Wednesday, April 23, 2003


I've been reading a lot lately. More than usual, anyway. I don't know why. Right now I'm in the middle of Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief, and yes, it's because of Adaptation, which I loved. What's amazing is that Neva bought the book at almost the exact same time, except that she's in Iloilo and I'm… well, here. And she got hers at about 40% the price I got mine-- which was already more than half off the regular price. It's a gripping, engaging book. Her writing is marvelous, because it's easily accessible and clear. I never thought I'd be so consumed by a book on flowers, but I'm sure Charlie Kaufman thought the same thing when he went through it the first time. Laroche is a genuine character, and Chris Cooper I think gave a terrific performance in the film, but so much of his character is merely implied in the film, whereas here it's in full bloom. No pun intended.

An interesting excerpt:

"When I first met him, he told me he had found the only gem-grade fossil pearl in existence, a boast so specific that I couldn't resist investigating it, and no one I talked to ever confirmed that such a thing could be true. I really wanted to confront him about it, but when he brought it up another time and I was about to challenge him, he said, 'You know why I love that pearl so much? Because as long as I have it, I still sort of have the moment when I got it. The place I got it was wild when I was there, and it's gone now, it's all developed and the woods are just gone. And I was with my wife when I found it, she's my ex-wife now, and I was with my mom, and my mom's dead now. But having that pearl is like still having that moment, my mom is alive and I'm still happily married and the place I found it is still gorgeous.' I never brought up the question of the pearl again. I'm not a sucker. It's just that questioning whether it really is the only gem-grade fossil pearl in existence felt piddling compared to what he said it meant to him-- it would have felt like telling someone deeply in love that the beloved one was ugly and short."

and mentions of our beloved country:

"In 1901 eight orchid hunters went on an expedition to the Philippines. Within a month one of them had been eaten by a tiger; another had been drenched with oil and burned alive; five had vanished into thin air; and one had managed to stay alive and walk out of the woods carrying forty-seven thousand Phalaenopsis plants."

"Carl Roebelin was another one of the great Victorian orchid hunters. He was German, mentally hard and physically fearless. At Sander's request he once went hunting on a small island in the Philippines. Just after he arrived an earthquake turned the island inside out and Roebelin was almost killed. As soon as he made it to safety he wired Sander [his employer] to tell him that he was returning to England because the island had been devastated. At the end of the wire he mentioned that he'd seen some astounding cinnamon-scented lilac vandas in the jungle right before the earthquake. If Roebelin had really wanted to leave the Philippines and come home, this was exactly the wrong thing to say. Sander wired back immediately and demanded that Roebelin return to the island and find those lilac vandas or find another employer to pay his passage home. Roebelin refused and Sander's threats became more strenuous. Roebelin finally gave in. The plant he retrieved from the wreckage was a new species that was later given the name Vanda sanderiana. It was put on display in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew when it bloomed and was such a spectacle that it drew a crowd of thousands. Many vandas grown commercially now can be traced back to Roebelin's salvaged plant."

And here's one of the excerpts I made Neva read from that Alan Moore short story I mentioned, "A Hypothetical Lizard":

"'It's like an accident I saw… a farmer, crushed beneath his cart. He was alive, but his ribs were broken and sticking through his side. I didn't know what they were at first, because it was all such a mess. There were a lot of people gathered 'round, but nobody could move the cart without hurting him even more than he was hurt already.

It was summer, and there were a lot of flies. I remember him screaming and shouting for somebody to beat the flies away, and an old woman went out and did that for him, but until then nobody had moved, not until he screamed at them. It was horrible. I walked by as fast as I could because he was suffering and there was nothing anybody could do, except for the old woman who was beating the flies away with her apron.

But I went back.

I stopped just a little way down the road, and I went back. I couldn't help it. It was just that it was so real and so painful, that man, lying there under that terrible weight and screaming for his wife, his children, it was so real that it just cut through everything else in the world, all the things that my luck and my money have built up around me, and I knew that it meant something, and I went back there and I watched him drown on his own blood while the old woman told him not to worry, that his wife and children would be there soon.

And that's why I came back to the House Without Clocks.'

There was a long hyphen of silence.

'And I still love you.'"

I was going to include next an excerpt from Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky, which of course isn't a book but is a film I am rediscovering my love for. But unfortunately it gives away some plot points so I decided against it, and will instead recommend it to all of you who haven't seen it yet. And if you have, see it again. It's that kind of film, like Fight Club, that rewards repeat viewings because there are so many details that you begin to pick up on once you know what's really going on. I found a website this afternoon that lists lots of secrets I didn't know about, but has also missed two that I've found, so I might email them. Check it out only if you've seen the film.


John Malkovich, in an interview about his upcoming film Art Sschool Confidential: "[Graphic novels are] not a form I know anything about-- I only found out a few weeks ago that there are even stores that sell comics. I missed this."

I post this with no malice or negative feelings towards Malkovich; he's one of my favorite actors. He's being honest here, and I'm just posting it as an example. But it's also ironic because, despite his ignorance, his production company Mr. Mudd made one of the best comic book to movie adaptations ever: Ghost World. And Art School Confidential, which is the next film by the same creative team (director Terry Zwigoff and writer Daniel Clowes; it's also based on a [short] comics story of Clowes's), is also being produced by him, along with Drew Barrymore's Flower Films. There's an unlikely pairing.

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