Sunday, April 22, 2012

Smell Books And Candles

When I was a kid, my sister Patti and my brother Bobby and I used to play the card game Authors.  I don't even remember when we got the game--probably Patti, the Future English Teacher At The Time got it for Christmas--but we played it like crazy for a long stretch of time.  We had the version pictured above, and the game is played like Go Fish

Like most kids who sit around together, we'd eventually get silly.  Pretty soon, we began to personalize Authors, changing the names of some of the titles and of some of the authors themselves.

The first change was poor Longfellow, who was immediately rechristened Santa Claus, for obvious reasons.  Shortly after that, my brother could be heard to ask in a game, "Do you have The Village Idiot by Santa Claus?" rather than for The Village Blacksmith by Longfellow. 

Pretty soon, every card had been customized.  Sir Walter Scott wrote Ken-L-Ration, Washington Irving wrote The Alhamburger, and Crossing the Bar was written by Mikhail Kuprikov, the drunk who lived on our street.  And let's not forget Nathaniel Hawthorne's masterpiece House of the Seven Betty Grables. 

So irreverent we were!  Is nothing sacred?  I can still remember the goofy faces Bobby made as he asked for The PickyWicky Papers by Charles Dickens.  There are probably still Cheeto smears on some of the cards.  It's terrible!  These authors should be honored and treasured...and...

Now you can smell like them. 

Okay, actually that's not entirely accurate.  You can "pay homage to the literary greats" by burning candles made with scents inspired by their works.  I found these candles at the bookstore last week.  My friend Sue and I spent many minutes sniffing and deciding which candles we liked, didn't like, and which ones made sense for the authors they represented.  Walt Whitman's scent blend of grass, thyme, and red clover is exceedingly appropriate.  We both loved the smell of Edgar Allan Poe's, cardamom, sandalwood, and absinthe, but while it smelled wonderful, I have issues with its authenticity.  It doesn't really represent Poe, and it perpetuates the myth of Poe's recreational drug/alcohol use.  Jane Austen, the only female author represented (how sad and silly, really), is signified by an overpowering floral melange of jasmine, tuberose, and gardenia.  Truly awful.  How could they ignore Emily Dickinson, for example, whose scent could have contained notes of apple, cinnamon, lavender, vanilla, or even caramel, which she loved to make, along with her pies and cookies? 

Belletristic Candles--an interesting gimmick. I look at the authors as of yet "unscented" and I think about what their candles would smell like.  I'm not sure they would care.  Each of them would be pleased with simply the flame--to know that, after so many years and so many eyes, their words still light the way.


  1. Delightful indeed. I had authors but no one to play with.

  2. Notice they didn't offer an Ernest Hemingway candle--sweat, tobacco, and bullshit.

  3. why, oh, why did I not think of this??! Fabulishious idea.

  4. AUTHOR CARDS: I loved those cards! Played them some with my siblings, but mostly with my Dad, who loved literature as much as he loved physics, and used them as a platform to talk about the books.

    AUTHOR CANDLES: I dunno. Too gimmicky for me, and, as you have pointed out, not always fair and balanced. Seems like the kind of token gift someone would buy for a friend who is a literature buff but who would really just rather stick to the books on their shelves than have their homes "smelling like authors."

  5. Ortizzle--It is very telling that neither Sue nor I bought a candle. True, I'm not a Candle Person (Rick used to be an estimator for a fire restoration co., and he became terrorized by it, so candles are a no-no here), but I found the prices laughable. I get the whole cache of handpoured, soy, blah blah blah, but come on! Purely gifty. Now the cards! I long for a set of the ones now lost. Who would I play with? No idea. So, on second thought, I'll just keep my Memories.

    Dbso--As of yet, no Composer Candles. You can have that. My regards.

    V-grrrl--LOL. I was going to add Rum, Fish, and Testosterone. Sigh. I do feel a bit of compassion for Hemingway, however. To end the way he did, bereft of his talent and know it, I wonder if I wouldn't feel like ending it myself, too.
    It's the age-old question, isn't it? Does depression beget great creativity or does creativity beget depression?

    Mage--Ah, well. True, Authors is not a game to play alone although a creative child--probably like yourself--could come up with alternative games using the deck. In my Google search a while back, I discovered a lot of different sets of Authors, and I never knew there were others! But for me, this is the seminal set.

  6. Mikey G.2:57 PM

    Is there an app for that? Just kidding. But seriously, I grew up on Nintendo. Different times.

  7. My brother & I used to play concentration (I think - is it where you put all the cards face down & then try to pick two of the same? I'm too lazy to look it up just now). ANYWAY - this card set would have been PERFECT for that - much more fun than the usual deck. And we could have lit our Harry Devlin candle - it would have smelled like broom straw & maple syrup :)

  8. Bug--Not being familiar with Harry Devlin, I zipped over to The Google. Fascinating that this children's author included recipes in his and his co-author's books. I also liked the fact that he wanted to rebel against all the overly-precious, happy children's books. Good for him! Kids like a little danger and mess.

