I read The Emperor of Scent last year and enjoyed it. I hate science too, but I found the book incredibly enlightening. I think Burr, the author, was basically trying to comment on the popular culture trends that tend to be geared towards 'clean' and 'fresh' scents - and he was comparing these modern scents to older scents that were not this way at all. So, yes, some older fragrances are 'dirty' smelling. But that's a sweeping generalization - there are many fresh, uplifting, bright fragrances from years ago also. I love both.
You do have a lot of Guerlain fragrances in your wardrobe - wow! I am not familiar with Carnation or Cancan - but maybe somebody who does will respond to this thread.
One word of advice: Just because a fragrance is from Guerlain, does not mean it will smell like all other fragrances from the line. I think Guerlain makes many different types of fragrances. Conversely, looking at other fragrances outside of the Guerlain line, I think you will find a few fragrances that have a very Guerlain 'feel' (for better or worse).