The Orchid Thief
I’ve just finished reading The Orchid Thief: a True Story of Beauty and Obsession, by Susan Orleans. The book plunged me into a strange new world. The story and how she tells it is weird and wonderful and gripping.
Susan Orleans went to Florida to meet and write about John Larouche, who with a few members of the local Indian tribe, was charged with stealing rare orchids that he intended to clone.
Sure I’d heard of the Everglades in Florida, but knew next to nothing about them and had never heard of an area called the Fakahatchee. I’d never heard of an Indian tribe called Seminoles. I was aware that there had been a time of “tulip-mania” in Holland in the 16th century, but never knew that orchids could be a powerful force for obsession and addiction. Especially the elusive ghost orchid.
The book is so bizarre and funny and surreal that it seems only fitting that there is a film based on it. Not based on the story of the book though – it is the story of a film producer who struggles to turn the book into a movie. It is called Adaptation and stars Merryl Streep and Nicholas Cage. I can’t wait to see it.
The book was published in 1998, the film produced in 2002, so this is not breaking news except that it is a new discovery for me.
Two quotes I love:
The nursery owner petted each plant as we passed. ‘Hey John’, he said, ‘you know, I have hardly any orchids anymore. You know, I decided that orchid people are too crazy. They come here and buy an orchid and they kill it. Come, buy, kill. I can’t stand it. Fern people are almost worse, but the orchid people are – oh, you know. They think they’re superior.’ (p.38)
Martin said he was going to build a swamp scene with lots of vandas and a child-sized wooden dugout canoe. ‘It doesn’t have much connection to reality’, he said. ‘But then again, what does?’ (p.310)
The photo illustrating this posting is the only orchid plant in my garden. It hasn’t flowered for at least a decade, but I leave it in its pot where it seems happy and healthy. Maybe it’s a good thing it hasn’t flowered lately - I don’t want to risk an orchid addiction.