The road to genius is paved with blatant imitation. Close study of a great writer’s work takes too long. Sleeping where they slept is icky. The most efficient way to imitate bestselling authors is to smell like them.
There are many writers of flowery prose who reeked to high heaven (looking at you, Michel de Montaigne). The trick is to identify a writer who had a reputation for fragrant phasing and physicality, and then steal their signature scent. To wit: Dorothy Parker.
Famous for her timeless quips…
“Brevity is the soul of lingerie.”
“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”
“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”
…Parker was also infamous for her perfume.
“A demon with an atomizer in her hands, Dorothy had a lifelong habit of spraying her head and shoulders with a cloud of scent,” Marion Meade records in Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This? “[She] smelled like the ground-floor perfume department at Bergdorf’s.” Literary critic Edmund “Bunny” Wilson, upon meeting her, discovered, “The hand with which I had shaken hers kept the scent of her perfume all day.”
And of which perfume was she so redolent? According to Frank Crowninshield, Parker’s editor at Vanity Fair and Vogue, “she had a fondness for Chypre.”
Created by François Coty in 1917, Chypre is the odor of literary genius. It is also, as the Perfumed Court helpfully notes, pronounced “sheep-ra,” not to be confused with the nearly homophonous 1980s cartoon.
“Let’s go buy a big honkin’ bucket of the stuff and dive in!” you say.
“The stuff is no longer being made!” I say.
In order to catch a verifiably genuine whiff of “sheep-ra,” you have to trek all the way to L’Osmothèque, the largest scent achieve in the world, located on Marie-Antoinette‘s old stomping grounds of Versailles.
Or you can take a good ol’ American shortcut on the path to literary genius. One learns by consulting The Perfume Master that Chanel No. 5 smells very similar to our sought-after scent. So if Chanel No. 5 smells similar to Chypre, that means something that smells similar to Chanel No. 5 will smell exactly like Chypre.
In other words, this Chanel No. 5 knockoff from Walmart … IS CHYPRE!
The logic is unassailable.
By spraying oneself liberally with this low-low-priced perfume, you too can smell and write exactly like the Algonquin Round Table’s favorite wisecracker. In the interest of journalistic diligence, I emailed L’Osmothèque about their sample of original Chypre in my half-assed French:
“Avez-vous plus d’information sur COTY Chypre (l’histoire, la formulation, plus d’images, etc)?
That’s how far I’m willing to go in pursuit of literary excellence. According to the “contactez-nous” email form, I would receive a reply “prochainement.” Yeah, bien sûr. That was a year ago.
While I waited, I decided to put the perfume to use. And today — this very day, in fact — is the payoff. Introducing my novel, The Cure for Summer Boredom.
I used up the entire bottle writing it, so it’s sure to sparkle with the clever, caustic wit of Dorothy Parker … right?
Check it out on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and everywhere else, then let me know what you think. I’m hanging around the sub-basement of Goodreads all the time these days, trying to finish Tender Wings of Desire for reasons best left unsaid.