Monday, February 25, 2013

The Orchid Thief Online Readalong: Week 2

The second section of The Orchid Thief takes the focus a little off John Laroche (which had to be a relief for the author as well as the reader) and places it squarely on Florida, specifically the Everglades. I often don't appreciate outsiders' descriptions and opinions on a place I know well (though Orlean has probably spent more time in the Everglades than I have).
She captures, I think, the transition most of us go through between the time when we first get a look at the Everglades ecosystem and find it daunting -- it's not exactly Yosemite -- and when we start to appreciate its strange beauty. And Orlean makes the connection between that landscape and her real subject -- obsession -- on page 109: "the sheer bigness of the world made me feel lonely to the bone. The world is so huge that people are always getting lost in it. There are too many ideas and things and people, too many directions to go. I was starting to believe that the reason it matters to care passionately about something is that it whittles the world down to a more manageable size. It makes the world seem not huge and empty but full of possibility."
The other major theme of this section was its focus on other orchid-obsessed people besides Laroche -- Mote and Fuchs and Smith. I imagine the purpose of that was to show that Laroche was not alone in his willingness to go to extremes in pursuit of orchid glory. I couldn't quite decide, however, whether this demonstrated that orchids make people a little nutty -- or just attract nutty people.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe that is why I enjoy the middle of the book so much—it provides a break from Laroche. While he is interesting to read about he’s not someone I would ever want to meet. Anyway, I really enjoy this middle section as it delves more into the weirdness that is South Florida. I don’t know why but I just love the part about the different real estate scams, and the failed development that is now just a series of streets out in the Everglades. Orlean describes it as a ghost town but with no buildings. Is it weird that I want to go there?
    I am enjoying this re-read of The Orchid Thief. And the more I think about it, I think maybe she should have gone with the Passion title. I think Laroche is more of a sub-plot to the book, an example of the nutty passion that drives collectors. But I do not have an answer to your question about the attraction of nutty people or the attraction making them nutty…