The Talent Behind The Talented Mr. Ripley

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership today on Studio 360.

S2: Dickey is that kind of helplessly beautiful, destructive boy that you fall in love with before you realize you shouldn’t?

S3: The longing for status, beauty and comfort turns deadly.

S2: And when Ripley lashes out at him, it’s something you want him to die. But you’re ready for some kind of justice.

S4: Twisted reinvention in Patricia Highsmith Ripley series. Our next American icon.

S5: Plus, there are so many books kind of obsessed with fragrance and scent. So how about a fragrance obsessed with a book? As writers were always grappling with, is this dead and pointless? A novelist and perfumer creates a scent for us based on Toni Morrison’s masterpiece, Beloved. So to me, this is like a heightened form of fan fiction. That’s ahead on STUDIO 360 right after this.

S6: This is Studio 360. I’m Colonel. And I’m sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. First level of this was Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden.

S7: I’d like to have the roasted chicken piece. Very well done. Editing is all about timing. I tried to get a little bit away from the actual subject. You must get sick of your replacement. Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen.

S8: In 1955, Patricia Highsmith published The Talented Mr. Ripley, the first in her series of novels that follow Tom Ripley charlatan and a forger and a guy who kills his way into a life of luxury.

S9: So what did you actually do in New York? Staceyann On a few places.

S10: That’s one job. He told me. A lot of jobs. Few places and a few jobs. Mysterious. Mr. Ripley.

S11: That’s a scene from the film The Talented Mr. Ripley, starring Matt Damon as Ripley and Jude Law.

S12: It’s a good movie, even if it doesn’t quite do the book justice. The book is quite a bit darker and as novels do, has deliberately to spend lots more time on Ripley’s thoughts. His interior life Ripley is really one of literature’s great anti-heroes, kind of the prototype for Tony Soprano and Walter White and Stringer Bell. He represents the dark side of the American dream of ambition, untempered by morality or guilty feelings, and of self-invention taken to extremes.

S8: Patricia Highsmith, the author, thought of Ripley as her alter ego. The novel’s enduring and unsettling power is in how it really forces the reader to identify with this killer.

S11: For the latest in our American Icon series, The New York Times, as part of SIEGEL traces the backstory of this masterpiece and of its tormented, brilliant creator, Frank.

S13: You know why you can’t cut?

S14: And what would trip you up a motive in the early 1950s? Patricia Highsmith, young, brilliant, inspiring, self-destructive, was fresh out the success of her first book, Strangers on a Train to Feller’s Me Accidentally Like You and Me.

S13: No connection between them at all. Never saw each other before. Each one has somebody that he’d like to get up.

S14: So they swapped murders. Alfred Hitchcock loved the novel and made it into one of his great film.

S1: The other, Hitchcock and Hastings, shared a fascination with stories about doubles mistaken identities. Character is driven by desire and criminality. Characters confused by the difference between the two.

S14: His films, her novels. They stir a distinctive feeling. There’s something stylized in the crimes this stage.

S15: It’s not as if she were a maniac. A raving thing.

S16: She just goes a little mad sometimes something personal, something private.

S17: What draws you to those characters? What is it about them that you want to get to the bottom of? I mean, is it why they kill or why they’re violent? Yes, it’s always that. And maybe there’s some kind of violence in myself. I don’t know. Some people’s lives.

S1: That’s Highsmith on British television. Her most famous, most violent creation came to her the year after. Strangers on a Train. She was visiting Italy.

S18: Positano on the Amalfi Coast. At 6 a.m. one morning, she stood on the hotel balcony. A man was crossing the beach below from right to left. A solitary young man, she wrote in her journals in shorts and sandals, a towel slung over his shoulder. There was something strange about him, something and easy. Had he quarrelled with someone, she wondered what was on his mind. She would never see him again. From that distant glimpse, she found the basis she was later to save for her most unforgettable character. Thomas phelps’ Ripley. Tom Ripley. Secretive, talented Mr. Ripley.

S10: Everybody should have one tailor. What’s yours? Forging signatures. Telling lies. Impersonating practically anybody. Three. Nobody should have more than one talent.

S1: That’s a scene from the film The Talented Mr. Ripley, the first in Highsmith’s series of five books before the book is over. Ripley will have added a few more talents to his list, including murder.

