Sweet Smell of Excess: Van Bakel gives a mud-luscious Bronx cheer as Times nose man dances about architecture


Rogier van Bakel celebrates the debut of Chandler Burr, The New York Times' new perfume critic, whom America's newspaper of record describes as the first olfactory correspondent in English-language journalism. Awestruck by the unintentional hilarity in Burr's tortured metaphors, van Bakel comes through with a few (intentionally) tortured phrases of his own:

The purple prose of scribbling wine connoisseurs notwithstanding, Burr is in a class by himself. His sentences resemble a high-wire act by a doped-up Marcel Proust wannabe; you know it will end badly, in a spectacular logorrheic splat, no less entertaining for being horrific.

That's a good effort, but the scented stylings of Burr are pretty tough to beat:

Rose Barbare is a crepuscular, rose-inflected darkness suffused with a luminosity that floats on the skin. … This is the scent of the darkness that inhabits a Rubens, a warm, rich, purple blackness; Pomegranate Noir is like a box of truffles with the lid on, sweet bits of darkness, waiting. …

Bigarade smells like a person trapped in a complex weather system, the wonderful scent of a guy's armpit and a woman's humid skin washed in fresh rainwater and ozone. … It is a masterful juxtaposition, and smelling Bigarade is like looking down into a well of cool, black water. Your retinas expand from the strange pleasure of this scent.

Read them all, and you'll find this tortured-metaphor thing is as infectious as a tantalizingly down-tempo version of Messiaen's Quatuor pour la fin du temps performed by a gamelan orchestra of midgets dipped in yellow paint.