If you've seen Spike Jonze's 2002 film Adaptation then you are more than slightly familiar with the work of The New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean. Portrayed by Meryl Streep (the viewer is left to decide how much of the drug-addicted, downward-spiraling manic character is actually based on Orlean), the film grew from the seed of Orlean's novel The Orchid Thief, an awesome story about human obsessions and floundering genius, the publication of which helped Orlean achieve a certain amount of mainstream success. A hawk-eyed observer and recorder of the beautiful oddities of human nature, Orlean is straight-forward, insightful and careful not to sink into sentimentalism when it seems like the easiest thing to do. Plus, she's witty as shit.
Join Orlean and an adoring cadre of New Yorker-philes as she reads from her newest addition to the journalist-compiles-essay-collection canon, My Kind of Place: Travel Stories From a Woman Who's Been Everywhere. A modern explorer intent on exposing and understanding the often overlooked people and events across the globe or down the street, Orlean ventures to a taxidermy convention, a grocery store in Queens (the book is divided into three sections: here, there and everywhere), an Afro-music shop in Paris and a fertility blessing ceremony in Bhutan. This is just the book to get you off the beaten path carved so carefully by The Lonely Planet and shyster tour guides intent on taking you to ad-and-Starbucks riddled Time Square and to show you that sometimes traveling is little more than a state of mind.
Susan Orlean reads at UC Irvine Student Center Crystal Cove, Peltason & Campus drs., Irvine, (949) 824-6876. Tues., 7 p.m. Free.