S19: And as the Ripley series proceeds, over the years and decades, Highsmith’s own talents and obsessions come into relief. She has her own talent for occupying her characters. But was she really occupying them or was it the other way around? Patricia Highsmith always wrote her best, most brutal books when Unhappy in Love, usually with a beautiful, demanding woman, preferably blonde, preferably married when she wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley in six months. In 1954, she was entangled in a number of messy affairs.

S20: She took herself to Lenox, Massachusetts, Stockbridge, actually, and so perfect. Rented a cottage from the local funeral director. Where else would she go?

S1: Jones Shankar is the author of the biography The Talented Miss Highsmith.

S21: The minute Tom Ripley came to her and she said it was the easiest book she ever wrote. In fact, you know what? Let me tell you what she said about Tom Ripley. This is a direct quote from Miss Highsmith. No book was easier for me to write. And I often had the feeling that Ripley was writing it and I was merely typing.

S1: Highsmith shared Ripley’s talent for mimicry.

S22: Sometimes if the song on the radio was one that Tom liked, he merely danced by himself, but he danced as Dickie would have with a girl. Every moment to Tom was a pleasure alone in his room or walking the streets of Rome when he combined sightseeing with looking for an apartment. It was impossible ever to be lonely or bored. He thought so long as he was Dickie Greenleaf.

S21: She began sitting on the edge of her chair because she felt he was the kind of boy who would sit on the edge of his chair. She prepared for the way an actor prepares for a role. She prepared for it physically, mentally. And this is what she wrote. What I predicted I would once do, I am doing already in this very book that is showing the unequivocal triumph of evil over good. And rejoicing in it. I shall make my readers rejoice in it, too.

S1: When we first meet Tom Ripley, he’s a small time crook living in a cold water flat in 1950s New York. He swindles money from the old and the poor.

S21: He does it for fun. I think he’s practicing. He’s practicing his art. He’s learning to be Tom Ripley as he gradually scales the ladder of real criminal achievement to bludgeoning people to death with an oar and an ashtray. He’s learning as he goes.

S1: He has a chance meeting with a shipping magnate whose son and heir has run off to Italy.

S10: Did you ever conceive of going to Italy to persuade my son to come home?

S23: I’d pay you. A thousand dollars.

S10: I have always wanted to go to Europe, sir. Good. Now you can go for a reason.

S1: So he goes to the Amalfi Coast, the same place Highsmith had seen that young man walking across the beach, radiating unease. He meets Dicky and falls in love with Dicky, with his life, his clothes, his world.

S24: Dickie, is that kind of helplessly beautiful, destructive boy that you fall in love with before you realize you shouldn’t?

S4: That’s the novelist Alexander Chee. And then you just end up in this kind of awful complicity with him.

S25: Dickie said absolutely nothing on the train. Under a pretense of being sleepy, he folded his arms and closed his eyes. Tom sat opposite him, staring at his bony Eragon, handsome face and his hands with the green ring and the gold signet ring. It crossed Tom’s mind to steal the green ring when he left, it would be easy. Took it off when he swam. Sometimes he took it off even when he showered at the house. He would do it the very last day. Tom thought Tom stared at Dickie’s closed eyelids. A crazy emotion of hate, of affection, of impatience and frustration was swelling in him, hampering his breathing.

S1: Tom’s frustrated love curdles, it turns to humiliation. It turns to a desire to punish. It said that in Highsmith’s novels, when you expect characters to kiss, they kill.

S26: He wanted to kill Dicky.

S27: It was not the first time he had thought of it before. Once, twice or three times, it had been an impulse caused by anger or disappointment. An impulse that vanished immediately and left him with a feeling of shame.

S28: Now he thought about it for an entire minute.

S1: Two minutes, no sooner does the idea occur to him. Then he begins to consider how.

S28: But Dickey was such a good swimmer.

S27: The cliffs. It would be easy to push Dickie off some cliff when they took a walk, but he imagined Dickie grabbing at him and pulling him off with him and he tensed in his seat until his thighs ached and his nails cut red into his thumbs.

S29: Shooting someone is one thing or pushing someone off a cliff is another thing, but beating someone to death is. Well, it’s like strangulation. It’s very intimate.

