Under the late evening buzz of a few glasses of wine, a friend of mine often asks people, "If you had to lose one of your five senses, what sense would it be?" Most choose their sense of smell, assuming that it wouldn't affect their sense of taste. In her memoir, Remembering Smell (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), St. Paul writer Bonnie Blodgett might have another answer. After taking a dose of the homeopathic cold remedy Zicam, Blodgett was plagued first by rotting flesh phantosmia (phantom smells) and then anosmia (a complete loss of the sense of smell). Her memoir brings us into her downward spiral of weight gain (somehow the sense of smell is connected to satiety) and depression. Her feeling of being sensually adrift in the world drives Blodgett to a dogged pursuit of all there is to learn about what she has lost. She delves into not only the physiology and genetics of olfaction but the history, sexuality, and language of how our noses interact with the world. Her experience might make readers give a second thought before so easily (if metaphorically) cutting off their noses.
Fri., June 25, 7:30 p.m., 2010