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Declan Lynch's tales of addiction

 

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Brendan Behan

Brendan Behan

Brendan Behan

There is a kind of fragrance called Addiction, and there is Christian Dior Addict eau de parfum spray. Which is interesting.

I wouldn't be an authority on the art of the perfumier, but I note that the Addiction range seems to be aimed mainly at men, and features the Addiction One Man Eau de Toilette Spray, and the Addiction Oriental Musk Deodorant Body Spray for Men.

As for Dior Addict, we're looking at "a fragrance for youthful, free-spirited women who stand out from the crowd... the scent features lively top notes of aromatic vanilla and white floral on top of woody and balsamic base notes... wear it any time you want to make a striking impression".

It's interesting for a start, because addiction is generally regarded as a bad thing, even some kind of a disease. Yet there'd never be any chance of you dropping into the perfume counters of a department store to pick up a bottle of Influenza by Yves St Laurent, or Appendicitis by Giorgio Armani, or Tuberculosis by Calvin Klein.

Nor would you find spin-offs such as Alcoholism by Chanel, or Pathological Gambling by Hugo Boss.

So there seems to be a feeling among the perfumiers that 'addiction' may be a bad thing in general, but that it can have good things in it - not least an insatiable desire for certain kinds of perfume.

And perhaps there's a hint, too, in that line about the "youthful, free-spirited women", that those who are prepared to push things to the limit, and beyond, are the kind of people with whom these corporations wish to associate themselves.

But it is most interesting, perhaps, for the fact that at one level it is all very shallow, and at a deeper level, it hits some of the right notes - "lively top notes of aromatic vanilla", if you like.

There has always been this twisted glamour in addiction, this fascination at the way that certain people pursue their desire for drug-assisted liberation - almost a kind of admiration for the singlemindedness they display in their embrace of oblivion.

In this country, we have always had a weakness for romanticising alcoholics, if they are also very talented in some other way - Paul McGrath, Brendan Behan, and Luke Kelly are as greatly loved for their problems as for their powers.

And partly this is just our natural sense of compassion for people with problems bigger than our own, problems which eventually turn out to be unmanageable.

But there's something else in it too, that is harder to define - some kind of weird consolation that even if you're a genius, you can fall to the same depths as the most unfortunate among us.

It never feels like a healthy thing to me, this sentimental indulgence of our fallen legends. It's as if their addictions have brought them back down to our level, and we take some strange comfort in it.

So there is this aura that attaches itself to addiction of a certain kind, that of the beautiful loser. In rock 'n' roll, there has been this reverence for junkies, or rather for the great records they have made about being junkies - and yes, maybe just for the junkie-dom in itself.

Like the purveyors of Addiction perfume, we recognise that the obsession with drugs is a kind of a love affair gone wrong, with the same intensity - indeed, there is also Obsession eau de parfum spray, by Calvin Klein.

And it's like a doomed love affair, too, in the sense that the addict thinks it will open up everything for them, until they find that it's just complicating everything to the point of madness.

It's about your struggle to be free... and then to be free of the things that you thought would make you free, but didn't.

And there are, oh, about 50 ways of getting there.

Sunday Independent