S1: Terry Kassel’s a professor at Stanford University. She’s editing a new edition of Highsmith’s novel, The Price of Salt.

S29: She’s very interested in these techniques of two bodies colliding in space and there being some explosive and fatal result. And then, of course, she’s also interested in. What do you do then with the body? But I think she’s like Hitchcock in this way.

S30: In it, she is absorbed with questions of touch, an erotic touch, an exploratory touch, and also a harmless spiral touch.

S1: No sooner does he consider the deed than it is done.

S27: He sliced a Dickey’s forehead and a broad patch of blood came slowly from where the ore had scraped. For an instant, Tom was aware of tyring as he raised and swung. And still Dickey’s hands slid toward him on the bottom of the boat. Vicki’s long legs straight to thrust him forward. Tom got a bayonet grip on the ore and plunged its handle into Dickie’s side. Then the prostrate body relaxed, limp and still.

S1: Tom replies a quick study. He’s ambitious and a hard worker to set larceny and murder.

S21: It’s American pluck but perverse use the complete expression of the American dream. But the black backside of it, that’s how high Smith liked it. She turned it around and that’s how she saw things. She said always she saw things sideways.

S24: I feel like he’s like Dark Gatsby, like the Shadow Gatsby. Like if Gatsby had decided that Daisy really didn’t matter.

S1: She says it really belongs to a specific lineage of American characters.

S24: The American psyche is definitely in love with mimics. I suppose you could say Bugs Bunny is a kind of a Ripley clown. The way in which he would slip into various disguises to get away with what he’s getting away with, you know, the ability to pull off taking someone else’s place in this world. murka is really committed to the idea that you can reinvent yourself and that that reinvention can have a new life. The past won’t matter and won’t ever find you. You can be safe from it. And I think again and again, what we see is that the past comes back and has a price. It’s Gatsby, it’s Ripley, it’s Holly Golightly. You know, they represented definitely the early 20th century fantasy of a reinvention in different kinds of ways.

S1: Highsmith got her start writing superhero comics, characters who hid behind masks and alter egos. Pop culture today seems full of such stories, full of such men reinventing themselves. Don Draper on Mad Men, who himself assumes the identity of a dead man, a fellow soldier killed during the Korean War was killed.

S31: Well, they made a mistake. I present you with this Purple Heart medal. Who was behind private with whom you were the last person who knew him and his chain of command.

S1: We’d like you to take him home. And of course, there’s Walter White on Breaking Bad. He’s a nobody. When the series begins, a mild mannered chemistry teacher dying of cancer who remakes himself as a violent and powerful drug kingpin with a new identity, Heisenberg Danger.

S32: A guy opens his story, gets shot. You think about me now. I am the one who knocks.

S33: But Ripley was the prototype. I always thought it’d be better to be a fake somebody. I don’t really know, buddy.

S1: My funny and the complicated pleasure of the books is that we don’t watch Ripley work at a remove, but from inside his consciousness.

S34: I’m Hanya Yanagihara. I’m the author of The People in the Trees and A Little Life. I’ve often wondered if a truly moral person could read these books and enjoy them. And I think the answer is probably no.

S35: Yeah. Looks.

S36: Photograph.

S37: Yet your mind. Merkava.

S29: It may have been my mother suggesting that I read it. She was a big connoisseur of crime thrillers and suspense novels and murder mysteries. I have a feeling that the Highsmith’s and The Ripley novels were a bit too much for my mother. I remember asking her things about her as a writer. She would be somewhat pained, I think, thinking about her. I think in part because the psychological currents from the beginning, not just the talented Mr. Ripley, but strangers on a train and so on, were so palpably sort of deformed or something. You got the sense of the mind behind the story as not being like one’s own or not like that of most people, one knew the power.

S1: An unnerving pleasure of the books is in how we are made to merge with this particular mind.

S34: It is one of those funny psychological books in a way that very few people been able to write where you are complicit in your own manipulation.

