Saturday, October 4, 2014

the last book I ever read (Oranges by John McPhee, excerpt three)

from Oranges by John McPhee:

Despite the tidal rise of concentrate, Grierson has been trying to keep growers and shippers interested in fresh fruit. In his office, in a frame over the door, he has a small broken lance, which he carved himself from a piece of birch to symbolize his jousts in the name of fresh oranges and the kind of success he feels he has had. “I am the leader of His Majesty’s loyal opposition,” he told me the moment I walked into his office. “The fresh-fruit trade has been almost completely neglected lately. I believe that if growers continue to neglect the fresh-fruit market, they may find, in the next ten or twenty years, that the market for all forms of orange products has suffered. These canners get a blood lust whenever they see an orange. I, among others, have been out lobbying to try to keep the fresh-fruit part of the industry alive, although it isn’t becoming for a scientist to be out lobbying. In 1948, as a result of overplanting, growers were busy cutting down orange trees, grafting over to grapefruit, planting over to avocados, and that sort of thing, but then the miracle came. Oranges have quadrupled. The concentrate boom is the boomiest boom since the Brazilian rubber boom. The normal laws of economics are defied. When a freeze comes along now, it’s a fortunate disaster. It halves the crop, triples the price, reduces taxes, and saves gasoline. When things are going wrong, they are at their best—all bolstered by the miracle of concentrate. This industry is now hungry for new miracles, but one miracle per industry is considerably above any normal quota. We cannot always rely on natural disasters to keep down the volume of fruit. Incidentally, after the great freeze of 1962—the worst freeze of this century—the leaves all turned manila and fell to the ground. Much of the fruit fell to the ground, too, but a lot of it still hung eerily, and with a macabre beauty, in the trees. They looked like odd Christmas trees covered with bright-orange balls.”

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