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Susan Orlean

Articles

This is a selection of articles I've written for The New Yorker and some other fine publications. The newest articles are at the top. I'll be adding more, so keep checking back!

Thinking in the Rain
The New Yorker, February 11 & 18, 2008

The Steve Hollinger experience can be described most simply as multimedia. For one thing, it includes olfactory surprises. My apartment was right above Steve's for several years, and on a regular basis he would call to warn me about odors that might waft their way from the second floor, where he lived, to my apartment on the third. Once in a while, the warning was about something he'd be cooking, but often it was more unexpected ...

The Origami Lab
The New Yorker, February 19, 2007

One of the few Americans to see action during the Bug Wars of the nineteen-nineties was Robert J. Lang, a lanky Californian who was on the front lines throughout, from the battle of the Kabutomushi Beetle to the battle of the Menacing Mantis and the battle of the Long-Legged Wasp. Most combatants in the Bug Wars -- which were, in fact, origami contests -- were members of the Origami Detectives, a group of artists in Japan who liked to try outdoing one another with extreme designs of assigned subjects ...

Little Wing
The New Yorker, February 13 & 20, 2006

On a bright, breezy Saturday not long ago, Sedona Murphy gave her homing pigeons away. Earlier that morning, the birds had flown around the neighborhood, looping over the shaggy old trees and the peaked rooftops of South Boston before returning to their gray shed in the Murphys' back yard. They then toddled obligingly into their wooden case. These were racing birds ...

Lost Dog
The New Yorker, February 14 & 21, 2005

On August 6, 2003, Stephen Morris parked his car at the Atlanta History Center, expecting to spend half an hour or so edifying himself and his nephew on the particulars of the Civil War. It was the beginning of what would turn out to be a very bad day. At the time, though, everything seemed fine ...

The Outsiders
The New Yorker, July 26, 2004

The Church of Saints Peter and Paul in South Boston has had its share of both bedevilment and blessings. A grand gray building, a pile of granite chunks pierced by Gothic arches and topped with a copper-clad bell tower, was erected in 1844 and dedicated with extravagant ceremony; four years later, it burned to the ground. After it was rebuilt, it was so popular that another parish had to be established nearby to handle the overflow ...

Out of the Woods
The New Yorker, June 14, 2004

It was an awful house. A broker would have called it a charming Swiss chalet; what it should have been called, really, was a dingy A-frame, mud-brown, damp, afflicted with an air of unrelieved gloom. An ad might have claimed that it was nestled in the Oregon mountains -- in fact, an ad did claim that it was nestled in the Oregon mountains -- but would fail to mention that it was nestled in what was possibly the only cramped, cluttered, suburban subdivision in the Oregon mountains ...

Animal Action
The New Yorker, November 17, 2003

According to the American Humane guidelines, no animal actor should have to work like a dog. For instance, if an ape is on set for more than three consecutive days the production must provide a play area or a private park where the ape can exercise and relax. When a bear is working on a film, anything that produces smells that might bother the bear -- cheap perfume, strong liquor, jelly doughnuts -- must be removed from the location ...

Lifelike
The New Yorker, June 9, 2003

As soon as the 2003 World Taxidermy Championships opened, the heads came rolling in the door. There were foxes and moose and freeze-dried wild turkeys; mallards and buffalo and chipmunks and wolves; weasels and buffleheads and bobcats and jackdaws; big fish and little fish and razor-backed boar ...

Nice Doggy
The New Yorker, February 18, 2003

The other day, my Welsh springer spaniel, Cooper, gave me a manicure. He doesn't give the world's best manicure -- for that you'd have to go to that Korean joint, Nuclear Nails, or whatever it's called, on Broadway -- but he really tries. He can tell whether I'm in the mood to have my cuticles cut or just pushed back ...

Where's Willy?
The New Yorker, September 23, 2002

It was a hell of a time to be in Iceland, although by most accounts it is always a hell of a time to be in Iceland, where the wind never huffs or puffs but simply blows your house down. This was early in August, and it was stormy, as usual, but the summer sun did shine a little, and the geysers burped blue steam and scalding water, and the glaciers groaned as they shoved tons of silt a few centimetres closer to the sea ...

Tainted Love
The New Yorker, July 14, 2002

I want to make a confession: I am passionately and uncontrollably in love with Dick Cheney. Lynne, I'm sorry; if I could help it I would. It's just something about him -- the strength, the silence, the frank and unabashed baldness, the mystery, the unknowability, the man, the myth, the Vice-Presidentialness of him. ...

The Lady and the Tigers
The New Yorker, February 24, 2002

On January 27, 1999, a tiger went walking through the town of Jackson, New Jersey. According to the zoology guidebook Wild Cats, a tiger's natural requirements are 'some form of dense vegetative cover, sufficient large ungulate prey, and access to water'. By those measures, Jackson is really not a bad place to be a tiger ...

Shadow Memory
Flowers in Shadow (Rizzoli), January 1, 2002

When my grandmother died a few years ago, I was given her formal china, her silverware, a fur-lined lap robe, and her Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition -- an old brick of a book, leather-bound, with skin-thin pages and black half-moon thumb tabs ...

