The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession

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9780099289586: The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession
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Susan Orlean first met John Laroche when visiting Florida to write for the New Yorker about his arrest for stealing rare ghost orchids from a nature reserve. Fascinated both by Laroche and the world she uncovered of orchid collectors and growers, she stayed on, to write this magical exploration of obsession and the strange world both of the orchid obsessives and of Florida, that haunting and weird 'debatable land' of swamps and condos, retirement communities and real-estate scams.

The world of the orchid hunters, breeders and showmen, their rivalries, vendettas and crimes, smuggling, thefts and worse provide the backdrop to a fascinating exploration of one of the byways of human nature, the obsessive world of the collector, and the haunting beauty of the flowers themselves.

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Review:

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 centres 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 colourful as the tropical blossoms that inspire them, this is a lyrical, funny, addictively entertaining read. -- Barrie Trinkle, Amazon.com

Review:

"Like the orchid, a small thing of grandeur, a passion with a pedigree... The Orchid Thief shows [Orlean's] gifts in full bloom" (New York Times Book Review)

"A lesson in the dark, dangerous, sometimes hilarious nature of obsession...you sometimes don't want to read on, but find you can't help it" (USA Today)

"Irresistable... A brilliantly reported account of an illicit scheme to housebreak Florida's wild and endangered ghost orchid. Its central figure is John Laroche, the 'oddball ultimate' of a subculture whose members are so enthralled by orchids they 'pursue them like lovers" (Minneapolis Star Tribute)

"Fascinating... Tales of theft, hatred, greed, jealousy, madness, and back-stabbing... An engrossing journey" (Los Angeles Times)

"Artful... In Ms. Orlean's skillful handling, her orchid story turns out to be distinctly 'something more.' Orchids, Seminole history, the ecology of the Fakahatchee Strand, the fascination of Florida to con men... All that she writes here fits together because it is grounded in her personal experience... [Her] portrait of her sometimes sad-making orchid thief allows the reader to discover acres of opportunity where intriguing things can be found" (New York Times)

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2000. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Susan Orlean first met John Laroche when visiting Florida to write for the New Yorker about his arrest for stealing rare ghost orchids from a nature reserve. Fascinated both by Laroche and the world she uncovered of orchid collectors and growers, she stayed on, to write this magical exploration of obsession and the strange world both of the orchid obsessives and of Florida, that haunting and weird debatable land of swamps and condos, retirement communities and real-estate scams. The world of the orchid hunters, breeders and showmen, their rivalries, vendettas and crimes, smuggling, thefts and worse provide the backdrop to a fascinating exploration of one of the byways of human nature, the obsessive world of the collector, and the haunting beauty of the flowers themselves. Seller Inventory # AAZ9780099289586

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2000. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Susan Orlean first met John Laroche when visiting Florida to write for the New Yorker about his arrest for stealing rare ghost orchids from a nature reserve. Fascinated both by Laroche and the world she uncovered of orchid collectors and growers, she stayed on, to write this magical exploration of obsession and the strange world both of the orchid obsessives and of Florida, that haunting and weird debatable land of swamps and condos, retirement communities and real-estate scams. The world of the orchid hunters, breeders and showmen, their rivalries, vendettas and crimes, smuggling, thefts and worse provide the backdrop to a fascinating exploration of one of the byways of human nature, the obsessive world of the collector, and the haunting beauty of the flowers themselves. Seller Inventory # AAZ9780099289586

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Book Description Paperback. Condition: New. Not Signed; Susan Orlean first met John Laroche when visiting Florida to write for the New Yorker about his arrest for stealing rare ghost orchids from a nature reserve. Fascinated both by Laroche and the world she uncovered of orchid collectors and growers, she stayed on, to write this magical exploration of o. book. Seller Inventory # ria9780099289586_rkm

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