Bestselling “The Orchid Thief” author Orlean speaker for upcoming Levy Lecture


Legions of readers are acquainted with bestselling author Susan Orlean, who has written eight books and spent three decades as a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine.

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is hosting an opportunity to listen to Orlean; she will be speaker for the 2023 Flora Plonsky Levy Lecture.

The free event, which is open to the public, will be held from 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 4, in the Angelle Hall auditorium on campus. A catered reception at 6:15 p.m. will precede the Levy Lecture. A book signing will follow.

Orlean’s life and career has given her a wealth of material and experiences from which to potentially draw for the talk.

Her most notable book is the nonfiction bestseller “The Orchid Thief.” Its framework is Orlean’s investigation into the story of John Laroche, an eccentric plant dealer arrested for poaching rare ghost orchids from a Florida swamp.
Laroche intended to clone the endangered orchid, and sell large numbers of the flowers to fanatical collectors across the world. The book became the basis for the film “Adaptation,” which earned actress Meryl Streep an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of Orlean. 

Orlean’s writerly curiosity carries past rare orchids and the strange subculture obsessed with possessing them.

Her other books explore an eclectic mix of subjects, including the unsolved mystery of the Los Angeles Central Library fire in 1986 and Rin Tin Tin’s journey from orphaned puppy to motion picture star in the 1920s and 1930s.

UL Lafayette’s Dr. Charles Richard, a professor of English who coordinates the Levy Lecture, said “one of the reasons that I love her work is everything seems to be a topic of interest for her.”

The New York Times, in a review of Orlean’s essay collection “On Animals,” agreed, stating: “There appears to be nothing in the world that doesn’t interest Orlean, and she has such a companionable way of conveying her fascinations that readers can’t help being fascinated too.”

The annual Flora Plonsky Levy Lecture Series is hosted by the University’s Department of English through a UL Lafayette Foundation endowment.

For more information, contact Richard at

Photo caption: Susan Orlean, the bestselling author of the nonfiction book “The Orchid Thief” and longtime staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, will be the speaker for UL Lafayette’s 2023 Flora Plonsky Levy Lecture. The free event will be held from 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 4, in Angelle Hall auditorium. It is open to the public. Photo credit: Noah Fecks