Monday, August 9, 2010

Elle Newmark’s The Book of Unholy Mischief : the story is history and suspense, but the book itself is a mystery. It…uh…smells good

There is a whole lot to say about Elle Newmark. Her PR coup, a virtual book-launching party that reached 500,000 people and netted her a prestigious agent and a 7-figure advance from the likes of Simon & Schuster, is legendary. I “met” her on Nikki Leigh’s blog where her uproarious “Better Late Than Early” article was posted. Finding we were the same age and both newly published, I shot off an email with sisterly congrats. She was packing for India at the time but answered me anyway. We had a few exchanges since, and I still frequent her blog.

As for the story, it immerses us in 16th century Venice. We live history through the eyes of an urchin named Luciano who is plucked from the streets by the head chef of the lavish Doges Palace. But in the midst of exquisite culinary details, we are caught up in a vicious search for a particular book of alchemy, said to contain the secrets of wealth, power, and life itself. Beautifully and cleverly descriptive, the story twists, turns, and finally emerges as a lasting testament to wisdom and truth. (That was excerpted from my own review of this book.)

But this isn’t about either of the above. It’s the physical book itself. It smells good. That’s right. It smells good. It filled the room with a mysterious, ethereal fragrance the second I pulled it from its wrapper. The hardcover binding was absolutely steeped in it. It’s not like anything I’ve ever smelled before. It’s a haunting, hypnotic floral incense type of thing. What the heck is it? I sniffed my way passed high-end department store fragrance counters. Nope. I ducked into candle shops, hobby shops, and boutiques. I even browsed extensively in a mix-your-own perfumery in the Bahamas. Nope again.

But never mind the what of the matter. It’s the how and the why. Is it some gimmick Simon & Schuster employs with its Atria imprint? I emailed Elle. No, she’d never heard of them doing that. Ever.

I contacted the Amazon distributor who shipped it. No, she hadn’t personally spilled anything on it and hadn’t noticed anything peculiar when she acquired it.

When I was at the Book Expo in NY back in May, I stopped by the Simon & Schuster booth and asked ‘em point blank. Why, no. They’d never heard of such a thing!

Could it have happened in transit? But there would’ve been stains and fragrance on the padded envelope, right?

Ah, well. One more deep inhale and I’ll return it to the bookcase. Some things are just meant to remain a mystery, I suppose…

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