Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Orchid Fever

It has been a while since I read a completely unputdownable book and this is not even a spy thriller. Orchid Fever : A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy is all of that and much more. Hansen introduces the reader to an array of eccentric characters who are unlike each other in all respects except for their obsession with orchids. The witticism is reminiscent of Bill Bryson in A Walk In The Woods and Neither Here Nor There.

Orchid mania meets objective research of the ways of CITES, their bizarre bureaucratic machinery, raids on orchid nurseries followed by imprisonment and lawsuits in this book. You discover that legal and illegal in the world of orchid export are easily interchangeable. You can start out being in violation of law, raided, fined and imprisoned for buying orchids without appropriate permits. But coming out of jail you may stop by to buy some spoils of that very same raid from a bona-fide government nursery where they ended up, and
voilĂ , you are now all legal !

The chapter titles are a mix of titillation and hilarity - you have no choice but to find out what happens in "Bodice Rippers" or "Fox Testicle Ice-cream Of Kemal". Thanks to Hansen, I will never be be able to look at an orchid without seeing all manner of genitalia in it. The quote by Joe Kunisch, a commercial orchid grower, Hansen starts his book with is an accurate summary of what this story is all about "You can get off alcohol, drugs, women,food and cars, but once you are hooked om orchids, you're finished. You never get off orchids...never".

By the time you are done reading Orchid Fever, you know to err on the side of caution when it comes to buying another pretty orchid for the window sill. Maybe best to stop at one.

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