Nieman Storyboard’s “Why’s This So Good” explores what makes classic narrative nonfiction stories worth reading.

This week, Andrea Pitzer examines Susan Orlean’s “Orchid Fever,” which was originally published in The New Yorker on Jan. 23, 1995.

Orlean builds her study of obsession out of a vocabulary of desire and devastation, ranging from the apocalyptic to the sexually charged. Laroche’s own “passions boil up quickly and end abruptly, like tornadoes.” In the Fakahatchee, the rocks have crevices, the trees have crotches, and the orchids invite erotic speculation. Mere friction is enough to ignite the grass, literally setting cars on fire, leaving behind “pan-fried tourists” and the carcasses of burned-out Model Ts.

“Why’s This So Good?” No. 31: Susan Orlean Maps Obsession