Eric Hansen now lives in San Francisco, but over the last twenty-five years he has traveled throughout Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Nepal, and Southeast Asia. His articles and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, Travel and Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Outside Magazine, Men's Journal, Natural History Magazine, GEO, and Amica. He is also the author of two highly acclaimed books: Stranger in the Forest and Motoring with Mohammed (available in paperback from Vintage Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Travel writer Hansen profiles botanists, plant smugglers, hobbyists, nurserymen, and others whose lives are devoted to orchids. His title is somewhat misleading: although the subjects depicted are all keenly passionate about orchids, only a few are feverishly consumed by their interest. Readers expecting a true tale of orchid mania should turn instead to Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief (LJ 1/99). Most of Hansen's sketches are fundamentally vehicles for illustrating his serious and provocative argument against CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). According to the author, CITES thwarts orchid conservation and perversely legitimizes plant smuggling by botanical institutions. This controversial perspective alone makes this title an essential purchase for botanical and horticultural libraries, but it is an optional acquisition for other collections.--Brian Lym, City Coll. Lib. of San Francisco Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
"An extraordinary, well-told tale of botany, obsession and plant politics. Hansen's vivid descriptions of the complex techniques some orchids use to pollinate themselves will raise your eyebrows at nature's sexual ingenuity."-USA Today
In the same vein as Susan Orlean's Orchid Thief, this captivating tale is not so much about flowers as it is about obsession. In various chapters (some of which have appeared in Natural History magazine), Hansen (Stranger in the Forest; Motoring with Mohammed) examines different facets of the mysterious world of orchids, a universe of incredible subterfuge, erotic plant names and some very eccentric characters. He visits Borneo with two orchid growers and two Penan guides who are extremely puzzled about such enthusiasm over a flower that serves no medicinal or nutritive purpose. Hansen also interviews 84-year-old Eleanor Kerrigan, who in her Seattle basement greenhouse cultivates an illicit orchid collection worth $70,000. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has a strict policy about certain types of orchids, and many orchid growers and collectors, it turns out, operate on the wrong side of that policy, resulting in an underworld that, as the author notes, resembles the illegal drug trade. Hansen manages to talk to the secretive Henry Azadehdel (a cause c‚lŠbre in the orchid world since he was arrested for orchid smuggling in 1987) and travels to Turkey to taste orchid ice cream, which is rumored to be an aphrodisiac. Eventually, he comes to the conclusion that after five years of research he has become as obsessed with his subjects as they are with their flowers ("Orchids were doing strange things to me"). The results are fully enjoyable. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.