EPS Review #1 - Orchid Fever

As many of you know, I read about a book a week on the train, which makes me positively fond of my commute. Someone (Tom or Martin) recommended that I email reviews; Tom already does this himself. We could post our reviews to Amazon, but I like the idea of doing it this way, since it lets me be more personal, and reminds my far-flung and infrequently-seen friends that I still exist, and have a mental life (however small) separate from work. Tom's posts are brief and to the point: mine won't be, I fear. Just reply if you want off the list. Also, I am using bcc to be polite, since I know some people feel all secretive on the net. Not me, but then you can have the last laugh when some lunatic comes and gets me. Finally, I have been writing these reviews in my head for ages, and only now am doing it, which means they will probably be rather infrequent. Most books will be true tales of travel.

Patricia bought a hardback copy of Orchid Fever: A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy by Eric Hansen because she knows he is one of my favorite travel writers. Hansen's "Stranger in the Forest" is just as funny as Redmond O'Hanlon's "Into the Heart of Borneo." Both authors made friends with the locals, but "Stranger" is about a longer and deeper association with the island. "Motoring with Mohammed" is also good (shipwrecked in Yemen). "Orchid Fever" is not a travelogue, but journalism, about the world of Orchid collectors. He got interested, because he was trying to think of ways for his Borneo friends to make money, and figured they could salvage rare plants from the areas clear-cut by loggers. This proved not to be possible due to the CITES laws, framed to deal with big animals: you can't trade parts of elephants, so you also can't trade parts of plants, like seeds. I almost got tired of the CITES issue by the end of the book, but Hansen collects crazy people and anecdotes, so the book is a fast and amusing read anyway. You might want to wait for the paperback, though. There are no photos.

Still on the Borneo bookshelf: "East of Samarinda" by Carl Jacobi. I got this off Ebay; it caught my eye because P & I were in Samarinda briefly (hated it, scary boomtown, never got deeper into Borneo. liked the prawns though). It is fiction of the "weird tales" variety. In the Intro, he recommends the "true" book "Where the Strange Trails Go Down" as having excellent raw material about witch doctors, headhunters etc. This has been on my search list for a while, but I haven't got around to buying it. Listed for $25 on Abe Books. Also plan to read "Land Below the Wind" by Agnes Newton Keith. Her books seem to have been popular, and have nice line drawings.

Oh, and P has successfully kept several Phalaenopsis alive, and they have bloomed more than once. But she has no plans to obsess further.

Tom wrote: Have you read "Ring of Fire" by Lawrence and Lorne Blair? I saw the video version (4 hours?) some years back and enjoyed it immensely.

I bought this and it is fantastic! See review #13.