New Yorker writer Susan Orlean followed Laroche through swamps and into the eccentric world of Florida's orchid collectors, a subculture of aristocrats, fanatics, and smugglers whose obsession with plants is all-consuming. Along the way, Orlean learned the history of orchid collecting, discovered an odd pattern of plant crimes in Florida, and spent time with Laroche's partners, a tribe of Seminole Indians who are still at war with the United States.
There is something fascinating or funny or truly bizarre on every page of The Orchid Thief: the story of how the head of a famous Seminole chief came to be displayed in the front window of a local pharmacy; or how 700 iguanas were smuggled into Florida; or the case of the only known extraterrestrial plant crime. Ultimately, however, Susan Orlean's book is about passion itself, and the amazing lengths to which people will go to gratify it. That passion is captured with singular vision in The Orchid Thief, a once-in-a-lifetime story by a truly original journalist.
Executive Producer: Laura Wilson
Producer: Paul Ruben
Jacket design: Robbin Schiff
Jacket photograph: Lisa Charles Watson
©1998 Susan Orlean
(P)2001 Random House, Inc.
"Stylishly written, whimsical yet sophisticated, quirkily detached...It shows Orlean's gifts in full bloom." (New York Times Book Review)
Yes, it's about orchids, but it's really about obsession, passion, collecting, and the meaning of life. Also theft, greed, bizarre collectors and explorers. This is the best book I've listened to in a couple of years.
I listened to this in addition to reading the book in preparation for a book review. I was surprised at how sarcastic the narration came across in this audio version. It gave me a completely different view of the author and I can't help wondering what the book would have felt like if the author had preformed the audio herself and from which perspective she would present herself. As far as the writing went I appreciated the author's ability to share the diverse personalities, flaws and all, of her subjects and still present a friendly view of them. I learned a huge amount about florida, orchids, smuggling and the people attracted to all three. With so much detail to cover and many tangents to intigrate into the book Orlean's writing style is well suited to the material. The result is a very human view of a odd microcosim within our human family.
I've visited Florida, as a European at an age of about 25. It's now 15 years ago. The images come back: The enormous amounts of mosquito's in the everglades the damp heat and the threat of crocodiles, the weird feeling of nature versus human (or should I say American spirit) and my feeling of displacement there.
The story has a very realistic feel. I really love the narrator, I can see this astonished New York girl stomp through the swamp -Listen to HER say swomp- in her clean white shorts and sometimes be so very sweet in her astonishment. It's so honest. To me it was like a trip back, this time WITH well researched and well told background information AND guided by a lovely? girlfriend ? daughter?. Great!
Driven by a desire to understand great passion, the author delves into a bizarre world where the right plant is worth more than life itself. And yet despite her best efforts, passion exceeds her grasp and she is left to provide only a cold listing of scientific facts, historical essays and bland social interactions.
The most striking feature of this book is the absolute flatness of its narrative. Each fact is as important as the next and soon you realize that you have stopped listening and are thinking about what you might have for lunch. Fortunately, your lapse in concentration is without consequence as you can easily pick back up wherever in the story you find yourself.
This endless torrent of meaningless information reminds me of those hundred-word essays you had to write in grade school. You know the one where you might have said, "There were many orchids to choose from, a red one, a blue one, one with stripes, a green one that looked as if it had been made from frog skin, another blue one a little lighter than the first blue one..." Of course your teacher was taking a hundred-word nap, but hey, you did your part!
The best, and perhaps only, reason to listen to this book is so that you can more fully enjoy the movie "Adaptation".
I am a voracious reader with fairly eclectic taste. I like both fiction and non-fiction, biography, history and current events. I like well written mysteries and suspense and I love 19th and 20th century classical literature as well as modern fiction. My favorite author is Philip Roth but I also love Trollope, Hardy, Jonathan Franzen, Jane Austen and Edith Wharton. My favorite biographer is Robert Caro.
I recently read this book after seeing the movie ADAPTATION which is exactly that, an adaptation of this book. It's a wonderful book about a man obsessed by orchids and it's about orchids, obsession, and also veers off into the history of Florida real estate to boot. I found it to be a fascinating 'journey' about things that don't usually interest me in the least. It's very well written and researched and it's also very unusual and hard to describe since it's not really a story but more of a quest to discover what motivates people. Highly recommended, it was exactly the kind of book that translates well into an audiobook, easy to follow and full of navigations off the beaten path. A real pleasure.
really good read.. quick and informative...well written and interesting even to someone like me who knew nothing about the subject
Say something about yourself!
carl haissen like mystery in florida. funny and interesteing. well worth it. word count time again
Sericulturalist and horticulturalist, mad scientist and earth oven baker.
Very bad edting made this a jarring read. Bits were cut off and the narraor read so fast I had to slow the replay to be able to tolerate lisening. The author does not know her botanical subject matter, and this part of the book is rife with error. There is also a marked underone of lack of respect for some of her subjects that in the end does her discredit, not the other way around. I don't think she cared about this book or the people she used , it was just a job, it could have been so much more.
I am a big fan of the movie 'Adaptation' and always wanted to read the book it was based on. While the book is indeed
Fascinating look at the orchid, from it's origin, reproduction, evolution .... the collectors, the dealers and the "thief" - John Laroche. The details are at times overwhelming but overall it was a great "listen".
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