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The Greening of Ben Brown: A Novel Paperback – April 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


MICHAEL STRELOW HAS GIVEN NORTHWEST READERS an amazing fable for our time and place featuring Ben Brown, a utility lineman who transforms into the Green Man following an industrial accident. Eco-Hero and prophet, the Green Man heads a cast of wonderful and zany characters who ?xate over sundry items from ?lberts to hubcaps. A timely raid on a company producing heavy metals galvanizes Strelow’s mythical East Leven as much as the Boston Tea Party rallied Boston. Fascinating, humorous, and wise, The Greening of Ben Brown deserves its place on bookshelves along with other Northwest classics. —CRAIG LESLEY, author of Storm Riders

IF THE GREEN MAN OF MEDIEVAL LORE appeared in Oregon — the mystic version of Strelow’s Oregon — and if the ghost of Kesey helped keep the tale irreverent but strangely tender for place, person, and our chance, then you would hold in your hands The Greening of Ben Brown. And so you do. Let this quiet mystery take you where you need to be. — KIM STAFFORD, author of The Muses Among Us and Other Pleasures of the Writer’s Craft

WITH ITS RICHLY CULTIVATED AND CAREFULLY TENDED PROSE, The Greening of Ben Brown is a compelling examination of community and what it means to love the land, for, as these characters teach us, there shall never be another quite like it. — GINA OCHSNER, author of The Necessary Grace to Fall.
THE GREENING OF BEN BROWN is about communities, physical and emotional. It is a tale of wonders and everyday things. This is a wise book. While it might seem to be intrinsically about the Northwest, it is about universal things. Not many novels mean as much, entertain as much and stimulate as much as The Greening of Ben Brown.—STATESMAN JOURNAL


AN ENGLISH TEACHER AT WILLAMETTE UNIVERSITY, Strelow resonates as both poet and storyteller. In creating inhabitants of a town, its central figure and a strong sense of place, he lays on description lavishly, almost breathlessly, in both broad and detailed strokes. The author lovingly invokes a particular brand of Pacific Northwest magic realism, a blend of fable, social realism, wry wisdom and irreverence that brings to mind Ken Kesey, Tom Robbins and the best elements of a low-key mystery. —THE OREGONIAN

STRELOW’S POWERFUL DESCRIPTIVE LANGUAGE in The Greening of Ben Brown proves beyond a doubt that he is an author to watch in the future. —JACKSON FREE PRESS

DEBUT NOVELIST MICHAEL STRELOW’S prose is wonderfully descriptive, especially in describing the natural characteristics of East Leven, and clearly demonstrates his affection for the state he’s called home for more than thirty years. —THE ABSINTHE LITERARY REVIEW

From the Inside Flap

MICHAEL STRELOW WEAVES THE STORY OF A TOWN and its mysteries in his debut novel, The Greening of Ben Brown, an Oregon Book Award Finalist for fiction 2005. Ben Brown, the protagonist, becomes a citizen of East Leven, Oregon, after he recovers from an electrocution that has not left him dead but has turned him green. He befriends eighteen year-old Andrew James and together they unearth a chemical spill cover-up that forces the town to confront its demons and its citizens to choose sides. Strelow's lyrical prose and his talent for storytelling come together in this poetic and important first work that looks at how a town and the natural environment are inextricably linked. The Greening of Ben Brown will find itself in good company on the shelves between Winesburg, Ohio and To Kill a Mockingbird and readers of both will have a new story to cherish.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hawthorne Books; 1St Edition edition (April 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0971691584
  • ISBN-13: 978-0971691582
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,335,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

My 2005 novel, The Greening of Ben Brown, was a finalist for the Ken Kesey Novel Award of the Oregon Literary Arts. This book is about water, ecology, love, a small town, and the strength of community. Not incidentally, it's about a man who is turned green in an electrical accident, moves to a small town and affects everyone. Even the strangest characters in town are made more normal for having a green neighbor. His name is Brown, and the guy at the gas station becomes a local hero for being able to greet Mr. Brown without a hitch while looking at green skin and saying, "Good morning Mr. Brown." The Town of East Leven, Oregon, on the Willamette River, its factory with chemical settling ponds, its citizens, is as much the hero of this story as is the green man. This is my love letter to small towns everywhere, how they operate and arrange themselves.
I am a professor of English and American Studies at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. I have published poetry, short stories, and non-fiction in a number of literary magazines including: The Bellingham Review, Sou'wester,Willow Spring, Kansas Quarterly, Mid-West Poetry Review, Poetry Midwest, Oregon Quarterly, Northwest Review, Orchids, Hubbub, Cutbank, and others. Other books by Michael Strelow: Kesey (non-fiction about Ken Kesey), and An Anthology of Northwest Writing: 1900-1950. See also article, "All that Hoo-Ha" in Spit in the Ocean # 7: All about Ken Kesey, Penguin Books, 2003, edited by Ed McClanahan. Upcoming work: a novel, The Moby-Dick Blues, about lost love, the original manuscript for Moby-Dick (long lost), and redemption.
My web site for more information, photos etc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Love intelligent novels on January 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
I love plants, and for some reason I picked up this book. I'm normally not an impulse shopper, but this one just grabbed me. I found The Greening of Ben Brown to be a hysterical spoof on much that is sacred in this funny world we live in. The author can really write...when he wrote about green, I felt and saw GREEN. And when he wrote about wet, I felt like I was in a downpour. Much like a Tom Robbins novel, this book just kept me giggling, yet it had a timeless message as well. I'd definitely recommend it, and rate it next to my other favorites such as Bee Season, Memoirs of a Geisha and Kite Runner.
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Format: Paperback
Michael Strelow is a master of setting the scene, so much so that I couldn't put this book down and stayed up all night several years ago finishing it the first time. Since then I've reread it 3 times. The Green Man, Ben Brown, is a wonderful character among a group of wonderful characters, all of whom are well developed and memorable. The thing I loved so much about this story is the way Ben becomes kind of the anti-hero; he finds himself thrust, or rather drawn at first by his curiosity, into the middle of an environmental assault by Big Chemistry on his adopted town, and he picks up the ball and runs with it somehow knowing that he's the only who can lead the charge. The zany characters around him add to the fun, but it's Strelow's mastery of the turn of a phrase that keeps drawing you in. Consider this description of the demeanor of the chemical company's representative defending his employer at a city council meeting: "He had broken a sweat making sentences as if the marshaling of his forces had strained his systems." The book is full of delicious lines like that, where you just have to stop and say (if you're a writer like me), "Wow, I wonder if I'll ever get to a point where I can write like that." Whatever you do, don't miss reading (and rereading and rereading) this book!
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