Susan Orlean: A Wonderful Lady to Hate

“It all began on a Thursday. I was at my computer idly scrolling through House & Home, that most invidious section of the New York Times, and there it was: a splashy article about New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean, and the house she and her husband recently built in the Hudson Valley.” Ann Horaday writes in today’s Washington Post.

“An avid house-porn junkie and Susan Orlean fan, I devoured the story and eagerly accompanied Orlean as she took readers on a low-key Web tour of the glass-and-fieldstone showplace overlooking the Taconic mountains, a soaring yet serene sanctuary she described as “spacious but not pointlessly huge.” The slide show’s centerpiece was a photo of an understandably ecstatic-looking Orlean — who even at 50 can still pull off her signature mane of long, red hair — basking with her son and husband in the great room of an incredibly great house.”

Within hours, Susan Orlean began acquiring even more real estate than her 55 acres in Columbia County, taking up residence in that part of my brain reserved for those I hold in equal parts esteem and contempt. In my head began a tiny little synaptic badminton game that goes something like this: I love Susan Orlean, I hate Susan Orlean, I wish I could be Susan Orlean, I’m not smart/pretty/talented/enterprising enough to be Susan Orlean. I idolize Susan Orlean. I despise Susan Orlean.

I idolspize Susan Orlean.

Please understand: I adore Susan Orlean and begrudge her nothing, not the New Yorker gig, the books, the close-up-ready face. Not even the two great movies based on her articles — “Adaptation” and “Blue Crush” — that opened the same year . Still, throughout the ensuing weekend, my mind obsessively returned to the same thoughts, the mewling laments of a puny inquisitor: She’s got the career, the looks, the romance, the kid. Did she have to get the perfect house, too? Must her happiness, however justified, be so in-your-face? Must she be so promiscuous in her bliss?