Vendela Vida: “I need help finding smell in contemporary fiction — please help me.”
From Cynthia Ozick’s Heir to the Glimmering World: “I rode the bus to a corner populated by a cluster of small shabby stores-grocery, shoemaker’s, dry cleaner’s, and under a tattered awning a dim coffee shop vomiting out odors of some foul stuff frying.”
From Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s My Nine Lives: “…she leaned forward to kiss me, enfolding me in the warmth of her breath, her perfume, the smell and taste of the good strong coffee she drank all day long, even at tea-time.”
The first two lines of Walter Mosley’s Little Scarlet: “The morning air still smelled of smoke. Wood ash mainly but there was also the acrid stench of burnt plastic and paint.”
David Lodge, Author, Author: “pressed up against her sweet-smelling, gently yielding form in the dark”
Maggie O’Farrell, My Lover’s Lover: “…Lily finds a small office smelling faintly of wet coffee granules.”
And that’s all from first chapters.
Personally, my favorite smell passage that I’ve read recently comes from (of all people) Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: “High school teachers faced with a large group of students in study hall or a school assembly will tell you that teenagers, even when freshly showered and groomed, reek of the hormones which their bodies are so busy manufacturing. Any group of people under stress emits a similar stink, and Jake, with his senses tuned to the most exquisite pitch, smelled it here.”