Adaptation Texts

Susan Orlean, “Orchid Fever,” The New Yorker, 23 January 1995.

John Laroche is a tall guy, skinny as a stick, pale-eyed, slouch-shouldered, and sharply handsome, in spite of the fact that he is missing all his front teeth. He has the posture of al dente spaghetti and the nervous intensity of someone who plays a lot of video games. He is thirty-four years old, and works for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, setting up a plant nursery on the tribal reservation near Miami. The Seminole nicknames for Laroche are Crazy White Man and Troublemaker. My introduction to Laroche took place last summer, in the new Collier County Courthouse, in Naples, Florida. The occasion was a hearing following Laroche’s arrest for illegally taking endangered wild orchids, which he is passionate about, from the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, which is a place he adores. Laroche did not dress for the occasion. He was wearing wraparound Mylar sunglasses, a cotton-blend shirt printed with some sort of scenic design, and trousers that bagged around his rear. At the hearing, he was called forward and asked to state his name and address and to describe his experience in working with plants. Laroche sauntered to the center of the courtroom. He jutted out his chin. He spoke in a rasping, draggy voice. He stuck his thumbs in his belt loops and said, “I’ve been a professional horticulturist for approximately twelve years. I’ve owned a plant nursery of my own. . . . I have extensive experience with orchids, and the asexual micropropagation of orchids under aseptic cultures.” Then he grinned and said to the court, “I’m probably the smartest person I know.”

Susan Orlean, The Orchid Thief, New York: Ballantine, 1998.

Script for Adaptation (always take scripts you find on the internet with a grain of salt):

EXT. ROCKY TERRAIN – DAY

Endless barren landscape. No sign of life. The atmosphere is hazy, toxic-looking. Volcanoes erupt. Meteors bombard. Lightning strikes, concussing murky pools of water. Silence.

INT. LARGE EMPTY LIVING ROOM – MORNING
SUBTITLE: HOLLYWOOD, CA, FOUR BILLION AND FORTY YEARS LATER

Beamed ceilings and ostentatious fireplace. A few birthday cards on the mantel, two of them identical: “To Our Dear Son on His Fortieth Birthday.” Charlie Kaufman, a fat, balding man in a purple sweater with tags still attached, paces the room. His incantational voice-over carpets the scene.

KAUFMAN (V.O.)

I am old. I am fat. I am bald. My toenails have turned strange. I am repulsive. How repulsive? I don’t know for I suffer from a condition called Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I am fat, but am I as fat as I think? My therapist says no, but people lie. I believe others call me Fatty behind my back. Or Fatso. Or, facetiously, Slim. But I also believe this is simply my own perverted form of self-aggrandizement, that no one really talks about me at all. What possible interest is an old, bald, fat man to anyone? I am repulsive. I have never lived. I blame myself. I —

EXT. STATE ROAD 29 – DAWN
A lonely two-lane highway cutting through swampland.

BRITISH NARRATOR

As natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection.

Suddenly, a beat-up white van barrels around a curve. It’s followed closely by an old green Ford.

SUBTITLE: STATE ROAD 29, FLORIDA, FIVE YEARS EARLIER INT. WHITE VAN – CONTINUOUS

John Laroche drives. He’s a skinny man with no front teeth. The van is piled with bags of potting soil, gardening junk. A Writings of Charles Darwin audio cassette case is on the seat next to Laroche.

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About Kevin L. Ferguson

Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing at Queens
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