Unpleasant smells can actually enhance pleasure

Harold McGee’s Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells is an ambitious and enormous work. Indeed it’s so large, at 654 pages and weighing nearly a kilo, that I could only manage to read it at the kitchen table — which made me appreciate its wipe-clean binding. Its distinctive new-book smell (there is such a thing) contrasts mightily with the musty, familiar old-book scent of my study. As I walk through the house, I detect the not entirely agreeable whiff of last night’s wood fire in the sitting-room, but this gives way to the snap-to-attention aroma of just-made coffee, the fragrance of the sliced banana and apple in