S38: The wonderful thing about her is, you know, she’s not a showy writer. Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn. She’s a incredibly talented and lovely writer and wonderful with suspense. But she doesn’t do ornamental phrasing, you know, serves tougher than floury. And that’s what’s not sentimental. It’s very unadorned. And I think that actually is one of the reasons that she is such an effective thriller writer that she writes with this clarity and this precision that almost gives it a sense, you know, a really fine piece of journalism.

S1: If the book feels like reporting, it might be because Highsmith was writing from life.

S21: She was he and he was she. And there’s not much difference between them.

S1: Highsmith would sign letters with Ripley’s name. Her biographer, Joan Shenker says he was her alter ego like Ripley. She shared a deep shame about her humble origins. Like him, she was near fetishistic, but wearing the right clothes, living at the right addresses.

S29: She was from Texas, as I’m sure you know, and a sort of hard scrabble background, not a genteel world in any way. And her father was a sort of scoundrel who had abandoned her and her mother.

S30: And there’s a kind of simplicity in her storytelling, along with a kind of psychological starkness about how awful people could be.

S29: It isn’t literary. I think it’s coming really straight out of her unconscious or her memories of things that have happened to her that she sort of displaces.

S39: This was the end of Dickie Greenleaf. He knew he hated becoming Tom Ripley again. Hated becoming nobody hated putting on his old set of habits again and feeling that people looked down on him and were bored with him unless he put on an act for them like a clown, feeling incompetent and incapable of doing anything with himself except entertaining people for minutes at a time. He hated going back to himself, as he would have hated putting on a shabby suit of clothes. Gary spotted on pressed suit of clothes that had not been very good, even when it was new.

S29: She was an alien. I think she was very familiar with a kind of criminal mentality, kind of pathologically impoverished conceptual framework in which certain obsessive themes come back over and over and over again.

S30: The idea of spying on people, stalking people, being pursued by someone.

S29: These are tropes for her. And I think they come from a very, very deep sense of insecurity, of being neglected as an extraordinary child, as she was one source of this insecurity.

S1: Highsmith’s mother, she was the writer’s great love and great nemesis, a woman who like to tell her daughter about attempts at aborting her by drinking turpentine.

S21: And she used to say, you know, Pat, it’s so funny. You love the smell of turpentine.

S1: Shankar calls them tragic lovers.

S21: They could not bear to be apart. They could not bear to be together. Highsmith drove her mother so crazy. She drove her right into the arms of her psychiatrist named what? Dr. Ripley.

S1: Her mother’s remarriage sparked Highsmith’s earliest murders. Thoughts as a child, she regarded her stepfather as a rival. She later embedded her novels full of revenge fantasies and coded references. She’d kill off women named after her lovers. She’d kill off their dogs.

S29: She’s a queer writer. And that word really does apply to her in multiple senses now. And gay men and lesbians from day one of her career have recognized this in the book’s Highsmith’s fiction for the 1950s.

S1: The Talented Mr. Ripley. Strangers on a Train Price of Salt. The blunder are all in some way, according to Terry Castle.

S29: Books about the closet books in which you sense that they’re the person who is telling the story has something to hide.

S1: It’s just one of the paradoxes of Highsmith. She was a person with so much to hide and something to say. She was a woman with secrets who published more than 20 books across her career. She was a writer who lived in self-exile in Europe for much of her life and yet never stopped writing about America.

S21: She says American rattlesnake venom.

S1: A crime writer who in fact wrote something far stranger.

S21: They didn’t know what to do with her extreme strangeness. Her variations in style. The odd capacity’s she had for uniting the language of love with the language of Jack the Ripper.

S1: Tom Ripley gets away with it. Of course, as the novels continue, he continues to kill. He persuades others to kill in his name. All the while, he was comfortably in France living off tiki’s trust.

S40: But at what cost? Tom is talented.

S41: Secrets he doesn’t want to tell me. I wish he would. Tomas Nightmare’s.

S34: That’s not a good thing. There is something sort of in her own way, if not socialist and certainly anti-capitalist about Highsmith’s writing. The Ripley books in particular are about the costs of being self-made. They’re about they suggests that you can do it, but you’re always going to be on the run and you’re always going to be lying to yourself. And it takes literal murder in order to actually achieve the beloved American dream of moving up, of becoming rich, of outrunning your past.

