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Four Wise Monkeys is designed to unite my desire to develop as a writer with my urge to blog. It is based around the proverbial Three Wise Monkeys, with the focus being on the human senses rather than moral principles. Each post will relate to a sense represented by a monkey: "See no evil, Hear no evil, Taste no evil, Smell no evil." My hope is that blogging in this way will encourage me to think of blogging as a kind of writing exercise rather than something to distract me from my writing.

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Four Wise Monkeys pebbles by Aimee Daniells.

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Saturday
Feb042012

Books

There’s a lady at work who smells books.

I relate to this enormously, but it’s so much her thing, so idiosyncratic, that I feel like I can’t admit to my own olfactory enjoyment of the printed page. I’ve occasionally been caught sniffing a particularly pungent book in the staffroom, but I feel like I’m treading on her territory, so I mostly keep quiet.

But I love the smell of new books. Even when I don’t like the specific smell, I love the fact that it does smell; that it’s rich in a dimension that was never intended.

When I was little, I had several Meg and Mog books. The pages had a distinct earthy scent, dense and cleanly natural. Occasionally I find this smell in other books, and suddenly I find I remember not only the stories but the situations in which I might have read them: sitting on a pastel green beanbag, for example (which also had a distinct smell) or on the carpet in the big bedroom that later became my brothers’.

The way books smell is something I enjoy for its own pleasure, but I love the gateways it gives me to lost memory. A few weeks ago, for example, I half-remembered another book I read as a child, about a cow that fell in a river on its way to a cheese market. This is a story I’d completely forgotten, but the smooth and slightly sugary smell in the pages of the book I was holding unlocked the memory for me: from nowhere, I remembered the pictures; part of the story; the fact that my mum didn’t like it.

Sometimes, I feel like I have a super power.

Monkey by Kieran Hazell (www.ownbeat.co.uk)

Reader Comments (2)

It's just like Proust 'à la recherche du temps perdu'; the taste and smell of Madeleines over tea suddenly unlock childhoodmemories head over heels...

February 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAstrid de Keulenaar

Exactly. It's amazing, isn't it? Who knows what's stored back there; only the right sensory comparison will unlock each box.

February 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJ Adamthwaite

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