Friday, 25 November 2011
So, if like me you love books, you probably share one of my fetishes - you can't help but sniff books. Yes, I Jonathan Oliver am guilty of browsing second-hand bookshops and, when I'm sure nobody is watching, grabbing a nicely aged paperback, opening the pages and inhaling that exotic perfume. Because, let's face it, second-hand books smell the nicest don't they? And each book does seem to have it's own unique scent.
I suppose this - like most strange habits - goes back to childhood. When I was a wee boy (you're going to have to use your imaginations to picture that, I know) my favourite book was, and still is, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and my mother used to read to me from an old 1950s hardback edition. I still have it, and burying my nose in those pages can instantly bring back that feeling of falling in love with the Weird for the first time. The book has an old, but pleasent smell that has something of a library about it but also, very faintly, there is also the naptha of mothballs.
The smell of books permeates my formative years - the many theology tomes scented my Dad's study at the vicarage when I was growing up with their academic and spiritual odours, the second-hand bookshop my friend used to run with its smell of horror and SF paperbacks, roll-up cigarettes and beer, is the smell of my teens. While books are what I do as a living, they are also my refuge and getting a few much-loved paperbacks down, flicking through them and being reminded by their smell of the happy hours spent perusing their pages is a comfort of sorts.
New books smell good too, but they don't smell quite so... I don't know, special. They haven't had the touch of many readers absorbed into their pages. For a book to develop that speical odour it has to have been around a bit. I know, to many that's going to sound a bit odd and maybe even a little bit creepy.
But I make no apologies, and I know many of my fellow readers share my predilictions. Now, if you don't mind I'm off to go and get a good whiff of a few 60s Zelazney's and maybe a quick sniff of a Lovecraft while I'm at it.
Till next time.