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Vertigo

Richard Rudgley: Plant obsessions, 15 July 1999

The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession 
by Susan Orlean.
Heinemann, 348 pp., £12.99, April 1999, 0 434 00783 8
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The Tulip 
by Anna Pavord.
Bloomsbury, 438 pp., £30, January 1999, 0 7475 4296 1
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Plants of Life, Plants of Death 
by Frederick Simoons.
Wisconsin, 568 pp., £27.95, September 1998, 0 299 15904 3
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... The human need for plants extends far beyond simple utilitarian requirements of food, clothing and shelter – there is a yearning for them which is aesthetic, obsessive, sometimes religious. These three books explore the nature of this more subtle relationship between the vegetable kingdom and ourselves. Susan Orlean approaches the shadowy world of orchid fanatics in Florida as an outsider, but one mindful of the inherent danger in her attempt to understand the nature of obsession ...

More Fun

Tom Jaine, 7 July 1994

The Alchemy of Culture: Intoxicants in Society 
by Richard Rudgley.
British Museum, 160 pp., £14.95, October 1993, 0 7141 1736 6
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... One of the aims of anthropology,’ Richard Rudgley says, ‘is to understand the self by way of the other.’ Are we to take it that if the Koryaks of Siberia had a high old time on the fly-agaric – or on the recycled urine of a fly-agaric consumer – we too should stock up on magic mushrooms? Rudgley maintains that humans have ‘a universal need for liberation from the restrictions of mundane existence, satisfied by experiencing altered states of consciousness ...

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