3 Feb

Ok, yes, I get that you are probably reading books to learn stuff, and that’s the whole point. Like, you didn’t read that book about growing mushrooms not to pick up the finer points of the hobby, right?

But what I mean by this blog post’s title, “stuff you learn in books” is to indicate the unexpected tidbits that you come away from, the neat little surprises that come up in the pages, or between the author’s thoughts, and over the course of your experience with the book– those things you weren’t looking for, but when you saw them, you thought, “Huh! How about that?” Or “wow, that’s really interesting–I need to read more about THAT!”

I know there’s so many instances of this that pop up in my reading; for example I recall last year reading Carmen Maria Machado’s wildly creative memoir In The Dream House, recounting the emotionally scarring trauma of a psychologically abusive relationship, and at one point she references Amy Mann’s vocals and lyrics in the Til Tuesday Song “Voices Carry”. And I was like “wow, no way! I didn’t know that was Amy Mann!” And then I listened to that song non-stop for a week straight. Obviously not at all the point of the book, and I promise you I am totally aware of that, but I love these little eureka moments that pepper the path of your overall journey with a book.

I am currently reading The Houseguest and Other Stories by Amparo Davila, and if you are interested in hearing more about this little collection of strange tales, I do discuss it in my recent video, but what I wanted to share here today was this passage in the photo above wherein the narrator mentions a perfume that an ex-lover would wear. A fragrance called Sortilège by Galion, which I’d never heard of before. Was it a made-up scent, or was it at one time a real-life perfume? Does it still exist? Where can I find it? Can I purchase a bottle for myself??

Sortilège Ad by Claude Maurel

I love coming across little treasures like this! And yes, the perfume was/is real–I didn’t mean to imply that just because I had no knowledge of it, that didn’t mean it couldn’t possibly exist, ha! And though it looks to be reformulated, yes, one can still purchase a bottle of this “iconic fragrance of the House Le Galion and signature perfume of the famous Stork Jazz Club in New York in the 1930s…a floral aldehyde composition, a totally seductive fragrance full of history.”

I just consulted my reading notebook (which I also discuss briefly in the video referenced above), and here some other examples of things in which I have become interested or perhaps will do further research on because I had read mention of it in whatever book I was reading at the time:

The “Dark Star” expeditions in Uzbekistan

Arts of Inclusion, or How To Love A Mushroom

Goose of Hermogenes by Ithell Colquhoun

Body Sweats: The Uncensored Writings of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Unleashed: Of Poltergeists and Murder: The Curious Story of Tina Resch

What about you? What’s come up in your reading that you weren’t expecting, but which led you on merry chases and rabbit hole depths of research or discovery? Did you find out about a new pastry technique you’d never heard of? A wine from a certain region in Argentina? A musician or an artist? Please consider the comments to this post a place where you can stop by at any time–even years from now!– and share the weird and wild and wondrous things you learned of, but weren’t necessarily looking for, within the pages of a book. And if in doing so, you happen to stumble across the German word for this scenario (I mean, there’s got to be one, right?) please let me know!

Jennalee Sullivan says

I read about a place that uses oolong tea to clean tables and leave a beautiful aroma in the air. It’s all I can think about so I guess it’s time for me to make some oolong!

S. Elizabeth says

Oh my goodness--I LOVE that idea! Do you recall where you read it? Fair enough if you don't; I don't recall where I read about most of the things I listed in this post :P

Melmeister says

But the really important question: DID YOU BUY YOURSELF THE PERFUME!!!!????

S. Elizabeth says

YOU BET YOUR BOOTS I DID! I'll be mentioning it in my forthcoming STUFF & THINGS video :)

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