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Remembering Smell Hardcover – 16 Jun 2010


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 245 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) (16 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618861882
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618861880
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 607,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

HardCover Pub Date: 2010 Jun Pages: 256 in Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt In November 2005 Bonnie Blodgett was whacked with a nasty cold. After a quick shot of a withpopular nasal spray up the each nostril. her nose was on the back of fire. With that. Blodgett-a professional garden writer devoted to the sensual pleasures of garden and kitchen-was launched on a journey through the senses. the psyche. and the sciences. Her olfactory nerve was destroyed. perhaps forever. She had lost her sense of smell. Phantosmia-a constant stench of every disgusting thing you can think of tossed into a blender and pureed-is the first disorienting stage. It's the ain's attempt. as Blodgett vividly conveys. to compensate for loss by conjuring up a tortured facsimile. As the hallucinations fade and anosmia (no smell at all) moves in to take their place. Blodgett is beset by questions: Why ...

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Book addict on 21 Nov 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very readable book about losing the sense of smell. This happened to me and I was desperate to read about other people's experience of this devastating and traumatic occurrence. Bonnie Blodgett describes it perfectly.The medical profession has a 'laissez faire' attitude towards it. I did not get much help. She describes how the loss of this primary sense affects one's whole world. She also writes very well, which is a bonus.There is a lot of medical information in the book, which I welcomed.She also writes very descriptively of the effect on herself and her family She recovered her sense of smell eventually. This book gives sufferers of anosmia hope. I can give no higher praise except to say non- anosmics would find it both informative, interesting and,yes, enjoyable.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 10 Jun 2010
Format: Hardcover
"When I lost my sense of smell, all those sensory cues (for romance and sex) vanished. Deprived of my husband's familiar scent, I sometimes forgot he was in bed beside me." - Bonnie Blodgett

One October day, Bonnie Blodgett began to experience a distorted sense of smell. All things, no matter what their normal aroma, began to smell as if a concoction of all things putrid put through a blender. An ear, nose and throat specialist she subsequently saw attributed it to the Zicam nasal spray she used several weeks before to combat a cold.

On the following Christmas Eve, Bonnie's sense of smell departed entirely.

REMEMBERING SMELL is Blodgett's account of her odyssey through an ordeal incomprehensible to most. Lost to her were the comforting scents of her home, the ravishing scents of her garden, and the familiar scents of her husband. Perhaps most devastating, the "tastes" of food were reduced to sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami; foods' flavors, now lost to her, are a function of olfaction.

At this point, I must digress for a long, though not completely irrelevant, paragraph.

In the summer of 2007, my sense of taste became distorted. I could, and can, no longer sense "sweet". What was sweet now tastes salty. Furthermore, whatever I eat, whether it contains salt or not, tastes salty. And after I eat, for a period of about 90 minutes, I experience a strong salty-sour aftertaste, and my lips seem as if coated in salt. Though I can still sense flavors, the taste of all foods is off. Though some foods may still taste OK depending on what they are, the aftertaste is a punishment that makes the exercise of eating not worthwhile except to ease hunger pangs. The neurologist and ENT specialist are stumped; an MRI of my skull showed nothing pathologic.
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By Benjamin Swanton on 11 Oct 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great Book; Opening narrative wooden and contrived; following this the book opened out into a tremendous exploration on the world of smell.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 31 reviews
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
Really hits home. 23 April 2010
By nom de femme - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I think the book REMEMBERING SMELL is going to appeal to a rather small section of readers, mostly from the minute segment of the population that has experienced the loss of the sense of smell. The author does cover, rather extensively, the science of olfactory loss (neutralized a bit by including a lot of anecdotal evidence and personal opinion). But I thought Blodgett didn't devote enough space to the far-reaching emotional impact of the loss of this particular one of our senses. I'd like to share a personal "take" on that aspect of the loss that REMEMBERING SMELL touches on.

