À la Nuit (Serge Lutens)

At this moment, I am contemplating Georgia O'Keeffe's Cow Skull With Calico Roses (1931). A less sentimental still-life would be challenging to find. It's hard to imagine (though such a thing exists) Cow Skull on a coffee mug or t-shirt; however they monetize it, it defies commodification because it does not offer kitsch a foothold.

Milan Kundera defined kitsch as "the aesthetic ideal (of) a world in which shit is denied and everyone acts as though it did not exist... Before we are forgotten, we will be turned into kitsch. Kitsch is the stopover between being and oblivion." You would be right in surmising that he (along with E.M. Forster's dictum "Only connect...") influenced me to distrust kitsch and to seek the personal, the solitary, the brutally honest instead.

Read this review of Serge Lutens' À la Nuit by Normand Cardella of The Perfume Chronicles. Being intensely confessional (not to mention critical!) it can't be called kitsch writing, though it makes a case for À la Nuit being a kitsch perfume. I agree-- partway. I understand the point Normand's art professor was trying to make by deriding Canaletto's Venetian vedute as soulless, impersonal, lacking in that abstraction which indicates some kind of internal reaction on the part of the artist to what he or she is seeing. But all things being relative, aren't there degrees of abstraction, reaction, even -- gulp! -- kitsch? After all, you can smirk at any old piece of crappy novelty art and say, This is nothing; I've seen worse.

I have. Its name is Clair de Musc. Oh come on, I hear you saying. Clair de Musc is a perfectly nice fragrance. At least it isn't NIONA. To which I reply, AHA! You see what happened there? I tricked you into abandoning impartiality and got you to compare two things and find them inequal-- the exact antithesis of kitsch. That's just what I'm doing with À la Nuit. It might be (as Normand says) boring, but it's got more depth and dimension than Clair de Musc-- not a real Georgia O'Keeffe canvas, but at least a good-quality print rather than a greeting-card.

All would pale in comparison to the bona fide flower, of course. But we take what we can get.

Scent Elements: Egyptian, Indian, and Moroccan jasmine, green shoots, cloves, white honey, benzoin, musk