In our June 29th post, you might have noticed that the November and December discussions
were mysteriously labeled ‘TBD.’ The selections have now been made. In a sort of double hitter,
the November (hybrid) book discussion will be for Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief. This
will be in preparation for our December (in-person only) potluck and movie - Adaptation.
I chose this pair of selections because I kept reading reviews about how clever and interesting
the movie is. I will just quote a bit from one (https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/
“What a bewilderingly brilliant and entertaining movie this is--a confounding story about orchid
thieves and screenwriters, elegant New Yorkers and scruffy swamp rats, truth and fiction.
"Adaptation" is a movie that leaves you breathless with curiosity, as it teases itself with the directions it might take. To watch the film is to be actively involved in the challenge of its creation.
It begins with a book titled The Orchid Thief, based on a New Yorker article by Susan Orlean
(Meryl Streep). She writes about a Florida orchid fancier named John Laroche (Chris Cooper),
who is the latest in a long history of men so obsessed by orchids that they would steal and kill
for them. Laroche is a con man who believes he has found a foolproof way to poach orchids
from protected Florida Everglades; since they were ancestral Indian lands, he will hire Indians
who can pick the orchids with impunity.
Now that story might make a movie, but it's not the story of "Adaptation." As the film opens, a
screenwriter named Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) has been hired to adapt the book, and is
stuck. There is so much about orchids in the book, and no obvious dramatic story line. Having
penetrated halfway into the book myself, I understood his problem: It's a great story, but is it a
movie? Charlie is distraught. His producer, Valerie (Tilda Swinton), is on his case. Where is the
first draft? He hardly has a first page. He relates his agony in voiceover, and anyone who has
ever tried to write will understand his system of rewards and punishments: Should he wait until
he has written a page to eat the muffin, or ...
… "Adaptation" is some kind of a filmmaking miracle, a film that is at one and the same time (a)
the story of a movie being made, (b) the story of orchid thievery and criminal conspiracies, and
(c) a deceptive combination of fiction and real life.”
I hope you’ll read the book and join us to watch the movie.
But before we get to November and December, we still have September and October ahead of
us. Our September selection is The Island of Missing Trees. Partially told from the point of view
of a fig tree, it is a story that takes place during the days leading up to the Turkish invasion of
Cyprus in 1974. Some 25 years later one of the protagonists takes a cutting to England and it
is that clone that tells the story as it lies buried underground during an epic snow storm. The
book even includes instructions on how to bury a fig tree.
And, in October, just as all your fruit harvests are ending, we’ll discuss Kate Lebo’s The Book of
Difficult Fruit. It does pair well with some of our previous selections - Ten Tomatoes that
Changed the World, and Damsons: an ancient fruit in the modern kitchen.
Quoting from the publisher’s website: “Inspired by twenty-six fruits, the essayist, poet, and pie lady Kate Lebo expertly blends natural, culinary, medical, and personal history.
A is for aronia, berry member of the apple family, clothes-stainer, superfruit with reputed healing power. D is for durian, endowed with a dramatic rind and a shifting odor—peaches, old garlic. M is for medlar, name-checked by Shakespeare for its crude shape, beloved by gardeners for its flowers. Q is for quince, which, when fresh, gives off the scent of “roses and citrus and rich women’s perfume,” but if eaten raw is so astringent it wicks the juice from one’s mouth.
In a work of unique invention, these and other difficult fruits serve as the central ingredients of
twenty-six lyrical essays (with recipes). What makes a fruit difficult? Its cultivation, its harvest,
its preparation, the brevity of its moment for ripeness, its tendency toward rot or poison, the
way it might overrun your garden. Here, these fruits will take you on unexpected turns and give
sideways insights into relationships, self-care, land stewardship, medical and botanical history,
and so much more. What if the primary way you show love is through baking, but your partner
suffers from celiac disease? Why leave in the pits for Willa Cather’s plum jam? How can we rely
on bodies as fragile as the fruits that nourish them?”