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The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – January 4, 2000
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Orchidelirium is the name the Victorians gave to the flower madness that is for botanical collectors the equivalent of gold fever. Wealthy orchid fanatics of that era sent explorers (heavily armed, more to protect themselves against other orchid seekers than against hostile natives or wild animals) to unmapped territories in search of new varieties of Cattleya and Paphiopedilum. As knowledge of the family Orchidaceae grew to encompass the currently more than 60,000 species and over 100,000 hybrids, orchidelirium might have been expected to go the way of Dutch tulip mania. Yet, as journalist Susan Orlean found out, there still exists a vein of orchid madness strong enough to inspire larceny among collectors.
The Orchid Thief centers on south Florida and John Laroche, a quixotic, charismatic schemer once convicted of attempting to take endangered orchids from the Fakahatchee swamp, a state preserve. Laroche, a horticultural consultant who once ran an extensive nursery for the Seminole tribe, dreams of making a fortune for the Seminoles and himself by cloning the rare ghost orchid Polyrrhiza lindenii. Laroche sums up the obsession that drives him and so many others:
I really have to watch myself, especially around plants. Even now, just being here, I still get that collector feeling. You know what I mean. I'll see something and then suddenly I get that feeling. It's like I can't just have something--I have to have it and learn about it and grow it and sell it and master it and have a million of it.Even Orlean--so leery of orchid fever that she immediately gives away any plant that's pressed upon her by the growers in Laroche's circle--develops a desire to see a ghost orchid blooming and makes several ultimately unsuccessful treks into the Fakahatchee. Filled with Palm Beach socialites, Native Americans, English peers, smugglers, and naturalists as improbably colorful as the tropical blossoms that inspire them, this is a lyrical, funny, addictively entertaining read. --Barrie Trinkle --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
For listeners seeking to learn something new, Orlean offers a whimsical look at the sexy, mysterious world of orchids. Perfect for anyone who wants to know a little bit about a lot of things, this quirky, quintessential New Yorker story pulls back the curtain on a community of people who are driven by a passion to collect and cultivate some very exotic plants. New York journalist Orlean first learned about orchid "thief" John Laroche by reading a story about him in a local Florida newspaper. He (along with his henchmen, three Seminole Indians) had been taken to court for removing an endangered species of orchid from the state's Fakahatchee Swamp. Orlean hightailed it down to the Sunshine State to investigate and wound up immersing herself in the wacky world of orchid maniacs, intrigued more by their passion than by the orchids themselves. Myers's reading vacillates between the inspiring and the pedagogical. When reading passages about the over-the-top nature of some eccentric orchid collectors, her tone borders on the affected. But during the book's more introspective moments, as when Orlean wishes she could be as passionate about something as her subjects are about orchids, Myers turns quiet and pensive. Overall, Myers's enthusiastic performance is a perfect complement to Orlean's book and the new motion picture loosely based on it, Adaptation.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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