Thursday, September 14, 2006

Orchid Fever

"There is something distinctive about the sight and sound of a human body falling from a rainforest canopy. The breathless scream, the wildly gyrating arms and legs pumping thin air, the rush of leaves, and the sickening thud, followed by uneasy silence. Listening to that silence, I reflected on how plant collecting can be an unpleasant sort of activity."

- From Eric Hansen, Orchid Fever: A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust and Lunacy

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The first few lines of a book are considered some of the most important lines a writer writes. Within those lines, the reader decides whether or not your book is worth the time. With these lines, I was immediately hooked. As a writer, I find comedy and humor to be the most difficult to do, which Eric Hansen manages to do flawlessly. I've been a huge fan of Eric Hansen ever since I picked up Motoring with Mohammed (no joke, that book actually made me laugh out loud on a packed crowded LIRR commuter train, causing my fellow commuters to give me dirty looks).

From Amazon.com

The orchid is used for everything from medicine for elephants to an aphrodisiac ice cream. A Malaysian species can grow to weigh half a ton while a South American species fires miniature pollen darts at nectar-sucking bees. But the orchid is also the center of an illicit international business: one grower in Santa Barbara tends his plants while toting an Uzi, and a former collector has been in hiding for seven years after serving a jail sentence for smuggling thirty dollars worth of orchids into Britain.


Pick it up if you have the chance, even if travelogues aren't really your thing. It's a great read.

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