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This was the low, simmering part of the state, as quiet as a shrine except for crickets keeping time and the creak of trees bending and the crackly slam of a screen door and the clatter of a car now and then We whipped past abandoned bungalows melting into woodpiles, and past NO TRESPASSING signs shot up like Swiss cheese, and past a rusty boat run aground on someone s driveway, and past fences leaning like old ladies, and then almost past a hand lettered sign that interested Laroche, so he smashed the brakes and craned his neck to read it Look at this he exclaimed The sign read FOR SALE BABY GOATS, GUAVA JAM, CACTUS That s pretty fucking weird, don t you think he asked Good stuff. This all began with a magazine article Orlean was writing about John Laroche, the title character She headed down to Florida and spent months studying the guy and the environment in which he lived It is an interesting tale The book broadens from this introductory piece to cover other things Floridian She examines the orchid community sub culture in considerable detail There is much there to consider, not only in its contemporary expression but in the history of orchid acquisition and cultivation It is a dog eat dog world, both for adventurers who travel to remote places to acquire rare species, and for botanists who nurture these finds and attempt to clone and modify orchids to keep the creative act moving It does come to actual physical violence Orlean looks at the vagaries of Florida Real Estate scamming as well as quirks in legislation relating to environmental protection and Native American rights She finds characters all around, and finds also a focus on passion This was an enjoyable, informative read Orlean has a style that is accessible She never tries to make you feel that she is smarter than you She acts as a representative of us all in looking at this world with a bit of twinkle in her eye, as well as an appreciation for the beauty not only of floral pulchritude, but of varieties of human experience P 279 It s not really about collecting the thing itself, Laroche went on It s about getting immersed in something, and learning about it, and having it become part of your life It s a kind of direction. @DOWNLOAD EPUB ⚟ The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession ⚡ NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK A Modern Classic Of Personal Journalism, The Orchid Thief Is Susan Orlean S Wickedly Funny, Elegant, And Captivating Tale Of An Amazing Obsession Determined To Clone An Endangered Flower The Rare Ghost Orchid Polyrrhiza Lindenii A Deeply Eccentric And Oddly Attractive Man Named John Laroche Leads Orlean On An Unforgettable Tour Of America S Strange Flower Selling Subculture, Through Florida S Swamps And Beyond, Along With The Seminoles Who Help Him And The Forces Of Justice Who Fight Him In The End, Orlean And The Reader Will Have Respect For Underdog Determination And A Powerful New Definition Of Passion In This New Edition, Coming Fifteen Years After Its Initial Publication And Twenty Years After She First Met The Orchid Thief, Orlean Revisits This Unforgettable World, And The Route By Which It Was Brought To The Screen In The Film Adaptation, In A New Retrospective EssayLook For Special Features Inside Join The Random House Reader S Circle For Author Chats And Praise For The Orchid Thief Stylishly Written, Whimsical Yet Sophisticated, Quirkily Detailed And Full Of Empathy The Orchid Thief Shows Orlean S Gifts In Full Bloom The New York Times Book ReviewFascinating An Engrossing Journey Full Of Theft, Hatred, Greed, Jealousy, Madness, And Backstabbing Los Angeles Times Orlean S Snapshot Vivid, Pitch Perfect Prose Is Fast Becoming One Of Our National Treasures The Washington Post Book World Orlean S Gifts Are Her Ear For The Self Skewing Dialogue, Her Eye For The Incongruous, Convincing Detail, And Her Didion Like Deftness In Description Boston Sunday Globe A Swashbuckling Piece Of Reporting That Celebrates Some Virtues That Made America Great The Wall Street Journal From The Trade Paperback Edition I have not seen the movie Adaption which is based on portions of this book I picked up this book because I enjoyed an essay written by the author in The New Yorker I had found it amusing and perceptive The book has the feel of an essay, or rather a series of essays focused on the central theme of orchids Orchid collecting, orchid theft, orchid hunting and orchid obsession are all covered The writing does go off on tangents Forays are made into related topics exploitation of natural resources, environment protection, smuggling and poaching of animals and plants, extensive land scams and the twisting of legislation regulating Native American rights The setting is Florida That which holds the whole together is the pull toward obsession For good and for bad The author has met the people and observed firsthand their behavior She trekked in the swamps, she got lost in Florida s Fakahatchee Strand Preserve searching for ghost orchids She talks to us not as a learned but as an equal, as a friend She magnificently well captures the feel of Florida, not merely the place but also the people Their way of talking and thinking and being It is this that I appreciated most about the book She brought back to me my earlier visits to Florida This portrayal captured me than the detailed descriptions of thefts and scams and peculiar individuals on which she sidetracks I like how she told her story than the actual details of the story Please see below the quotes I have taken from the book The audiobook is extremely well narrated by Jennifer Meyers Her tone captures perfectly the people and the place, the atmosphere.Lines from the book that were particularly special for me