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.


~x~ said...

very cool. i'll miss her too.

Nina Z said...

I just hope you don't go silent, too, Brian! I keep checking back in for one of your amazing as-good-as-a-short-story-or-maybe-it-is-a-short-story posts. Though I know they must take a lot of work, and can't come that often.

I've been blogging myself for the last 9 months, about yoga, not perfume. But I've learned a lot from the perfume bloggers, including you, and hope to take some of your words today to heart. Thanks!

Brian said...

Heya Nina,

You know, I don't know about going silent. I did deactivate facebook about month ago though, so I'm definitely going through some online transitions.

I would love to get back into yoga. I was talking to someone the other day and said I've never felt better, inside and out and everywhere in between, than I did when I was doing it regularly.


Blacknall Allen said...

Oh I will miss her writing on perfume, and the bed rock sense and decency of her style. She was and is a real one of a kind blogger. I've been reading her for years. As a matter of fact I've been reading you for years. Don't disappear on us.

Brian said...

You're stuck with me for now, Blacknall, so I'm glad you've taken a liking!

Datura5750 said...

I was sad to read about her retirement....

Gwenyth said...

I, too, am sorry to hear that another of my favorite bloggers is going on hiatus.
For me, reading about perfumes is still an attraction. However, there is something intangible about a few 'perfume blogs' that makes visiting/reading there a special treat.
I don't necessarily read a blog to be "impressed" or "educated", although some of that stuff is ok in small doses.
My favorite blogs are written by seemingly very nice folks who have a talent for expression, introspection, enlightenment, and entertainment. It is true that while reading on various blogs I have been impressed and educated, but is has been a natural extension of the feelings of the blogger without the feeling that I have been condescended to or patronized.

I hope that Olfacta's blog archives will remain intact. I will find great enjoyment in reading her words again and again.
She's a gem.....and so are you, Brian.
....and I miss hearing from Abigail. (just sayin') [grin]

Brian said...

Awww shucks. Thanks, Gwenyth. I miss Abigail, too! Ahem.

Darryl said...

Olfacta was one of my faves, too, although the doomsday tone of her IFRA-related posts got wearying after a while. I can only read so much about how every new perfume under the sun sucks wind when compared to the vintage greats before I want to throw my hands up and wear nothing but rose water for the rest of my days. Still, I will miss her perfume-related writing; she's a terrific talent and wonderful mind.

The loss of March from my daily blog browsing hurts the most, though. She injected such spitfire energy into everything she wrote, and she had a knack for summing up a smell, idea, concept, or character with just a few well-chosen words. I feel like I know her entire family just from the odd tidbits she'd write about them from time to time. Love(d?) her sense of humor, as well; catty, wry, and gut-busting.

Brian said...

I hear that. I guess I can relate to a doom sayer. It doesn't get old for me, whereas I was only able to take Denyse's relentless self-importance in doses; then, quickly dosing up, not at all. And I think I'd rather read the same Calvin and Hobbes four panel over and over, on an infinite loop, than hear another update about any trillion dollar industry that comes to mind. Olfacta's writing made my misanthropy feel more like good sense than a beaten horse corpse, so I will have to work harder now to keep my big mouth in check.