Sheila Eggenberger’s debut novel, Quantum Demonology is a raucous romp through the world of supernatural forces that have attempted to claim our measly planet since time immemorial. Woven through her tale are invisible strands of perfume and metal music, forming a unique backdrop of sensuality and divine darkness. Part personal theology, part dialectical critique, part mythological collage, part “anarcha feminist” commentary, part metaphor for mid life crisis along the lines of Dante’s Divine Comedy, the protagonist in this novel within a novel bares it all: her her body, her soul and her aspirations. No detail is spared and her language seeks to capture the essence of the unknowable.
The novel moves at a filmic pace with quickly changing events, characters and places presented through the lens of a deft cameraman/writer. Not only do we meet the Devil and his angry wife Lillith, but God and his wife, St. Peter, Leviathan, Asmodeus, the Angel of Death and some other world class deities. The human cast includes a best friend, past lovers, frenemies, a psychotic editor and a few select rock stars. Much of the action takes place in the author's home town of Copenhagen, in particular a club called Alcatraz where the protagonist has a cult following for her karaoke performances. Once she accepts the Devil’s Faustian offer, we’re off on whirlwind journeys to hell, heaven and back through the door of a house in Brooklyn. We also get to stay in Room 822 at the Chelsea Hotel, very different from the demonic Room 237 in the Shining . . .
So what do we learn about the Devil? He takes on the human form of a notorious rock star (minus the tats), wears black, hides behind aviator shades and announces his presence through a labdanum rich perfume. As the keeper of negativity he tends to have a bad temper and is prone to bad behavior as well. But there are other aspects to his character that are revealed as the novel progresses which provide insights into the pathos of his situation that only our heroine is able to rectify. The source of his malady is Lilith, his estranged wife and her scheming son Asmodeus. This is not the Midrashic Lilith, Adam’s first wife as presented by Theodore Gaster in his World of Myth class at Barnard College, nor Ashmedai who may have been the source of the Merlin character (the subject of my term paper), but a vengeful harpy surrounded by her Succubi who threaten to unleash hell and devour the world.
Our protagonist is seduced by the devil into saving the world and the instrument of her seduction is his fragrance. Having consciously married a man for his scent and quit a job because of chronic halitosis, this comes as no surprise. So why not save the world? The key ingredient in the Devil’s perfume is labdanum, a note that can be incensy, leathery, animalic, sweet, rich and ambery. It is an ancient aromatic that is still harvested using the traditional method of combing the Cistus creticus or ladaniferous resin from the beards of grazing goats, the symbol of the horny one himself. This method is so old that it was incorporated into Egyptian pharonic iconography. Descendants of Neolithic goat herders, Egyptian pharaohs built their wealth and subsequent power through the labdanum trade and were subsequently shown sporting the crook (symbol of goatherder), flail (actually a ladanesterion used to collect labdanum directly from the plant) and beard (made with goat hair and stuck to the chin using labdanum). The crook, flail and beard were also associated with Osiris, the god of the underworld and the dead, or the Egyptian equivalent of Eggenberger’s “Dev”.
Eggenberger is not only a creative novelist with an amazing command of the English language (like Nabokov), but is known amongst Perfumistas as “Tarleisio”, the author of a perfume blog called “The Alembicated Genie”. There she undertakes the supremely difficult task of writing engaging reviews of perfumes and has a dedicated following that includes yours truly. The origins of The Devilscent Project took place through this venue as a collaboration with the perfumer Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids. The project has now expanded to become the DevilScent Project where six perfumers have been invited to create perfume interpretations of the novel as their brief. A number of bloggers have also been invited to review these fragrances and The Architecture of Perfume is proud to be part of this interdisciplinary effort.
There have been a number of perfume themed novels recently that have launched dedicated fragrances, but this is different. It is a rare opportunity for dialogue to inform the collaboration between the artists and writers who are working at their own expense. Already perfume modifications are being sent back and forth for evaluation and the results are being recorded through various blog posts. In the coming months I look forward to helping define this interdisciplinary collaboration that is being democratically moderated by Sheila Eggenberger. I always dreamed something like this would happen when I was working as an architect, but now it seems it will unfold for me as a perfumer/critic, and you can be a part of it too. How exciting is that?!
Quantum Demonology, chapters 1-13:
Quantum Demonology on Facebook:
QD on Twitter:
Ellen Covey, Olympic Orchids
Kedra Hart, Opus Oils
Neil Morris, Neil Morris Fragrances
Amanda Feeley, Esscentual Alchemy
Alexis Karl, Scents by Alexis & Cherry Bomb Killer Perfumes:
Maria McElroy, Aroma M:
Katlyn Breene, Mermade Magickal Arts:
The Alembicated Genie
Perfume Smellin' Things
The Perfume Pharmer
The Perfume Posse
This Blog Really Stinks
Beauty on the Outside
Redolent of Spices
Another Perfume Blog
The Muse In Wooden Shoes