S1: She was full of contempt for other people. She thought isolation, yet never stopped communicating. Never stopped trying to warn us. The talent Patricia Highsmith was to find a forum and a character that could contain all her contradictions.

S42: There is a running theme through all your work. An investigation of the sense of guilt. Nor does Ripley have a sense of guilt. Not in the usual sense.

S43: That’s the reason he is a bit different. I think now he’s killed something like eight people.

S3: PRL Sago produced our story and it was mixed by Pedro raphaela Rosano Studio 360’s American icons is made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. And you can find all of the American icon stories and listen to them at Studio 360. DORWARD.

S44: Bass notes are this scarce, wouldsay long lasting notes that tend to wear on the skin and stay on the skin.

S45: This is Thorney Nandini islam., perfumer and writer who, like all writers and all artisanal perfumers, lives in Brooklyn, New York.

S44: The heart note is basically the heart of the perfume and it’s the main story.

S46: And then for the top, you have the most volatile, easily evaporated notes that invite you, call you into the story. I think that it’s like the first flirtation into the story.

S45: Bunny has published one well received novel, Bright Lines, and is working on her second. But as a perfumer, she also concocts ephemeral stories of a kind for her fragrance and beauty business called High Wildflower. And we had heard that she recently experimentally merged those two parts of her life, creating sense scented candles, in fact, inspired by contemporary novels.

S47: We wanted to see and smell how that works, how she transmutes literature into a perfume.

S48: So we asked Thinny if she’d create a literature inspired scent just for us and walk us through that process.

S8: You may have read the book she picked Beloved, the 1987 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Toni Morrison, who died earlier this year.

S49: 1:24 was spiteful, full of babies and women in the house knew it, and so did the tilting. For years, each put up with the spike in his own way. But by 1873, Sam and her daughter, Denver. Well, it’s only victims.

S8: Beloved is a magical realist ghost story set in Ohio after the Civil War. It’s about this former slave named Seth, her daughter Denver.

S45: Her long dead, other daughter, beloved, and her complicated past.

S48: I went with Funny to her apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, so I could watch and smell as she created this literary perfume.

S50: Very intimate.

S48: We’re sitting at a wooden table where Thorney has dozens of glass bottles. They’re tiny. An ounce or so piece, some clear, some dark brown, all with black caps. Very old time apothecary. These are the concentrated since smell’s derived from flowers and trees in nature. In some of them, synthetic ones, chemical recreations of pretty much any smell imaginable.

S46: I need to just get in my zone for one second.

S48: She’s also got a stack of special paper strips that she uses to sample and sniff each scent, each note, as she says, putting a drop of the liquid on one end of the paper and then scribbling the name of that scent on the other end. As she builds toward the perfume, she’ll fan the strips out in her hand, adding new ones, removing others, and occasionally wave them under her nose to decide how they work together.

S47: So with this beloved scent, how do you begin?

S11: Do you? Did you read the book again?

S46: Oh, yeah. I wanted to read the book. I always have my little journals to write notes. And I was just like, I’m just gonna write down what touches me. And that’s it. And I literally just pay you to have a page of just old factory notes, because I want to not just make this out of my own ideas. I mean, I think the ego needs to kind of disappear when you’re making any work of art to let love in life. And so I was like, I just want to know what she had to say.

S51: As for the rest, she worked hard to remember as close to nothing as we say. Unfortunately, her brain was devious. She might be hurrying across a field, running practically to get to the pump quickly. And Vince, the cameraman said.

S46: So the first note that popped out of page six was she might be hurrying across a field and the sap from the camomile on her legs. And so I have camomile and this is blue camomile and you’ll see how blue it is because of the as you lean. It almost looks black. So Sadao sense of camomile is just so invigorating and intoxicating. But the sap you can smell is happiness of it, the sweetness of it, the honey. I mean, you want to eat it? Yeah, I like tea. So I wanted it. So that’s one note that came up for me.

S52: Nor was there the thing to scented or the cherry gum in Oak Park from which it was made. Nothing.

S46: As you’re reading it, Seth is really talented at making ink, so I really wanted to kind of get into the more woodsy notes. Ink would be made with like cherry gum, oak bark like things that are really thick and biscuits. So I have this blood red cedar. You’ll see how inky that is.

S53: And it’s just like.

