I think smell is a neglected sense in fiction. We know about the smell of copper for blood at crime scenes and that dead bodies don’t smell good but there’s a myriad of scents in the world that aren’t included in stories.
Is that because smell is a more primitive sense connected to the limbic system instead of to the higher parts of the brain? Smells connect directly to our emotions. I have friends who hate the scent of flowers because it reminds them of a funeral they didn’t want to attend. A person might dab on a perfume she loves and cause an outbreak of nausea in a crowded elevator. I dislike the smell of gasoline but an ex-alcoholic friend tells me she relishes the alcohol scent in gasoline.
Every summer I’m reminded of the variety of scents in the world. Nothing else smells like a growing tomato plant. An apple picked from a tree in the garden is a different species from the shiny object in the supermarket. Healthy earth doesn’t smell like dirt. The garden after rain has a different odor from the garden wilting under ninety degree temperatures. Freshly cut grass has a pleasant scent whereas rotting grass can make a person gag. No matter how many equality laws are passed, male and female locker rooms will never smell the same.
The smell of apples cooking or of beef stew simmering reminds me of happier moments in my natal family. If people can tell me I’m wrong about the lack of scents in fiction, I’ll welcome the correction and look forward to reading stories that evoke the sense of smell.
Next Tuesday, I’ll be having surgery. All the odors I recall from the many years I worked in hospitals, I’ll experience as a patient.