The world is so huge that people are always getting lost in it There are too many ideas and things and people, too many directions to go I was starting to believe that the reason it matters to care passionately about something is that it whittles the world down to a manageable size It makes the world seem not huge and empty but full of possibility If you set out alone and sovereign, unconnected to a family, a religion, a nationality, a tradition, a class, then pretty soon you are too lonely, too self invented and unique, and too much aware that there is no one else like you in the world If you submerge yourself completely in something your town or your profession or your hobby then pretty soon you have to struggle up to the surface because you need to be sure that even though you are a part of something big, some community, you still exist as a single unit with a single mind It was a relief to have no hope because then I had no fear looking for something you want is a comfort in the clutter of the universe, but knowing you don t have to look means you can t be disappointed It s not really about collecting the thing itself, Laroche went on It s about getting immersed in something, and learning about it, and having it become part of your life It s a kind of direction. I adore this book It s one of my favorites, not just because it s about two of my favorite things plants and Florida and not just because it s by one of my favorite writers, and not just because Charlie Kaufman made it into a totally kick ass movie I adore it because it s so charming, because of sentences like I suppose I do have one unembarrassing passion I want to know what it feels like to be passionate about something, because Orlean writes about her human subjects with a bit of Can you believe this craziness without losing sight of the fact that she is actually writing about humans, and because she has this gift for uncovering those odd little tidbits of information that make the world seem like a magical place where anything is possible.This is one of those books that, while purporting to be about one thing the world of orchid fanciers is really about another thing obsession The book takes the idea that the best way to see the universe is through a microscope, and wraps it up in an entertaining package She also tells the stories using a tactic that another favorite writer of mine, Joan Didion, uses, where she herself is a character in the book, not just as a narrator but a participant, and it gives you, as an outsider in the story, a way to view things as if you were there yourself Yet you don t get the feeling she s casting judgement on anyone you just get to see things the way she saw them and feel the things she felt Of course, the book might also hold a special place with me because it talks so much about Florida, a state whose history and culture can only be described as bizarre I hate that word almost as much as I hate the word unique but really, there is no other way to describe it This state attracts people who are looking to realize some sort of dream or other, or who are looking to reinvent themselves, or who are just trying to escape their pasts, and so you end up with a bunch of people all trying to create some new existence on a piece of land that is constantly in flux It s a tumultuous, chaotic state, where people are free to extend their personalities to the limit, whether its through Christianity or vulgar materialism or alcoholism or whatever The only thing predictable about Florida is that, if something crazy happens, it s probably happening here So I love reading about Florida nonfiction and fiction alike for these reasons, and I think few have captured that essential quirkiness of the state better than Orlean did with this book. Probably one of the most unique bizarre books I have ever read Here s the reflection I wrote after I read it I know absolutely nothing about plants Nor do I really have an interest in ever knowing anything about plants And yet, be that as it may, I found Susan Orlean s book, The Orchid Thief, fascinating How can that be First off, the book is not like any other book, and definitely not like any other biography, I have read Upon reading the first chapter, it comes across as a fairly straightforward narrative the life and passions of John Laroche, a man accused, and convicted, of stealing orchids out of a Florida state reserve called the Fakahatchee Strand On reading further, however, the book is no longer so simple My next thought is that the story is actually a biography, not about John Laroche, but about orchids However, as the book shifts from recounting the history of orchid collecting into recounting the history of the Fakahatchee, and then the Seminole Indians, and then other plants entirely, it becomes obvious that, despite the name, orchids are not the subject of this book So what is the subject What is this book about What is this book a biography about And how, even though I care nothing about plants, does Orlean keep me reading I think the answer to these questions is hinted at in the subtitle A True Story of Beauty and Obsession Susan Orlean did not write a book about Orchids because she loves plants Instead, she wrote a story about something that baffled her Why, throughout history, have people been so obsessed with vegetation Why are so many individuals willing to dedicate their entire lives to, and spend all of their wealth on, plants Or, importantly, why are people ever obsessed With anything What, even, is obsession What does it stem from What does it give to us, and what does it take away Underneath the plants, and the history, and the strange people, these are the questions of Orlean s book Personally, I find Orlean s interactions with the eccentric world of plant obsession fascinating