Michael Strelow was an educator, having taught in the English Department of Willamette University from 1980 to 2015. His first novel, The Greening of Ben Brown (2005), was a finalist for the Ken Kesey Novel Prize (Hawthorne Books). His second novel, Henry: A Novel of Beer and Love in the West (2014), is based on the life of 19th century brewer and entrepreneur, Henry Weinhard. His third and fourth novels, Some Assembly Required (2017) and The Moby-Dick Blues (March 2018), are published by John Hunt Books, Roundfire imprint. He has published poetry, short stories and creative non-fiction in many literary and commercial magazines such as: Orchid Magazine, Oregon Quarterly, Sou’wester, Cutbank, Northwest Review, Kansas Quarterly, Mid-west Poetry Review, Poetry Midwest, Bellingham Review, Willow Spring. His non-fiction academic books include: Kesey and An Anthology of Northwest Writing: 1900-1950. He lives in Salem, OR.
Visit https://michaelstrelow.wordpress.com for more on this author.
Biggest literary influencer:
Melville, Faulkner, Joyce and Vonnegut
Last book read:
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
The book that changed your life:
Since I taught literature for many years, many books changed my (writing) life. But Melville’s Moby-Dick and Joyce’s Ulysses gave me permission as a writer to experiment and trust the reader’s intelligence more than any other books.
Your favorite literary character:
The narrators in all the Kurt Vonnegut books (they have many different names) all speak directly to the reader’s sense of the absurd and cosmically funny condition of the world. From Kilgore Trout to Billy Pilgrim, Vonnegut’s narrators prize story and the cosmic laugh above all.
Currently working on:
I’ve recently finished editing Jake’s Book, the final book in the children’s book trilogy, The Princess Gardener. I’m editing my nonfiction articles such as “The Logic of Wildflowers” and “Oregon’s Epic Estuaries” to make a collection. I have also begun a new literary novel.
Words to live by:
On the other hand…
Advice to new and aspiring authors:
Writing is a contract between your backside and a chair—the chair can be anywhere, don’t be fussy. Stay in the chair and make words on the page. The rest will come.
“If Saul Bellow had written science fiction, it might read like Michael Strelow’s Some Assembly Required: erudite and allusive, delighting in language, but also wildly funny and entertaining. A page-turning meditation on the multiplicity of voices each of us carries—those we use to reach out to others, those that exist only in our heads—this novel illuminates the beautiful and mysterious transformation that occurs when we listen carefully, turning all the noise that surrounds us into harmony.”
–Scott Nadelson, author of The Fourth Corner of the World
“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 fixate over sundry items from filberts to hubcaps…Fascinating, humorous and wise, The Greening of Ben Brown deserves its place on bookshelves along with other Northwest classics.”
–Craig Lesley, author of Storm Rider
“’I had discovered the one secret thing that I could know and the rest of the family could not’ is the dream of any child at sea in a big family, and the narrator who begins this book has his talisman to hold and study and live by. What he has, and what we have, is a book before it was a book, and that makes life a thrill and a mystery. If a box of manuscript pages were a whale, and the rainy fastness of the Oregon coast were the sea, then the reader of this book would be in the grips of the Ahab writer of this book, bound for a quest. The pages of The Moby-Dick Blues are like a veil through which the reader may pass between the incantations of Melville and the songs of Strelow. Read and be carried away.”
–Kim Stafford, author of 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do: How My Brother Disappeared