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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK A modern classic of personal journalism, The Orchid Thief is Susan Orlean's. About Books Free eBooks The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean: none Creator: Susan Orlean Best Sellers Rank: #5 Paid in Kindle Store Link. The Orchid Thief is a non-fiction book by American journalist and author Susan Orlean, based on her investigation of the arrest of John Laroche and .
As a common parasite, really. Thank you. People go to great lengths to do this. They might focus on work or some interest like orchids, or be propelled by a desire to make lots of money or to raise their children in a certain way. And my passion is to examine and interpret that and convey it to other people.
And yes, it is very much a matter of connection and disconnection and belonging and not belonging. Beneath the overriding theme of the nature of passion, the thought that surfaces with regularity is the nature of the parasite. You describe Florida as "less like a state than a sponge. What is your ultimate estimation of his parasitic pursuits? I think his whole episode in pornography was very telling. If people were foolish enough to come to him and offer him lots of money to post naked pictures of themselves on the web, he felt that his mission in life would be to charge them as much as possible.
This was the question that dogged me throughout my reporting. There were certainly moments when I thought: Yet, there was a certain strange logic in this greediness. He had discovered a law that was so badly written that he could abuse it and take advantage [of it]. I also think it was a way for him to justify his own ends which were fairly simple: But he would not have wanted to do it had there not been an interesting complexity to it.
And it is probably something to do with needing attention. John Laroche shares with so many Americans a "lotto" mentality of getting rich quick. But not every get-rich-quick scheme ignites the same degree of passion in him.
Like Don Quixote, he is the ultimate loser. I think noble would dignify it too much. I think he has a grand self-image. It would be enough for an ordinary person to get rich with something unspectacular like lawn grass. But Laroche has a vision of himself as something larger than life. He is a loser if you compare him to normal standards of success.
In his own mind he is not a loser because he really is living the life he wants to lead. You paint Florida as the ultimate America, the land of plenty, and yet one gets the strong sense that you find its profuseness more than just a little vulgar.
Did you retain a sense of remaining a distinct and separate being, or were you ever in danger of becoming part of the exotic blur? I will forever be an outsider to Florida. I am not a hot weather person.
On the other hand I think I am a person who is typical of Florida. I came down there to find my own fortune. Like so many people I came to Florida with a scheme in mind: I wanted to write this book about this peculiar event that had taken place. But my connection was impermanent. It surprises me to realize I have written easily over half a dozen pieces down there.
Part of that is the fact that interesting, strange things happen in Florida. It is a bubbling-stew of a place. And the kinds of stories that interest me, people starting new lives, creating new communities, happened in Florida.
Fate intervenes. Disappointment is deflected. And you are grateful. Is that how you rule your life? I think about this all the time. I try to figure out if there is destiny and fate or if life is just haphazard. What we search for is a kind of order and logic in what is the chaotic and illogical experience of being alive.
I think you grab on to little footholds that make you think that there is logic and that there is some sense of order in your life. It is very funny how much we crave that. I am almost delighted to have a fortune teller say to me, "Nothing is going to happen until January" because I feel relieved of that anticipation. It is a comfort to think that there is something. Sometimes I wonder how it is that I ended up as a writer. It seems, looking back on it, almost fated.
On the other hand I am not sure. Do I believe that? Do you still have the desire, unrequited as it was at the end of the book, to see a ghost orchid? Now I am a little afraid to see one. It could never have matched all of the expectations that I was bringing to it.
A ranger from the Fakahatchee called me after the book came out and said, "If you want to see a ghost orchid, I will take you to see one. You can come down.
I like just imagining it, as something irresistible and unattainable. One of these days I suspect I will see one. It would be nice if it were by accident. Have you seen or talked to John Laroche since the book was published?
I have talked to him. And he said to me in his usual way, "You know, if you write a couple more books, you could turn into a pretty good writer.
There is never anything in the book that unambiguously paints Laroche as an attractive individual, yet he seems to have exerted a strong almost pseudo-antagonist influence on you amid the sexual imagery that pervades the descriptions and activities of orchids—growing in the crotches of a pop ash tree—Laroche lusting after orchids—the passion for them being the catalyst for divorce and so on.
Did you analyze your fascination with Laroche going beyond the objective interest in his passion? There was a lot of sexual imagery in the book. I only realize this now. Certainly, when I set out to write a book about flowers, I never thought it would be sexy.
But our relationship was strictly reporter and subject. It is certainly true that you develop a kind of intimacy with someone you are writing about.
You spend an enormous amount of time with them. You want to hear everything they have to say. It is a kind of idealized relationship. By definition, everything he had to say was interesting to me, because that is what I was there to do: I think you can become very attached, very connected to each other. Going back to the parasitic theme: He was my subject. His cooperation made it possible for me to write a book. I think one of the great questions in non-fiction is: Because the relationship ends when the book ends, is that a betrayal?
There was never any flicker of romantic interest on my side, and I suspect on both sides. But you do develop a connection that is unusual.
It is hard to imagine any relationship that is similar, except that of a confessor, I suppose. There was a great piece years ago written by Janet Malcolm, that argued that there is a mutually exploitative relationship between a reporter and a subject.
In their and Laroche's struggles and oddities, she glimpsed true passion for the first time in her life. The film is a satire on the process of adaptation, in which Orlean's book is turned into a formulaic Hollywood thriller. Orlean's reaction, as cited on a GQ.
It was a complete shock. My first reaction was 'Absolutely not!
Are you kidding? This is going to ruin my career! They told me that everybody else had agreed and I somehow got emboldened. It was certainly scary to see the movie for the first time.
It took a while for me to get over the idea that I had been insane to agree to it, but I love the movie now.
What I admire the most is that it's very true to the book's themes of life and obsession, and there are also insights into things which are much more subtle in the book about longing, and about disappointment. My Dashboard Get Published. Sign in with your eLibrary Card close. Flag as Inappropriate. Email this Article. The Orchid Thief Article Id: The Orchid Thief.
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