S11: He’s most certainly has dangerous. It’s fine, but it smells like something that, you know, you see that color would have skull and crossbones on the bottle. Yeah, yeah.

S54: Given that, again, the nature, the overall nature of the novel, apart from individual scenes of running an academy, do. Did you begin and do you begin by saying, oh, there’s ghostly things that go on in this novel and you know, does that inform the sense you choose to make it?

S46: So I definitely walked away with wanting to create the sense of rain, mud, mothers, milk, blood. So those are the nuts. So whatever makes it smell like those four things is the perfume I got. Okay. So that’s where we’re going. So this is already having like a rainy, muddy, earthy Marmite. I’ll totally buy that, right? Yeah. So now let’s go in a different direction.

S55: And suddenly there was sweet rolling, rolling, rolling out before our eyes. And although there was not a leaf on that farm that did not make her want to scream. It rolled itself out before.

S56: And shameless beauty. It never looked as terrible as it was, and it made her wonder if hell was a pretty place to.

S46: So I have some grass options, so grass to me really evokes sweet home where she had been enslaved by the gardeners. So I have sweet grass and this to me has that kind of nostalgia. We don’t being the plantation. Yes. Has that nostalgic quality.

S54: Oh, that’s a very. I mean, this is the most completely pleasant scent wafted near me and so hard notes.

S46: So it’s a little bit lighter. You have more space where everything is classified as harder bulbasaur top. Yeah. And then there’s this one moment where her lover, Seth, his lover Paul. He had kind of escaped into Delaware, found this woman, the first black woman whose house he could get into and became lovers with her later when he saw pale cotton sheets and two pillows in her bed.

S57: He had to wipe his eyes quickly, quickly, so she would not see the thankful tears of a man’s first time. Soiled grass, mud, shucking leaves, hay cobs, seashells, all that he’d slept on. White cotton sheets had never crossed his mind.

S46: Paul Deezer describes the comfort of living in Hay as the only comfort he’d known before he understood what it felt like to sleep in some cotton sheets. So I was just kind of interested in finding something that would hinted that hay note because I think hay is a little bit more evocative as a scent, so.

S54: Well, that’s that’s natural. It’s hay. It’s it’s really hay like.

S58: Then she did the magic, lifted Seth’s feet and legs and massaged them until she cried. Salt tears.

S46: That really for me, when Amy Denver, the white woman who I guess is in dentures servant, she basically rubs Seth’s feet and makes her cry. And I was like, oh, the bomb of someone rubbing your feet when you’re beaten and being chased by evil white people and you need succor. And this woman is giving to this horrible woman who’s kind of racist to giving it to you. It’s really deep, you know. So I was like, we need to have that moment. So tears, I wanted to produce tears.

S11: So I have to accord’s a cord means like a cord, basically. Yes, Malcolm.

S46: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Do two to five. This is salt clean. I don’t really know what makes it clean. I love it. And this is dry salt. They’re not natural. They’re aroma chemicals. And this is sort of sweeter. What is it? That one. So we did salt, clean salt. And this is dry salt. So this is a little bit more dry on the nose.

S59: I had milk. She said I was pregnant with Denver, but I had milk from my baby girl. I hadn’t stopped nursing. When I set her on a hair with Howard and beuttler, anybody could smell me long before he saw me.

S46: It’s very hard to I mean, you can create milk and recreate but mother’s milk. But I wanted to kind of bring a different spin to it. So that is Jazzmobile lack, Don. So anytime there’s the word lack, Don, obviously in an aroma chemical, there’s a milky note, but it’s with Jasmine. So it’s this milky, buttery, black jasmine goofily buttery, waxy. I get that. This is a natural Islip called Gamma Dodik gulak Don. Kind of fruity. Yeah. And a little buttery. And then the carnival is experience that the three characters, Seth PALTA in Denver, have to kind of broker a peace accord between Polda and Denver. So this scene there’s so many notes in the in that section, you know, horse hound, licorice, peppermint lemonade, sweet bread, honey beeswax, molasses taffy. I mean, that’s all in a carnival. And when you go to a carnival, it does feel like that you’re like candied apples, funnel cake. So I think it really is one of the moments of levity in the book, The Happy One with Paul D.