We don't think about it when everything is functioning properly - our early warning system, the ways we protect ourself, the ways we grieve, the ways we love: sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch. Like the blind girl in "A Patch of Blue" who could remember only what a small piece of sky looked like from her sighted days, I have a memory of only a very few scents from my childhood. I remember what the lilacs on the fence outside the kitchen door smelled like; I remember the smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree and the smell of the fur on a kitten's throat; and I remember the smell of baby powder because my little brother, celebrating his fiftieth birthday this July, was born the summer I lost my ability to smell every blessed thing on earth. I was eleven years old.

Probably the result of a botched tonsillectomy, it started (or rather ended) when I woke up one morning to the overpowering stench of burning rubber everywhere I turned. We were on vacation in New England and all day I hung my head out the car window, saying, "Eew! What IS that?" The stench stopped within a day or two, but it heralded an incalculable loss.

During my teenage years I tended to overdo the use of mouthwash and deodorant for fear of offending, convinced people were holding their nose behind my back. It was a fear I lived with constantly, possibly a result of being met with revulsion on the couple of occasions I had lovingly cooked spoiled food for my family, or walked around with cat poop on my shoe because I couldn't smell anything amiss. So I gargled and splashed, and I wish I had a dime for every time my Mom told me I had on too much perfume. Later, at work, I was the person chosen to wait on the smelly customers because I could do it with a straight face. My coworkers would occasionally play bad jokes on me, a favorite being someone silently breaking wind while standing next to me, then walking away and leaving me in a stinking cloud I had absolutely no hint of. In a way, this was the comic equivalent of moving a footstool into the path of a blind person. I refused to lose my sense of humor about it.

When I was pregnant with my first child I read that the very first and most important step on the path to successful bonding was triggered when the new mother caught her baby's particular scent. Well, so much for successful mothering I thought. But from a practical standpoint, the things I couldn't smell really did matter. My own mother could smell when one of my children had a fever - I could not. Everyone else knew the minute a diaper was ripe - I did not. And when I lost my son just after his 24th birthday and was sitting shell-shocked in his room with his little sister, she picked up one of his undershirts, held it to her nose, said, "It smells like him," and burst into tears. At that moment I might have traded my soul to the Devil to have known my son's scent and been able to experience it when everything else about him was gone. When my mother passed away some years later and I was clearing out her house, my daughter would pick up a scarf, a box of tissues, a pair of gloves, put it to her nose and say, "I always know when you've brought something of grandma's home," and the sweet melancholy in her face made me ache for that connection. My mother, who was always forgetting and holding something out to me saying, "Doesn't this smell good?"

I've learned not to try to make people understand what I mean when I say, "I have no sense of smell." They think I'm saying I can't smell as well as the next person, not that my sense is just totally nonexistent. In December I lost one of my horses, the one dearest to me, and it was my lack of a sense of smell that killed him. When Sundance finally started staggering around from the diseased internal organ that ended up killing him, and I called the vet in, he took one whiff and, waving his hand asked incredulously, "Do you not smell his fetid breath?" I shouldn't have, but I felt every bit of the guilt implied in that one question, and as he was being euthanized, I knelt beside him whispering over and over in his ear, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

There are far more serious challenges to the "unscented" than unexpectedly chugging back a glass of sour milk, or eating something that has taken a bad turn in the refrigerator. Things like being unable to know if ones house is on fire without visually detecting smoke - a fear that has caused me to lose sleep on several occasions. But it is important to come to grips with, and work within the limitations of Anosmia. You must refuse to let it diminish you. And that, I think, is a philosophy I share with Ms. Blodgett.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Sloppy book, but compelling for those who've lived it. 2 Jun 2010
By Stephen Foster - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I see from some of the other reviews that the audience for this book is rather self-selecting. Given how low in importance the general population rates the subject matter, that's to be expected.

