Saturday, May 3, 2008
I have finally found a hero of sorts
I have loved the Rolling Stones, especially Keith Richards.
I was a maniacal lover of Iggy and the Stooges.
I was fascinated by Andy Warhol.
I have read every book ever written by Iris Murdoch.
Yet, I never thought of any of these people as "heros". What is it about Luca Turin that touches me so?
I am at present reading his archived blog, which you can find here, all 548 pages of it. It is wondrously well written, as Turin's writing is and, sadly, the new English version of "Perfumes The Guide" just doesn't show it. I wonder why not. Turin's articles for the German newspaper, NZZ, are small gems (and you can find them at the same link provided previously).
I am wishing this blog archive was in book form, which shows me that I am still an essentially 20th century creature who loves the feel of a book in her hand. For this reason, I look forward to sampling L'artisan's Dzing!, which Turin says smells of paper. I adore the smell of books, old and new, and even enjoy the smell of a book infused with the smell of cigarette smoke. Sometimes I encounter this with a book from the library. My father's library has a particular scent, which I just now realize smells of his old habit of smoking a pipe. The only name that comes to mind is Borkum Riff (which is probably spelled wrong).
We stop smelling the scent of our own homes and last week when I came home from being gone for nine days, I was pleased to discover that my house smelled good. I confess to a new use of electrical plug-in scents from Bath and Body Works. I pretty much uniformly dislike all of their cloyingly sweet products, but the Fig and Brown Sugar Wallflowers are quite subtle, working a little magic in the background, quite discreetly. I would never have guessed it possible.
As always, I have to take many detours before getting to my point. I will not try to stop this habit, for that is who I am and how I write and I have no claims to being a "writer". Luca Turin: my first hero.
Why? First, because he writes so beautifully of such small things that it is almost heartbreaking. Second, because he is a maniac, impassioned and seemingly possessed with the lust to learn and figure out everything. He is both a specialist and a generalist; he goes against the grain of scientists who know nothing outside of their field. Third, he is both a scientist and an artist. And fourth, I must say again, he writes so beautifully and is so exacting at the same time that it takes my breath away.
For the first time, I have found a stranger whom I would sincerely love to share a meal and an evening with.
And fifth, I love him for saying this (from "The Emperor of Scent"):
"You'd think the ninety-nine percent would tolerate the one percent of us who are different, the weirdos, the fanatics, you'd think they wouldn't resent us so goddamn much. I'm prepared to live with those bastards! I don't want everyone to be like me! But they want everyone to be like them! "
This makes me think about the flap over "bittergate" and Obama perhaps being an elitist. The jokes about him inquiring as to the price of arugula. The current issue of Newsweek has a picture of both arugula and beer with the words "Obama's Bubba Gap" in between them.
Who am I? I love both arugula and beer. And by the way, it's very cheap and easy to grow arugula. I would imagine in Italy it is a poor man's greens. But somehow, here in America, it is something of a niche salad product, vastly overpriced for its ease of growth. The stuff is delicious (though my partner says it smells of cat piss).
I do not understand this country. Why should we want our leaders to be "just like us"? Shouldn't they be smarter than us? I'd like the president of the United States to be as smart and as educated as a person can be. But generally, those are not the types who are interested in politics. They are in universities. Obama came from this background, mixed it up with his previous background, sprinkled in some South Side Chicago and came up with a rare creature indeed. He is an original. This, I fear, is why people do not feel comfortable with him. He is not easily pegged.
Nor am I. Nor is Mr. Turin. Perhaps, depending on how things go, I may add Obama to my new list of heros. It feels great having someone, for once, to look to and say to myself, "There's how to live."
Photo notes: Luca Turin, Keith Richards, Iggy Pop and Iris Murdoch. At least Turin doesn't look ravaged (yet). And Irish Murdoch has passed away.
I originally had a cute little painting of beets and arugula at the top of this post, but realized I found the painting too trite for my taste and had to remove it.