Friday, March 30, 2012

Memoir: The Orchid Thief, Author: Susan Orlean

First off I have to do this:

Ghost Orchids.
In the language of flowers orchid means 'Refined Beauty'.

The Orchid Thief is a book about passion: "I suppose I do have one unembarrassing passion--I want to know what it feels like to care about something passionately." Susan Orlean from her book The Orchid Thief

Passion that takes the form of collecting:  "I still get that collector 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." John Larouche from The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean                 

Collecting orchids: "The British Herbal Guide of 1653 advised that orchids be used with discretion. 'They are hot and moist in operation, under the dominion of Venus, and provoke lust accordingly." The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

It's a book about orchids: "The reason for their unusual-ness has always been puzzled over. One guess is that orchids might have evolved in soil that was naturally irradiated by a meteor or mineral deposit, and that the radiation is what mutated them into thousands of amazing forms." The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

And what orchids teach us: "Mutation is great. It's the way evolution moves ahead." John Larouche from The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

It's a book about Florida: "Sometimes I think I've figured out some order in the universe, but then I find myself in Florida, swamped by incongruity and paradox, and I have to start all over again." The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

And a swamp there: "Spooky places are usually full of death, but the Fakahatchee is crazy with living things." The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

It's a book about people: "People look at what I do and think, is that moral? Is that right? Well, isn't every great thing the result of that kind of struggle?" John Larouche from The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

First Nations people: "The Seminole Tribe of Florida has sixteen hundred members..."  The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

Collector people: ""Oh, mystery, beauty, unknowability, I suppose," he said, shrugging. "Besides, I think the real reason is that life has no meaning. I mean, no obvious meaning. You wake up, you go to work, you do stuff, I think everybody's always looking for something a little unusual that can preoccupy them and help them pass the time."" Ranger Tony from The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

It's a book about people who collect orchids passionately: "The English have especially felonious urges towards orchids. Kew Gardens has to display its orchids behind shatterproof glass and surrounded by surveillance cameras the way Tiffany's displays its jewels." The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

It's a book about one particular passionate orchid collector - John Larouche: "The current of his mind and behavior was more riptide than rivulet. I didn't care all that much whether what he said was true or not; I just found the flow irresistible." The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

And it's a book about a woman who longs to feel the same passion for something as John Larouche feels for orchids - Susan Orlean: "I wanted to want something as much as people wanted these plants, but it isn't part of my constitution." The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

I loved this book which is saying something considering narrative usually bores me; this book is largely narrative; and I didn't skip a word of it.

YMMV, of course.


  1. On it. I had to find out whether I needed to read all of her stuff first. Seems, in this case, I'm safe and may begin here. Thanks!

    1. It's definitely a good place to start. I think you'll like her.

  2. Sounds fascinating! I do love orchids...though probably not with quite the same passion as Larouche.

    1. He was definitely passionate about orchids. If he is running true to his own history he's probably moved on to something else by now.

  3. I saw this book in the used section of my local bookstore just last week. :)

    1. It's worth buying cause there is so much that's quotable.