But for fellow sufferers, and the people who care about them, the book is compelling, eye-opening. It's a shame that it's so sloppily edited: the author needed a sit-down with a good editor who would ask her what kind of book she intended to write: a personal memoir, a disease-of-the-week sob-fest, or (nudge, nudge) a story about a woman fundamentally affected by a little-understood and lightly-regarded medical catastrophe, and how she educated herself and came to terms with it. This is an interesting woman, so if you can good-humouredly put up with the occasional personal digression, you'll be fine. If you're a fellow sufferer, you'll quickly get hooked because you'll find familiar "friends" in here, like phantosmia: the brain's initial response to anosmia by creating strong unpleasant smells out of thin air. Did you know there was a word for it? I certainly didn't.

The real value in the book is how doggedly she did the research, how much thought she has put into how the condition affects her, and how competently she lays out some of the many non-obvious consequences of anosmia, including depression and reduced libido. If you are a fellow-sufferer whose approach to the problem has been like mine - just soldier on and think about it as little as possible - you might also find something familiar in here that will knock you sideways, like I was when she mentioned that she no longer reads fiction. Reads fiction? What POSSIBLE connec... but it's there, if you crawl inside your head and look for it. This lady did, then wrote about it, and my last 25 years suddenly became a little clearer to me.

She doesn't use the word, but what she describes here is a debilitating condition that has quite a bit in common with autism: sufferers are permanently cut off from several realms of human interaction. In short: anosmia stinks.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A loss not to be comprehended by most 14 April 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"When I lost my sense of smell, all those sensory cues (for romance and sex) vanished. Deprived of my husband's familiar scent, I sometimes forgot he was in bed beside me." - Bonnie Blodgett

One October day, Bonnie Blodgett began to experience a distorted sense of smell. All things, no matter what their normal aroma, began to smell as if a concoction of all things putrid put through a blender. An ear, nose and throat specialist she subsequently saw attributed it to the Zicam nasal spray she used several weeks before to combat a cold.

On the following Christmas Eve, Bonnie's sense of smell departed entirely.

REMEMBERING SMELL is Blodgett's account of her odyssey through an ordeal incomprehensible to most. Lost to her were the comforting scents of her home, the ravishing scents of her garden, and the familiar scents of her husband. Perhaps most devastating, the "tastes" of food were reduced to sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami; foods' flavors, now lost to her, are a function of olfaction.

At this point, I must digress for a long, though not completely irrelevant, paragraph.

In the summer of 2007, my sense of taste became distorted. I could, and can, no longer sense "sweet". What was sweet now tastes salty. Furthermore, whatever I eat, whether it contains salt or not, tastes over-salted. And after I eat, for a period of about 90 minutes, I experience a strong salty-sour aftertaste. Though I can still sense flavors, the taste of all foods is off. Though some foods may still taste OK depending on what they are, the aftertaste is a punishment that makes the exercise of eating almost not worthwhile except to ease hunger pangs. The neurologist and ENT specialist are stumped; an MRI of my skull showed nothing pathologic. Before this distortion took hold, I'd lost 30 pounds from frequent visits to the gym. Since that 2007 summer, I've lost an additional 30 pounds because I no longer snack between meals. At 145 pounds with a normal blood pressure, cholesterol, lipid profile and body mass index, I'm perhaps the fittest I've been since I was a teenager. Yet, that fitness comes with the realization that I shall likely never again fully enjoy fresh peach pie in season, chocolate chip cookies and milk, ice cream, hot chocolate on a cold day, blueberries, melon, a Cadbury bar (my favorite brand!), cheesecake, sweet iced tea on a hot day, and fruit juices - and so many things in the bakeries, shops and supermarkets that I now turn away from. I have to learn to enjoy (as much as possible) foods as they are, not as they once were.

Though my malady isn't quite the same as Bonnie's, I can relate. Oh, I can so relate.

