound of them enough to subsist on their output alone.
Olfacta was a unique presence. In many ways it comes down to taste, and my taste leans toward literate, salt of the earth, no bullshit types. The kind of person you'd have coffee with - and not regret it later. If Olfacta had a book deal - I wasn't beaten over the head with it, though of course I'd be the first in line to read her writing, on the blog or on the page. If she'd just had lunch - or more - with a well known perfumer, I wouldn't have known about it from her blog. I learned a lot through her posts - about history, about fragrant components, construction, diffusion, you name it - and never once felt I was being edumacated or sold a piece of land. Her blog was more than a catalogue of her ego exploits.
Instead I felt her excitement about learning these things herself - about putting something together - about getting simultaneously closer to and farther away from unlocking the mysteries surrounding perfume. You can feel the wonder in her writing alongside its intelligence. That's a hard balancing act, judging by some of our peers, whose blogs sometimes (okay, often) give me the impression that they singlehandedly created the art and science of perfumery, then built an industry around it, then published a book, then dined with royalty, then solved cancer, then were complimented for being the best of all things by the one illustrious person from whom you would most want to receive such an endorsement, then lived to tell about it, and haven't shut up about these glorious exploits since. If you're looking for something recognizably humble, or human in those valley-less peaks, turn back now. I make these comparisons not to say that Olfacta was better. She was simply different in ways I truly valued, and her absence will leave a stark blank space.
Olfacta was smart, and her posts took in a wide range of subjects - sometimes looping back to perfume, sometimes not - there were valleys in there, a true sense of depth and character. Even when she wasn't talking about perfume, strictly speaking, you were learning about her, and about many other things, and getting a strong sense of who she was and what she brought to her gaze. And somehow, too, she made perfume seem truly thrilling, part of a larger passion - maybe a passion for information and connection, either connection between facts or even, God forbid, people. She wasn't interested, as far as I could tell, in being your personal pipeline to the red hot center of perfumery. She just wanted to enumerate her discoveries.
She was diplomatic but honest, and while she didn't avoid addressing the bankruptcy of the modern mainstream (and sometimes niche) fragrance industry, there was a certain kind of philosophical "what you gonna do" quality to her sensibility that I appreciated and found refreshing. It helped balance my doom and gloom tendencies. Olfacta was never cynical; she was artfully wry.
I developed a friendship with her off line. She visited Memphis and we talked for hours. Dirt, perfume, movies, books, ourselves. She's a good friend. That honesty and integrity in her writing - I know, a tall order for the throwaway format of blogging - is there in person as well. She's a real gem.
I could go on and on about the way I think blogging - specifically about fragrance - is changing. I have my observations. Things shift; so what. Suffice it to say I understand moving on, and Olfacta will be just as fascinating writing about who knows what next as she has been about fragrance. For now, I'm going to miss her writing, and know I'll be returning to her blog's archives the way I pull favorite books off the shelf or spray my favorite perfumes again and again, to reactivate the pleasure.