The historical details she includes are anything but boring This is a strange story, and all of her details are startling Her subject matter may only appeal to a small audience, but the way she presents her subject matter targets a much larger group of readers She is not writing a book for plant fanatics Not really She keeps us interested with bizarre facts, keen observations, and unique experiences However, she is a bit random, and while this can be intriguing, it can also be distracting Some of her tangents seem to have little or no connection with the rest of her story She also repeats herself This could be a good thing, if her goal was to help us keep track of people and places, but instead it is redundant She retells details as if they were new information, and so, instead of remembering the person from a previous chapter, we merely experience d j vu, and are left a bit dazed and confused She also uses extremely long paragraphs Paragraphs that clump together multiple thoughts, and even stories While this is not necessarily wrong, I did find it distracting, and I thought it made the book harder to read. The Orchid Thief by Susan OrleanA while back when I blogged about reading and enjoying WINGED OBSESSION, Jessica Speart s compelling work of narrative nonfiction about an exotic butterfly collector and the fish and wildlife agent obsessed with bringing him to justice, a few people who commented wanted to make sure I d also read Susan Orlean s THE ORCHID THIEF I hadn t, but somehow, that book never rose to the top of my to read list I wasn t all that into orchids, so I wasn t sure it was for me What I didn t realize then was that while the book is indeed about orchids, it s about single minded passions and Florida and the swamp and the way those things can tug at a person s soul THE ORCHID THIEF was indeed a book for me I read it on vacation in Florida, just a few miles from the Fakahatchee Strand where the whole story began And I loved it.Orlean tells the facts of this story in a way that s at least as suspenseful and intriguing as any novel I ve ever read At the center of that story is John Laroche, the man she d read about in a small newspaper clipping when he was in court for stealing wild orchids from Florida s state owned Fakahatchee Strand Laroche is a character in the very best sense of the word an eccentric, imperfect, intense bean pole of a man who invited Orlean into his world What she discovered there was a doorway to the world of exotic plants and the people who love them, sometimes than they love their own families or even their own lives Where one finds passion that intense, one also finds amazing drama, and that s what kept me turning the pages of this book That, and the chance to travel through Orlean s words back through a place that both enchants and terrifies me the Fakahatchee Strand, where I took my first off boardwalk hike this spring In THE ORCHID THIEF, Orleans weaves together the story of Laroche himself and his stolen orchids with the history of orchid collecting, the high stakes trade that it is today, the Florida real estate scams of the 1940s and 50s, and the history of the Fakahatchee Strand itself Full of colorful characters and settings so rich you ll feel like you should be slapping at mosquitoes, THE ORCHID THIEF is a great read for lovers of nature as well as students of human psychology I couldn t put it down. . This was originally a piece for The New Yorker, and I think it should ve stayed that way It had its interesting moments but felt a bit bloated and directionless at times I was expecting something narrative based and eccentric like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil Instead every chapter just sort of felt like an essay about something related to the orchid industry, with a very small throughline about John Laroche 2.5 stars From Investigation, through Article, to BookThis is based on Susan Orelan s journalistic research in the early 1990s of the orchid obsessive John Laroche, the Seminole tribe he collaborated with, and of orchid collectors and breeders generally The main plot concerns somewhat inept attempts to steal and clone rare Ghost Orchids to sell on Image Dendrophylax lindenii, the ghost orchid, from WikipediaOrlean originally published the story as an article in the New Yorker, but later extended it to this The result reads like a disjointed collection of vaguely related essays than a coherent book There is some interesting biology and history of orchids, but there is esoteric detail about Florida land reclamation, Seminole Indian history, and property scams than is necessary for the Laroche orchid story On ScreenImage DVD coverI suspect I gave the book 3 because I adored Charlie Kaufman s very creative 2002 adaptation, titled not very creatively Adaptation I saw that before reading the book Kaufman originally planned to make a film of the book, but struggled, on and off, over many years So he combined the two a film that has Charlie, in collaboration with his fictional twin brother, struggling to write a screenplay of Orlean s book, intercut with the story Orlean wrote about And for good measure, he adds a fictitious postscript Stars include Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, and Tilda Swinton See imdb for details HERE Book to Screen to Book 360 or 451 I was reminded of this when I read Megan Dunn s brilliant first book, Tinderbox see my review HERE She wanted to rewrite Ray Bradbury s Fahrenheit 451 see my review HERE from the point of view of the female characters, but ended up fascinated by Truffaut s process of adaptation see imdb HERE The result is fascinating, personal, and funny It s rather like the inverse of Kaufman s film an exploration of her attempts to adapt someone else s work And just as good I recommend both.