“As RHDV2 is poised to become endemic in the United States, the vaccine, which is the one thing that might stop it, is now caught up in the contradictions of rabbits.” The latest New Yorker feature from Susan Orlean tracks a highly contagious, deadly virus among rabbits.
In an excerpt from “The Library Book” — inspired by a historic California library fire — Susan Orlean challenges her respect for the printed word with a match and a copy of ‘Fahrenheit 451.’
Susan Orlean profiles “Lion Whisperer” Kevin Richardson, who has dedicated his life to the ethical conservation of lions.
The Outside magazine article that inspired the movie ‘Blue Crush.’
Susan Orlean on the television show “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” and its then 22 year old star, Melissa Joan Hart:
I grew up in the sixties and seventies, under the spell of the old television show “Bewitched.” I saw every episode, and I loved them all. But lately I have been watching the television show “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” and I have come to regret that I was fifteen in the “Bewitched” years rather than now. Samantha Stephens, the witch on “Bewitched,” was a high-strung, self-doubting, cringing pre-feminist, who tidied her house and suppressed her magical powers and her intellect to mollify her wanky husband, Darrin. Sabrina, on the other hand, is a modern girl. She is independent, spunky, friendly with boys but not obsequious toward them, moderately athletic, unabashedly sentimental, and assertive in the way that only girls who have grown up taking feminism for granted are able to be. “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” is shown Fridays at nine o’clock on ABC, and this year the network also broadcasts a rerun on Fridays at eight. The nine-o’clock “Sabrina” is watched by more young women, teens, and little kids than any other television program in that time slot, and both the eight-o’clock and the nine-o’clock episodes rank in the top-ten shows among all kids. For many millions of people, the embodiment of modern girlhood is Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
He finds a lot of ordinary things delightful; in fact, he is one of the most consistently enthusiastic people I’ve ever met. He hates what he thinks of as the French habit of being blasé, of dismissing just about everything as pas mal. Instead, his usual mode of speech is fuelled by high-octane superlatives. The cat-food can was “super-super-beautiful!” Talking about it reminded him of other similarly undervalued things that have interested him over the years, especially subcultures like British punks (“super-elegant!”), street people (“I saw someone, very poor, he put a big pullover over his coat, and I thought it was super-beautiful!”), Hasidim (“I saw a lot of rabbis with their traditional clothes. I was amazed by how fabulous and beautiful it was!”), and redheads (“I feel like, red hair, it’s a surprise! A good surprise! It’s super-beautiful!”).
Susan Orlean’s classic profile of a ten-year-old boy named Colin Duffy:
“If Colin Duffy and I were to get married, we would have matching superhero notebooks. We would ‘ wear shorts, big sneakers, and long, baggy T-shirts depicting famous athletes every single day, even in the winter. We would sleep in our clothes. We would both be good at Nintendo Street Fighter II, but Colin would be better than me. We would have some homework, but it would not be too hard and we would always have just finished it. We would eat pizza and candy for all of our meals. We wouldn’t have sex, but we would have crushes on each other and, magically, babies would appear in our home. We would win the lottery and then buy land in Wyoming, where we would have one of every kind of cute animal. All the while, Colin would be working in law enforcement – probably the FBI. Our favorite movie star, Morgan Freeman, would visit us occasionally. We would listen to the same Eurythmics song (“Here Comes the Rain Again”) over and over again and watch two hours of television every Friday night. We would both be good at football, have best friends, and know how to drive; we would cure AIDS and the garbage problem and everything that hurts animals. We would hang out a lot with Colin’s dad. For fun, we would load a slingshot with dog food and shoot it at my butt. We would have a very good life.”
At an orchid show in New York last year, I heard the same story over and over—how one orchid in the kitchen led to a dozen, and then to a back-yard greenhouse, and then, in some cases, to multiple greenhouses and collecting trips to Asia and Africa and an ever-expanding budget to service this desire. I walked around the show with a collector from Guatemala. He said, “The bug hits you. You can join A.A. to quit drinking, but once you get into orchids you can’t do anything to kick.”