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The Orchid Thief

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | The Orchid Thief.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Susan Orlean(Author) Susan Crlean(Author)

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In Susan Orlean's mesmerizing true story of beauty and obsession is John Laroche, a renegade plant dealer and sharply handsome guy, in spite of the fact that he is missing his front teeth and has the posture of al dente spaghetti. In 1994, Laroche and three Seminole Indians were arrested with rare orchids they had stolen from a wild swamp in south Florida that is filled with some of the world's most extraordinary plants and trees. Laroche had planned to clone the orchids and then sell them for a small fortune to impassioned collectors. After he was caught in the act, Laroche set off one of the oddest legal controversies in recent memory, which brought together environmentalists, Native Amer-ican activists, and devoted orchid collectors. The result is a tale that is strange, compelling, and hilarious.
        
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 seven hundred 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 one of our most original journalists.

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.

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Review Text

  • By Jorn M. on 5 September 2016

    Read this book years ago, loved it so I bought it again

  • By ericmitford on 3 July 2011

    A decade ago, Deborah Moggach's 'Tulip Fever' and Anna Pavord's 'Tulip' were pipped to publication by 'The Orchid Thief'. Like 'Nathaniel's Nutmeg', 'Mauve' and a string of other subsequent books, all were recognisably part of the vogue pioneered by Dava Sobel's 'Longitude' for books taking as their starting-point a very specific topic and using it to inquire ever more widely into that topic's socio-historical context.Susan Orlean has this 'ripple' effect down to a fine art. A staffer on the 'New York Times', her attention was caught one day by the case against John Laroche, convicted by a Florida court of removing scores of rare orchids from the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve. The plants were destined for the nursery run by Laroche in collaboration with the local Seminole tribe, where they were to be cloned and sold to collectors around the world. Yet Laroche turns out to be no petty crook: there are principles, albeit ones likely to lead to a profit, behind his crime. After two years of following this complex man around, Orlean concludes that Laroche is "the most moral amoral person I've ever known".So is 'The Orchid Thief' a biography? No; nor is it a travel book, though we learn much about the topography of southern Florida; nor again a botanical companion, though it is full of information about the varieties, breeding and collecting of orchids. But what Orlean does so successfully is to apply her journalist's instincts, and an easy way with words, to exploring deep into the psyche of the people whose lives are taken up, to the exclusion of almost everything else, with acquiring examples of some of the rarest and most beautiful plants on the planet.This is therefore a tale of possession and obsession. Susan Orlean takes us with her on a multi-faceted journey: into the swamps in search of orchids; into the quirky, backwoods culture of Florida's hinterland; into the history of orchids and of rare species collecting; and into the lives of present-day collectors and the bizarre world of orchid trade fairs.To enjoy this book, you need know nothing about exotic plants, or even be a keen gardener. You certainly don't need to have liked the film 'Adaption', in which a version of Orlean's character is played by Meryl Streep. I hated it!


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