S60: He said howdy to everybody within 20 feet, made fun of the weather and what it was doing to him, yelled back at the crows, and was the first to smell the doomed roses.

S46: And yet this under no tone of rotten roses.

S58: The closer the roses got to death, the louder the scent. And everybody who attended the carnival associated it with the stench of the rock n roses. It made them a little dizzy and very thirsty, but did nothing to extinguish the eagerness of the colored people filing down the road.

S46: So good. It’s like death is right there. So to me, the artificial rose, which is not as good as the real rose, I think has that kind of like overly ripe rose scent where it’s so good. It’s disgusting.

S54: So that’s a rose. That’s really nice. You know, I just wear that by itself.

S46: So this is the the one that really made me think, OK. Carnival brotton Roses. OK, so this is well, what you smell and tell me. I just like to know what people think when they. Mm hmm.

S54: It’s more it’s the smell cinnamon me and metallic and I don’t know. What is it?

S46: It’s honey accord. So this to me really draws in to beloved when she comes back as the spoiler. Spoiler alert. If you haven’t read it, please read it today. It’s her obsession with sweet stuff and honeyed things. So for me, honey milk, you know, mother’s milk, honey rose. That’s the heart of the story. That’s the beauty of this story. It’s a mother daughter story. I wanted to incorporate African notes to pay homage to the place where people were stolen from the notes that I have from Africa or African bluegrass. So I want you to compare that to the sweet, grassy American sweet grass. Oh, I love all these grass and hay. So that’s like my way of creating a little accord with the sweet grass to kind of bring Americans sweet grass and African bluegrass together. So then we take the salt and then you smell these three together and you’re gonna like that, too. Mm hmm. Yeah.

S61: You alter feeling and then you’re getting excited. Okay. I can tell you, this is a perfume I’m feeling.

S46: So then we want to deepen this because it’s a little too late and bright. So then we want to get this blood cedar. So getting this light bright grass, salt and it ends in this deep viscously cedar note. So then I’m going to add the mother’s milk component.

S48: Funny is building toward the first draft of her beloved perfume. She adds another set to the group and smells and then another and smells again until she’s got about 10 sticks.

S46: I think we got it. Okay. Hold it like that and just smell it.

S11: She hands me the bouquet of strips. I flip them around under my nose. And yes, all those very distinct components do kind of miraculously coalesce into a cohesive, complex scent.

S46: So that’s our perfume for beloved. Let’s grant.

S62: To me, the most salient factor that I’m going after is.

S63: The energy of the book, which is go surliness, ascension and to me, rain and mud and blood going to the materials evokes that, you know, we are as writers we’re always grappling with, is this dead and pointless, you know? So I think, of course, Miss Morrison’s work will never be dead and pointless, but does it live on in every capacity? So to me, this is like a heightened form of fan fiction, almost. You know, it’s just an old large to great ness and a book and a novel. But also like going sentence by sentence to extricate the most beautiful olfactory moments is like such a pleasure for me.

S11: You can find funny Nandini Islams fragrances, candles and other products at High Wildflower dot com and her novel Bright Lines at Bookseller’s. EXCERPT from the audiobook of Beloved were read by Toni Morrison.

S64: It’s starting to get chilly outdoors, at least here in these parts.

S65: So it is the perfect time to fire up the oven and grease the pans and bake something. Maybe lava cake or brownies. Something warm and toothsome and not dry. There’s a much better word for that. But it happens to be one of the most despised in English. The M word and our producer, Tommy Bezerra, and found a journalist, an essayist who thinks it gets a bad rap.

S66: I’m Sadie Stein. And my guilty pleasure is the word moist.

S67: There is a campaign out there to end the word. Oy, oy, oy, oy. Let’s say it again.

S68: Moist that word. Moist voice. Say the word choice. It’s a little cupid.

S69: Voice seriously stung, use the M word so many people around this building don’t like me as moist.

