“John Laroche is a tall guy, skinny as a stick, pale-eyed, slouch-shouldered, and sharply handsome, in spite of the fact that he is missing all his front teeth. He has the posture of al dente spaghetti and the nervous intensity of someone who plays a lot of video games.”

UK cover - http://www.susanorlean.com/books/the-orchid-thief.php
UK cover – http://www.susanorlean.com/books/the-orchid-thief.php

I devoured this book quite some time ago. Today it fell into my hands when I was looking for something else on my bookshelf. Remembering how I had enjoyed this unusual piece, a true story, I sat down and started reading parts of it again. It is a fascinating account of extreme people, who, to satisfy their obsessive passion for orchids, are willing to travel to the end of the world, wade through murky alligator infested swamps, wear the same muddy-soiled clothes for days on end, and get into trouble with the law. An intoxicating page-turner.

“Laroche tends to sound like a Mr. Encyclopedia, but he did not have a rigorous formal education. He went to public school in North Miami; other than that, he is self-taught. Once in a while he gets wistful about the life he thinks he would have led if he had applied himself more conventionally. He believes he would have probably become a brain surgeon and that he would have made major brain-research breakthroughs and become rich and famous. Instead, he lives in a frayed Florida bungalow with his father and has always scratched out a living in unaverage ways.

One of his greatest assets is optimism–that is, he sees a profitable outcome in practically every life situation, including disastrous ones. Years ago he spilled toxic pesticide into a cut on his hand and suffered permanent heart and liver damage from it. In his opinion, it was all for the best because he was able to sell an article about the experience (“Would You Die for Your Plants?”) to a gardening journal.

When I first met him, he was working on a guide to growing plants at home. He told me he was going to advertise it in High Times, the marijuana magazine. He said the ad wouldn’t mention that marijuana plants grown according to his guide would never mature and therefore never be psychoactive.

…..

Just when you have finally concluded that he is a run-of-the-mill crook, he unveils an ulterior and somewhat principled but always lucrative reason for his crookedness. He likes to describe himself as a shrewd bastard. He loves doing things the hard way, especially if it means that he gets to do what he wants to do but also gets to leave everyone else wondering how he managed to get away with it. He is quite an unusual person. He is also the most moral amoral person I’ve ever known.”

Excerpts taken from here:
http://www.randomhouse.com/rhpg/rc/library/display.pperl?isbn=9780449003718&view=excerpt

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