4: The Orchid Thief

The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean

The Orchid Thief

I picked this up at the VPL Book Sale (for $1, I think). It’s the book that the movie Adaptation was based on. Adaptation is a weird and wonderful movie, so I was curious about the book.

As the sub-title indicates, this is a true story, an expansion of an earlier New Yorker article. Of course, the book has none of the meta-ness of the movie (which is all about the difficulty in adapting the book to a screenplay). The story starts out being about John Laroche—the orchid thief—who is on trial for taking endangered orchids from a state preserve, but grows into a story about Florida orchid enthusiasts in general and their passion for the plants. Passion is the overarching theme.

I have to say this is a rare instance where I liked the movie better than the book.

Orlean’s a really good writer—her descriptions are vivid—and this is the type of New Yorker article that I’d really enjoy, but the book gets a bit wandery. It’s like she wanted to include every orchid and every character she met and I started to suffer from sensory overload about midway through the book.

The movie has more of a cohesive narrative—but, heh, now I can see where the difficulty in adapting it to a screenplay came from. So, haha, ironically, reading the book will probably make my next watching of the movie even more entertaining! So I guess it was pretty awesome on that level.