Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Orchid Thief (1998)

In general terms, you're never going to go far wrong picking up a nonfiction book by a New Yorker writer to read, and sure enough, Susan Orlean's meditations on her travels through Florida and the life of its own of its plant life was pretty good. Made me think about orchids more than I ever have, taught me a good many things I hadn't known about them (for some reason I had the impression they were all odorless), sent me rushing to the Internet a couple of times to look up pictures, which are oddly missing here. There shouldn't just be pictures, there should be old-fashioned color plates. Orlean's book and those Internet pictures didn't quite close the gap enough for me—I realized, with some frustration, that I wanted good high-definition color photos and someone I could interact with and put questions to. Even better than pictures, actual plants. Orlean's book awakened the interest, at least for as long as it took me to read it. I suspect it won't go much further than that, but still, that's pretty good for a book with no pictures and a guy with the opposite of a green thumb. I think I liked best when she got into some history of Florida real estate scams. I responded on a general level to the collector bug infecting so many of the people she meets and describes, including the star of the show, John Laroche. I don't know much about orchids but I am familiar with the collector mentality. And, as I say, it definitely made me think how interesting a one- to two-hour presentation with full multimedia and, preferably, live plants could be. With extensive time for questions and answers and digressions. I came to it because of the furshlugginer Adaptation. movie, of course, and the effect was to make me realize again what a slight and mostly silly indulgent movie it is. I suppose saying that it does a disservice to the book is slightly wrong, or anyway to the writer, because she probably made more money and found more fame and opportunity this way than if the movie had been the least bit sincere, let alone faithful. I know, I know, in that case it would at best be in reruns by now on some nature cable-TV channel. But I want to see that version! (Note to self: DVR.)

In case it's not at the library.

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