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Articles by Elisa Gabbert

OLM Favorites: The Madwoman and the Critic

December 1st, 2017
OLM Favorites: The Madwoman and the Critic

On Kate Zambreno’s Heroines and the crime of dismissive criticism in both Bookforum and The LA Review of Books.

The Very Edge of Fiction

August 1st, 2014
The Very Edge of Fiction

Ben Lerner has followed his breakout novel Leaving the Atocha Station with a metafictional tale of a second-time novelist trying to throw a book together. Is it more than a game?

Title Menu: 10 Books that Might be Poetry

April 1st, 2014

Are these 10 books collections of “poetry”? Does it matter? “As poetry” is the best way to read these hybrid titles.

On the Scent: An Interview with Alyssa Harad

July 1st, 2012

The author of Coming to My Senses in conversation with our own example of a very special breed of aesthete, the perfume lover.

On the Scent: Adventures in Perfume Layering

April 1st, 2012
DSquared HeWood

You choose a perfume, you apply it, and you let it live and breathe on your skin – but you never, never mix and match. Or so goes the conventional wisdom. Our resident maitresse de parfums begs to differ – and shares some interesting discoveries

On the Scent: A Dip in the Mainstream

December 1st, 2011
Perfume Testing

Our resident nose slows down in front of a perfume counter and stops to smell what’s selling

On the Scent: A Certain Vintage

October 1st, 2011

Our resident nose racks up facts on the tinctures of yesteryear, many of which still prove possible to capture and some of which are well worth sniffing out

On the Scent: Materialism

July 1st, 2011

Where does perfume come from? Why, from isolated islands, Indian grasses, and sticky beards of goats and sheep. Our resident perfume critic digs into labdanum, vetiver, and galbanum and lets us know where grows the nose.

On the Scent: The Odorants in Deodorants

May 1st, 2011

Our resident nose sniffs those most populist of perfumes: the ones we rub under our arms. Join her on a guided tour through the pharmacy aisle.

On the Scent: The Naturals

April 1st, 2011

It seems a given that natural scents would be preferable to synthetics, but might it be that our our perfume biases are too simplistic?

Learning to Read Perfume: A Talk with Chandler Burr

February 1st, 2011

Our poet of perfume and the curator of the brand new Center of Olfactory Art discuss why perfumes demand to be smelled and why “perfume is the only art form in which Americans are more illiterate than poetry.”

On the Scent: Auteur Theory

December 1st, 2010

The great lie of the perfume industry is that the scents you wear are created by the designers that brand them. In fact perfumers with signature styles are behind those scents, and Elisa Gabbert gives them some overdue recognition.

The Scents of Memory Theater

October 1st, 2010

Music and photographs can stir memories, but in the world of scent, only a single molecule — a single note — is needed to take us deep. In this installment of her regular column, our author waxes on how the Eighties and Nineties smelled.

On the Scent: Difficult Pleasures

September 1st, 2010

Our regular scentstress extols the difficult: sharp notes, throwbacks, and sweaty musks over easy patchoulis and fruity bores.

On the Scent: The Smell of Money

August 1st, 2010

What are you paying for when you buy an expensive perfume–better materials? A longer-lasting scent? Placebo effect? Our regular perfume columnist sniffs it out.

On the Scent: A Dozen+ Roses

July 1st, 2010
this one

Roses: they might have smelled sweet to Shakespeare, but what did he know about the perfume industry? Our regular olfactory column takes on the biggest scent cliche of them all.

On the Scent: The Forbidden Fruit Note

June 1st, 2010

In this installment of our new feature, Elisa Gabbert sniffs out the now-unfashionable subject of ‘fruity’ scents — wherefore their disgrace? and are the critics in error?

On the Scent: Five from Sonoma Scent Studio

May 1st, 2010

From ancient Egypt and Rome to the present, humans have always been fascinated by perfume; a new feature looks at the craft and aesthetics of making scents.

Real Fake Flowers

February 1st, 2010

Karl Parker’s moves are more than merely clever: I-less one minute, present & friendly the next, he darts behind masks and speaks IN BOLD, as our contributing editor discovers in her review.


December 26th, 2009

Maggie Nelson
Wave Books, 2009
Maggie Nelson’s Bluets starts with its worst sentence: “Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color.” I am suspicious of this sentence; I find …


April 26th, 2009

April Bernard
W.W. Norton, 2009
Most of the poems in this collection, the fourth from April Bernard (whom W.S. Merwin deems “brilliant” on the flap copy, a poet of “power and ambition”) are rather lovely—and at …


April 1st, 2009

by Chelsey Minnis
Wave Books, 2008
Chelsey Minnis is something of a poet’s poet, and to certain readers her third book, Poemland, will come off as undisciplined, even ridiculous. But to readers who want to be in …

Satellite Convulsions

January 26th, 2009

Satellite Convulsions
Tin House Books
In Satellite Convulsions: Poems from Tin House, Portland’s Tin House Books has released an enticing anthology of contemporary poetry: It’s got one of those nice paperback covers with page-marking flaps, proclaiming contents …

Like Life

January 1st, 2009

The lyric I and the lyric eye are in play and in question in Stephanie Young’s second book, Picture Palace. Elisa Gabbert illuminates its pitfalls and its charms.


September 1st, 2008

The Beach House, by Jane Green

State of the Union

August 8th, 2008

State of the Union
Eds. Joshua Beckman and Matthew Zapruder
Wave Books, 2008
There are many things I like about the new political anthology from Wave Books, State of the Union. I like its size–very manageable at just …

Quaker Guns

May 8th, 2008

Quaker Guns
Caroline Knox
Wave Books, 2008
Caroline Knox is a serious goofball. In Quaker Guns, her sixth and latest book of poetry, her over-the-top whimsy pays off more often than not, sometimes with big dividends.
Though Knox’s poems …

Human Resources

May 4th, 2008

Human Resources
Rachel Zolf
Coach House Books, 2007
Having read a little about Human Resources, I suspected I might “get” the project pretty quickly and not need or want to finish the whole thing. It combines corporate language …

Two from Tarpaulin Sky Press

March 1st, 2007

Elisa Gabbert examines two genre-expanding books of poetry by Jenny Boully and Max Winter.