S66: I’m a writer and an editor too. And I think partially when you have to think about words and synonyms all day long, you develop certain appreciations for words that don’t have an alternative for an equivalent. And it’s the only thing that describes what it does. This banana bread is deliciously moist. This Grado is moist and mossy. If you look moist up in the sawhorse, you’ll find a lot of words, none of which really. Exactly. Describe the textural quality. Chewy. Completely different. Dense. You wouldn’t say, well, that that would be horrible. That would be undercooked. In the UK, they actually do have sin in them. So they say damp and they say say squidgy, which we don’t see here. But for a culture that claims to hate this word so much, we’ve done a really singularly poor job of coming up with any alternative.

S70: I think sort of the root of my love for the word moist is that my grandmother, who is not a good cook, she was sort of an actively terrible cook, would make for every single family birthday and celebration. This really 50s kind of concoction called wine cake.

S50: And it’s made from mix mix, the yellow part of our marble McPhatter and instant pudding.

S71: Goodness. And then you kind of soak it in a sherry syrup. So the end effect is really damp.

S66: And increasingly, as I started baking and cooking for myself. They’ve just happened to be the way I like it. And I know that such a personal thing. For instance, whenever I watch the Great British Bake Off, they will often look for a much drier crumb than I think looks absolutely the most appetizing.

S72: It’s basically it’s wet. It’s quite wet right on the slight soggy bottom.

S66: When I first started using the Internet to look up recipes, I would just, as a matter of course, look up moist banana bread, moist and chewy brownie. Moist turkey breast, wherever it was. I was so excited that here we have before us this entire Internet in which we could look up exactly the quality we wanted. And this was what I wanted. And then as often as I found things that matched my description, I would find various screeds insulting the word or people talking about how repulsive they found moist and how how the word made them shudder and how it literally made their their hairs on their arms stand up on end.

S73: And all this reaction I had never experienced in my life.

S70: And I remember I was at a concert on the Lower East Side and this couple started talking about how much they hated the word moist and they were laughing about it.

S74: And everyone joined in that kind of picking on it. Ganging up on. I kind of upset.

S73: ICICLE What would you say instead? And they didn’t have an answer.

S66: I said, do they want to live in a world where baked goods are dry and flavorless?

S73: I mean, I don’t I don’t want to live in that world.

S66: And then a couple of years ago, I saw that some linguists had done a research study. Why do people hate the word boy and Moist had actually been named the most hated word.

S75: This according to science. There’s a new study conducted by Dr. Paul Thibodeaux. He conducted five experiments over four years with approximately twenty five hundred participants. Wow. And people who were adverse to Moyse also responded similarly to words such as flem vomit, leading him to believe that the disgust is related in part to their association with bodily functions.

S73: It doesn’t evoke any disgust in me, but I do think maybe it had a little bit to do with our kind of prudery.

S66: I mean, anything that can be interpreted in a sexual way. People start giggling like they’re on a prank call. So that might be part of it. And you just don’t want to be caught out in the position of being the person making the unintentional double entendre.

S73: Maybe it’s kind of sex negative that we hate the word so much.

S66: Now, when I hear it, I feel a certain defiant protectiveness. I’d always been taught to stand up for underdogs, and this seemed to me like a really easy target.

S70: I should say I don’t want to have like a moist handshake or anything like that, but I just want the word to be in regular circulation. I want to be able to use it without feeling ashamed.

S76: Plus one. I have no problem whatsoever with Moist. That piece was produced by Tommy Bezerra. So what’s the thing that you love? That’s hard to explain or defend. Tell us about your guilty pleasure and we might feature you on the show. E-mail us at Studio 360 at PR, I thought.

S67: And that’s just about it for this week’s show. But before we go, I do want to remind you to check out our podcast at Apple or Stitcher or wherever you get podcasts. Studio 360 is a production of PRI Public Radio International in association with Slate. The production team is Jocelyn Gonzalez into Adam Newman. Sandra Lopez of Evan Chong. Lauren Hanson. Sam Kim. Zoe Saunders. Tommy Buis areas. Morgan Flannery. And I’m Kurt Anderson. He’s the complete expression of the American dream, but the black backside of it.

S77: Thanks very much for listening.

S8: Ah, Public Radio International. Next time on Studio 360, a glass hour featuring The Glass Menagerie. The Origins of mirrors.

S67: Philip Glass and Glass Buildings. Some of the most extraordinary designs have a poetry to them. How a little design school in Germany changed the look of American cities house at one hundred part of our glass our next time on Studio 360.