Scent and Subversion

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Select media coverage: The New Yorker, All Things Considered

Scent & SubversionAdvance praise:

“A must read for any sensualist or maestra of glamour.”  −Dita Von Teese, queen of modern burlesque and creator of the fragrances Dita von Teese, Rouge, Fleurteese, and Erotique

“Like writers who have understood history through painting, architecture, and music, Barbara Herman has laid out the 20th century through one of the most fascinating, personal, and innovative of lenses, the evolution of its olfactory art.” −Chandler Burr, author of The Perfect Scent and creator and curator of the Department of Olfactory Art, Museum of Arts and Design, New York City

“It’s impossible to overstate the importance of scent in your glamour arsenal… Barbara Herman tells you how to slip into multiple identities, define your narrative, and star in your own life.” −Mx Justin Vivian Bond, international cabaret superstar; author of Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels; and co-creator of The Afternoon of a Faun perfume for État Libre d’Orange.

Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press, is proud to announce the release of SCENT AND SUBVERSION: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume, by Barbara Herman (November 5, 2013; 978-0-7627-8438-7; $24.95 hardcover; 5.5” x 7.5”; 288 pp; full-color photos throughout).

Dissatisfied with the corporate culture of her 9-5 job, writer Barbara Herman began a quiet but odiferous rebellion: No longer would she dab on polite “office scents,” with their fresh notes of citrus and ocean breeze. “I wanted an anti-office scent,” Herman writes. “A perfume that would flip office culture the bird and throw a smelly Molotov cocktail through the window for good measure.”

So began Herman’s olfactory journey of investigation. The result is SCENT AND SUBVERSION: a beautiful, provocative, and deeply informative field guide to more than three hundred vintage perfumes and their exotic ingredients, some of which are now banned from use by perfumers.

In addition to descriptions and histories of each perfume, Herman offers a cultural exploration of the scents and their meanings: What do they reveal about cultural and generational shifts? How did the advent of feminism in the 1970s change the prevailing style of perfume? What are the differences between the perfume styles of Baby Boomers, Generation X-ers, and Millennials? How does perfume “speak,” or signify those differences through ingredients?

Indeed, perfume has much to say about women, reflecting, influencing − and often subverting − gender norms throughout the 20th century: Tobacco-scented Scandal was marketed in 1933 to celebrate the scandalous woman who smoked cigarettes; in 1944, gay perfumer Germaine Cellier created a “butch” perfume, Bandit; and Christian Dior’s 1947 perfume Miss Dior smells both ladylike and powerfully sexual through its uncanny evocation of “odor di femina” … to give just a few examples.

Beautifully illustrated with more than 100 full-color vintage perfume ads, SCENT AND SUBVERSION is a reference book, cultural history, conversation-starter and perfect gift book in one.

Barbara Herman has been the go-to expert on vintage perfume since she began her popular blog, YesterdaysPerfume.com. A former editor for TrèsSugar.com, her writing on perfume and scent culture has appeared in Refinery29.com, Vintage Life magazine, Time Out New York, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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