The bestselling author of The Orchid Thief and The Library Book is back with this delightfully entertaining collection of her best and brightest profiles.
Acclaimed New Yorker writer Susan Orlean brings her wry sensibility, exuberant voice, and peculiar curiosities to a fascinating range of subjects—from the well known (Bill Blass) to the unknown (a typical ten-year-old boy) to the formerly known (the 1960s girl group the Shaggs).
Passionate people. Famous people. Short people. And one championship show dog named Biff, who from a certain angle looks a lot like Bill Clinton. Orlean transports us into the lives of eccentric and extraordinary characters—like Cristina Sánchez, the eponymous bullfighter, the first female matador of Spain—and writes with such insight and candor that readers will feel as if they’ve met each and every one of them.
The result is a luminous and joyful tour of the human condition as seen through the eyes of the writer heralded by the Chicago Tribune as a “journalist dynamo.”
One of the New Yorker's most distinctive stylists, Orlean (The Orchid Thief) has a knack for capturing "something extraordinary in ordinariness" of her subjects. Most are completely unknown, or were before she wrote about them in these 20 essays and profiles. Sure, there's a piece on designer Bill Blass and another on figure skater Tanya Harding, but Orlean clearly prefers to write about lesser known people like Felipe Lopez, New York's first Dominican high school basketball phenom, or Kwabena Oppong, a New York taxicab driver who also happens to be the king of the Ashanti living in the United States. (He attends to his Ghanaian subjectsDsettling disputes, presiding over ceremoniesDaround his cab-driving schedule.) Disarming but disciplined, Orlean's style is unobtrusively first person, with deft leads: "If I were a bitch, I'd be in love with Biff Truesdale," she writes, opening a story on a prize show dog. While some stories obviously evolve from her lifeDa profile of a smalltown news reporter who inevitably knows everyone, a hairdresser who is a "perfect master of ceremonies"Din others, she ventures far afield: the cult-fave 1960s sister rock band, the Shaggs; teenage Hawaiian surfer girls with offhand fearlessness; a female Spanish matador.