‘She sounds the way bananas taste.’ So said Truman Capote. And I empathize with him. Was he a synaesthete? I think the poet Arthur Rimbaud was. ‘I invented the color of vowels. A is black. E, white. I, red. O, blue. U, green.’ Alexander Theroux listed things that he felt seemed yellow: ‘maiden aunts, gumdrops, diffidence, the letter H, all women’s poems (except Emily Dickinson’s, which of course, are red), lewd suggestions, debt, the seventies, Nat “King” Cole’s song China Gate, sadness, the Yale English department faculty, the name as well as the country of Brazil, August, the House of Congress, the word “hills”, lampshades, physicians, insurance agents, the thin, squealing noises of children in playgrounds, political compromise, the state of Nebraska, illness in general, old wagon wheels, whispering, and the vapid name Catherine.’ (Picador, London 1995).
For the General Election in the UK last year, James Wannerton who has lexical-gustatory synaesthesia, teamed up with the artist Sam Cornwell in The Guardian to show how each political leader tastes. I liked the Lib Dems flavor best because they’re ‘exactly like rubber bands, with a drizzle of yoghurt.’ I see what he means. Oranges taste blue to me. And sometimes kisses evoke thoughts of pear drops. Uh-oh Kayla. Did you know that our tongue is only sensitive to sweet, or sour, or salty, or bitter flavors? Course you did. Paradoxically, sensations of taste are created through smell. But the majority of our sense receptors are in our eyes. Sight so dominates our intellectual practices, that we construct designs so we can see what is happening. What gave us the ability to think so wonderfully abstractly?
‘…consciousness or sentience, the raw sensation of toothaches and redness and saltiness and middle C, is still wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.’ Steven Pinker