Besides being a narrative of Blodgett's personal loss, REMEMBERING SMELL is also a discussion of the physiology of olfaction and smells' importance in the world we live in - as memory prompts, as an essential part of the eating experience, as elements of literature, as a way of marking territory, e.g. by dogs, as a possible explanation for the action of pheromones, as cultural metaphors for the sensual passions, as discovered in foreign places, e.g. in a Casablanca bazaar, and as the fundamental component of perfumes. And it's an indictment of the makers of Zicam nasal spray, a product now removed from the marketplace.

REMEMBERING SMELL is a fascinating look at a sense - one of the five - that most take for granted. Except that Bonnie's discussion of the science surrounding the topic is sometimes on the dry side, I'd otherwise award 5 stars. Four smells about right.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Disappointing & Dull - An article size story stretched into a book 15 April 2010
By K. Salinger, MSN, FNP, RN AHN-BC - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was really expecting to enjoy this book. Instead, I was sorely disappointed and had to struggle to finish it. This should have been an article in a magazine - there is not enough actual material for a book. This becomes overly apparent when encountering masses of filler throughout the book.

The author has a writing style that is overly detailed about irrelevant minutia (which was surprising, as she claims to have been an editor at one time). For example, does the reader really need two paragraphs worth of clothing description for her daughter when they pick her up from the bus station? How is this relevant other than filler to stretch the story into a book? She tends to do this through out the book and I found my interest in the story waning only a few pages into the first chapter because of it.

This is essentially a mix of the author's experience (small amount of the content here), her rambling thoughts, feelings and impressions (too much content here), overly-descriptive, page filling details of irrelevant events (way too much content here)and details about what she found when researching the physiology of the sense of smell and the history of Anosmia and related olfactory disorders (likely too much information in this area for the casual reader, although she does a reasonable job describing the physiology in layman's terms).

Something else that gave me a very negative impression was lack of balance when researching or commenting about various drugs, foods and other substances that a person might ingest. As with all things, there are both good and bad products/people/practitioners in natural medicine, just like there are good and bad products/people/practitioners in conventional medicine and pharmaceuticals.

I was disturbed by her willingness to so easily condemn homeopathic remedies, yet she has no problem taking a slew of pharmaceuticals which all have olfactory disturbances as potential adverse effects....Antidepressants (tricyclics and SSRI's) and Benzodiazapines (anti-anxiety) pharmaceuticals, in addition to antihypertensives and other pharmaceuticals. She freely admits these can be a causative factor of olfactory disorders, yet glosses over their potential as primary or additive causative factors in her disorder.

I'm not saying that Zicam was safe and not the cause of her problem, but she presents anecdotal speculation as though it were fact. She's happy to imply the credibility of homeopathics are all questionable yet does so without considering the reams of studies showing the adverse effects of pharmaceuticals as well.

Unless you don't mind listening to someone who has no ability to edit their commentary don't bother with this book. You'd need to be utterly fascinated by every detail of this woman's thoughts and feelings, combined with wanting to know even the smallest details of her research on olfactory senses (yet without expectation for an equal level of research on anything else she comments on in the book)Her balance is sorely lacking.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
More chore than pleasure 19 April 2010
By Judith Paley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Unlike Ms. Blodgett, I hardly give my sense of smell any thought at all. Now that I've waded through this more or less interesting book, I am both intrigued by what life would be like if I had been blessed with keen olfaction and puzzled by the depth with which Blodgett mourns the loss of same.

Certainly thought-provoking and fascinating at times, this book, unfortunately, is more parts tedious, disjointed, and downright dull. Like other memoirs I've read that segue back and forth between the personal and the scientific, "Remembering Smell" is rendered graceless and rambling in the author's attempt to interweave her experience with scholarly discourse. It was, in fact, both a non-fiction book, many pages of which left me lost and confused, and a memoir that left me thinking "Whoa, that's way too much non-smell related information about the Blodgett fam.
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