Best book review opening ever

Perhaps my title’s a bit hyperbolic, but writing today’s other smell-related post got me fondly recalling my favorite sentence (and there was good competition) from Nicholson Baker’s 1997 essay collection, The Size of Thoughts, which is—with a few diversions—a string of celebrations of commonplace cultural objects, often starting at the point before the starting point: the smell of a fresh book, the friendly rattle of a model airplane kit still in the box.

This may be the funniest and best-smelling work of profound lexicographical slang-scholarship ever published. Some may respect the hint of Elmer’s glue in recent printings of Partridge’s Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (8th ed.), or the faint traces of burlap and cocoa-bean that linger deep in The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang, or even the fume of indoor swimming-pool that clings to the paper-bound decolletage of Slang!: The Topic-By-Topic Dictionary of Contemporary American Lingoes. But a single deep draught of J. E. Lighter’s magnificent Historical Dictionary of American Slang (volume I, A-G) is a higher order of experience: it smells like a high-ceilinged bare room freshly painted white – clean and sunlit, full of reverberative promise and proud of its mitered corners, although with a mildly intoxicating or hyperventilational ‘finish’…


Originally published at culture-making.com.

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