Art for Everybody
The New Yorker, on October 15, 2001

One recent sultry afternoon, inside the Bridgewater Commons mall, in central New Jersey, across from The Limited, down the hall from a Starbucks, next door to the Colorado Pen Company, and just below Everything Yogurt, a woman named Glenda Parker was making a priceless family heirloom for a young couple and their kid ...

A Place Called Midland
The New Yorker, on October 16 & 23, 2000

In Midland, Texas, it's not the heat; it's the lack of humidity. Almost total lack of it, or so it seems, especially when you first arrive and step out of the chilled Midland International Airport and into the dry-roasted air. Midland has the kind of air that hits you like a brick ...

Springtime Fashion
The New Yorker, on March 30, 2000

Nothing says springtime quite so much as a romp around Paris in your underpants. Pitchers and catchers may have reported to spring training; tax day might have come and gone; but nothing celebrates the vernal equinox like whipping off your fleece-lined Uggs and wool-blend trousers, getting a Brazilian bikini wax ...

The Place to Disappear
The New Yorker, January 7, 2000

All languages are welcome on Bangkok's Khao San Road, including Drunkard. "Hold my hand," a man fluent in Singapore Slings commanded a Scottish hairdresser one night at Lucky Beer and Guest House -- only in his dialect it came out soggy and rounded, more like Hole mah han. "Not right now," the Scottish hairdresser said ...

Shooting Party
The New Yorker, on September 29, 1999

When I went to Scotland for a friend's wedding last summer, I didn't plan on firing a gun. Getting into a fistfight, maybe; hurling insults about badly dressed bridesmaids, of course; but I didn't expect to shoot or get shot at ...

Meet The Shaggs
The New Yorker, September 27, 1999

Depending on whom you ask, the Shaggs were either the best band of all time or the worst. Frank Zappa is said to have proclaimed that the Shaggs were "better than the Beatles." More recently, though, a music fan who claimed to be in "the fetal position, writhing in pain," declared on the Internet that the Shaggs were "hauntingly bad," ...

I Want This Apartment
The New Yorker, February 22, 1999

Jill Meilus is a New York City real-estate broker. Like Superman, she can see through walls. Walking down a Manhattan street with her is a paranormal experience. "Nice building," you might remark as you pass a handsome but unrevealing prewar facade, to which she might respond that the J-line apartment on the third floor has a new kitchen, that the guy in 8-A is being transferred to Florida and will entertain any offers of more than two hundred thousand dollars ...

Pool Buddy
The New Yorker, June 22, 1998

When I was in junior high school, we spent the whole summer at the pool. The coolest kids had tans in May; I don't know how they did it. In 1971, when I was fourteen, there was a kind of bikini that was the absolute butter -- a little something held together at the hips and thorax by brass rings -- and early that summer the most popular of the popular girls had circles of untanned skin underneath those rings ...

Girl Power
The New Yorker, May 18, 1998

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 ...

Shiftless Little Loafers
The New Yorker, July 22, 1996

Question: Why don't more babies work? Excuse me, did I say more? I meant, why don't any babies work? After all, there are millions of babies around, and most of them appear to be extremely underemployed. There are so many jobs -- being commissioner of major-league baseball, say, or running the snack concession at the Olympic synchronized-swimming venue -- and yet it seems that babies never fill them ...

Show Dog
The New Yorker, February 20 & 27, 1995

If I were a bitch, I'd be in love with Biff Truesdale. Biff is perfect. He's friendly good-looking, rich, famous, and in excellent physical condition. He almost never drools. He's not afraid of commitment. He wants children -- actually, he already has children and wants a lot more. He works hard and is a consummate professional, but he also knows how to have fun ...

Orchid Fever
The New Yorker, January 23, 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 ...

Figures in a Mall
The New Yorker, February 21, 1994

One of the last happy meetings of the Tonya Harding Fan Club took place at Nancy Welfelt's house, around her dining-room table. The meeting had actually begun at Clackamas Town Center -- the mall, in Clackamas County, Oregon, where Tonya skates -- on the morning of the day before Tonya's on-again, off-again ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, began his sixteen hours of interviews with the F.B.I. ...

Shoot the Moon
The New Yorker, March 22, 1993

White men in suits follow Felipe Lopez everywhere he goes. Felipe lives in Mott Haven, in the South Bronx. He is a junior at Rice High School, which is on the corner of 124th Street and Lenox Avenue, in Harlem, and he plays guard for the school basketball team, the Rice Raiders. The white men are ubiquitous. They rarely miss one of Felipe's games or tournaments ...

My Life: A Series of Performance Art Pieces
The New Yorker, December 31, 1990

As the piece opens, another performance artist, "Mom" (an affiliate of my private funding source) waits onstage, consuming tuna-noodle casseroles. Eventually, she leaves the initial performance site-a single-family Cape Cod decorated with amoeboid sofas, Herman Miller coconut chairs, boomerang-print linoleum, and semi-shag carpeting-for a second site, a hospital ...