    Mikey G--Low Blow. Really. Are you trying to tell me that I am losing part of my Audience? Sigh.

  9. Mikey G.10:49 AM

    Not at all meant to be a low blow at you. Perhaps more at society. Nowadays when kids are growing up with iPhones and iPads to play with during every spare moment, they won't have any idea how to pass the time without them. Boredom used to inspire creativity, and I'm afraid we might be losing that.

  10. Laughing - a lot - about Vgrrrl's comment.
    It makes a fascinating game, for sure. I am presently paring down a list for Austen, omitting all flower fragrances except lavender.... candle wax, starch and ink, maybe.
    Ooh, I could do this for hours - maybe while I catch up the ironing.

    For me, coffee, chocolate and (sob) tobacco.

  11. If you ever find a card set, you could play with me - :-D

  12. Mary G--If we could play Long Distance, I'd love to. I like your fragrance blend, perhaps if it were mild on the tobacco, and if the tobacco were unsmoked. Mine would definitely have a hint of basil, my favourite herb. It's so hard to find and then pare down complementary scents which are also meaningful. Quite thought-provoking, isn't it?

    Mikey--Boredom perhaps now inspires ingenuity--"apps for that!" Think if Someone designs an Authors Game app for iPhones. If Mary G. up North in Canadia (sic) has an iPhone like I do, we could actually play, and if Mage was similarly hardwared and softwared, she could, too! Of course, I would prefer their Real Life Company (along with a bottle of wine and some nibblies), but it would be a start.

    Your point is well-taken, however; I have made it similarly and often. It seems every time Rick and I take a car-trip, we see kids in minivans watching videoscreens. I lament the Death Of Travel Games and children simply looking out the window, watching changing landscapes or daydreaming or--oh no!--CONVERSING WITH EACH OTHER OR WITH PARENTS! What is happening to Us All?

  13. My brother & I loved Old Black Witch - we would read that book over & over. Mainly because she made pancakes for the kids :)

  14. I'm so horrified by the idea of candles inspired by authors, I don't even know what to say. I don't know why, but the idea RUBS.ME.WRONG.

    As to driving along with nothing, I have many fond memories of driving the hour drive back and forth to my mom's best friend's house, looking out the window at the trees and fields and stars. If you're trapped with strip malls, though, I'm not sure it would be as satisfying. (We do not, would not, WILL NOT, ever have a DVD player in our car. Shudder.)

  15.'m sorry to be the one to horrify you. They don't strike me as terrible, just a bit mercenary and extraneous. But then, I'm so old now that I find I'm not shocked or dismayed by much anymore. How sad, I know.

    As a kid, we took lots of car trips, and St. Patsy was the Pro at creating Kid Kits For Travel. We had coloring books, puzzle books, and we made little booklets ourselves of license plate states to check off as we found them. We counted cows out our sides of the car and when she said, "Time's up!" one of us was declared the winner. We always found stuff to see and make do with. And Dad always controlled the radio, and HE LISTENED TO HIS MUSIC, which was definitely not OURS. How did we all survive?

    ***SPECIAL NOTE***Today in the mail I received an early birthday present. It was a vintage set of Authors cards, with the same pictures as those above in this post. They were, I found out, from my dear friend and reader, Mikey G. Thanks again, Mikey. I love, love, love them.

  16. Kudos to Mikey G! Happy early birthday to you, Nance.

  17. j.@jj--Thanks, J. This May 3rd, I'll be 53! I'll have at least one more post up before then--I think Tuesday--but this birthday is not a big deal. Certainly no Milestone, and I was just chatting with Sam's girlfriend Kait and said I couldn't really think of anything I wanted or even needed in the way of a present. I know, how sad!

  18. May 3 is a Very Auspicious Day to be born. It is also my darling Ted's birthday. :-)

  19. I remember playing Authors as a kid, but we weren't so creative as your family. I'm sure the purpose of the game was, at least in part, to teach about the authors represented. All of the portraits on the cards (in your illustration) look familiar to me, but I doubt I absorbed anything about the authors from playing the game. The idea of candles to represent authors is just bizarre to me. What would Mary Shelley smell like? All I can think of is the monster's burning flesh. Or Bram Stoker ---would he smell like blood or bat droppings? I think I'll go and light a vanilla-scented candle to get those imagined scents out of my head.

  20. CJ--Some authors' lives are just as evocative as their books. Hunter S. Thompson's candle might be fun to speculate about. That being said, I do like to think about Emily Dickinson's, for example. She loved nature, loved taking the air in her family orchard, enjoyed baking for family, friends, and the children who walked by her home. It would be easy to formulate a scent with those proclivities in mind.

    J@jj--Hope Ted enjoyed our birthday!


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