I can read a book on the beach.
Until I start sweating. Then it feels like exercise, minus the fitness perks. My brain shifts into neutral as the waves roll in, blissfully washing away footprints in the sand and my inclination to think.
Better put, I enjoy starting a book on the beach, and finishing it later, elsewhere.
Still, for millions of folks, an ocean shore represents the dream location to crack open a good book.
That reality adds luster to an endorsement for a collection of short stories written by a Terre Haute native. Men’s Health magazine published its list of “Best Books for the Beach” in its May edition. The story bore the headline: “11 Reads for a Stress-Free Summer Vacation — Guy-friendly books you can bring to the beach.” It included works by, among others, horror legend Stephen King, Dan Brown of “The Da Vinci Code” fame, and … Josh Green, whose writing career began a couple decades ago at Ben Franklin Elementary School in Terre Haute.
Green’s first book, “Dirtyville Rhapsodies,” impressed Men’s Health reviewer Denny Watkins, as well as other critics, since its release May 14 by Parkgate Press (Dionysus Books).
“It was an absolutely shocking but very welcome surprise,” Green said Tuesday by telephone from Atlanta, where he now works and lives with his wife, Lori, and their 2-year-old daughter, Lola. “It was flattering to be on the list with those names.”
Green’s name has most commonly appeared since 2007 on bylines in the Gwinnett Daily Post, covering the police and courts beat for that newspaper in metro Atlanta. In the meantime, he gradually compiled “Dirtyville Rhapsodies.” In November, he left the Post to focus on magazine writing, promote the book and start a full-length novel as its followup.
This isn’t an overnight success. Books require work.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Green said. “I’ve been pecking away at these [short stories] for five years now, trying to learn to write fiction, and to see people moved by them is really gratifying.”
His book validates those readers’ reactions. Green possesses a sixth-sense knack for writing with all five normally allotted human senses. The scenery and characters — such as “Missing Athena,” one of the 18 stories in “Dirtyville Rhapsodies” — can be seen, heard, smelled, touched and tasted. “Athena” shines with such literary texture. It’s the poignant tale of a father and son soldiering on two years after the unsolved abduction of the wife and mother. The following passage exemplifies Green’s style.
“Athena liked to put the formula in a bowl in front of the baby, let him dip in his hands and catch the runoff with his mouth, a primitive feeding method that struck her as hilarious, her husband not so much. It made a mess of their 1940s bungalow, filling the kitchen with sour fumes. ‘He looks like an animal or something, eating like that,’ Hank said. ‘Like a sea otter.’”
Green’s encounters as a big-city newspaper reporter inspired that vignette and many of the others. “The cops beat at a metro, and a large area, I found as fertile soil,” he said.
Some stories turn funny in places. “There’s lots of comedy involved in criminal behavior,” he said. “Not necessarily homicides and that sort of thing, but there’s lots of humor in some of the stories.”
Green sought, and got, laughs as a writer at Ben Franklin Elementary. The school’s Writer of the Month competition for students called for the winner to read his or her entry in front of the others. When his stories about sharks and puppies won, Green received laughs and pats on the back. Now at age 33, Green says those moments standing before the students and teachers as a third-grader gave him confidence to handle public-speaking engagements in his work.
Following his days at Terre Haute North Vigo High School and Indiana State University, Green later wrote for publications in Greensburg and Indianapolis before moving to the South. He and his family live “in a cool, funky neighborhood next to downtown” Atlanta, where his wife works as a first-grade teacher and Green writes for Atlanta magazine and edits Curbed Atlanta. The city suits them. “It’s swelling with younger, educated people, like a lot of cities are, but it’s really starting to harness that energy in a lot of ways,” he said. “The traffic still sucks.”
Green follows a similar mission in his writing, corralling energy and inspiration amid real-world mundanities, like a backed-up expressway. His transition from journalism to fiction continues as Green crafts his first full novel, the encore to “Dirtyville.” Novel writing, Green quipped, “is like trying to break out of prison using only your face, but I’m trying to stay diligent and bite the nail, as people say.” His goal is to finish the draft of the book by fall.
In the meantime, summertime readers may be flipping through his “Rhapsodies” in increasing numbers as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other publications issue their reviews in coming weeks. Grateful and humbled to already appear on “Best Books for the Beach” roster along with iconic authors, Green said he occasionally reads while oceanside, “but I tend to lean toward a Corona and a little Led Zeppelin on the beach instead.”
Yet another line to leave readers nodding in agreement.
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terre Haute native writes one of the ‘Best Books for the Beach’
I can read a book on the beach.
- Mark Bennett B-Sides
The night it rained tears
March fuels college basketball teams. Fun, glory, buzzer-beater shots and storybook endings in the NCAA Tournament await there.
MARK BENNETT: First BaconFest sure to cure your salty fried meat cravings
Bacon taught me a life lesson.
I wrapped strips of it around chicken livers and secured the cold, gooey bundles with toothpicks to earn money.
MARK BENNETT: New public-access point begins quest to create more spots to experience river
Fairness holds no power over the Wabash River.
MARK BENNETT: People spaces
Demolition machinery chipped away at the buildings on the 500 block of Wabash Avenue. I stood and watched awhile, last week. By July 2015, a new $18.7-million structure will replace those relics.
MARK BENNETT: City sparkles during premiere of ‘The Drunk’
William Tanoos and Paul Fleschner cast their hometown in a starring role in their debut effort as filmmakers.
MARK BENNETT: ‘Notes on a River’ exhibition brings Wabash scenes to gallery
The best views of the Wabash come with wet, muddy feet.
MARK BENNETT: Quest for the perfect Valentine’s Day gesture may not involve gifts
You’ll need a broom, a pickup truck, trash bins, shop hooks and aspirin.
Filming a “Sanford and Son” remake? Preparing for the apocalypse?
MARK BENNETT: Illinois officials content their state has its business advantages, too
Most people count the Wabash River as an economic asset for Terre Haute. Of course, economic development officials in the Land of Lincoln beg to differ.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana should revisit its time-zone classification
Mister Spock would look at the situation in Indiana and, in that dispassionate “Star Trek” voice, utter a firm conclusion.
“That is illogical,” he’d say.
MARK BENNETT: Young at heart
Imagine an alternate ending to the old Life cereal commercial.
MARK BENNETT: The Drunk: Making peace
Terre Haute grew fond of Eugene Debs.
The process took time.
Debs film to debut at Indiana Theatre
Set in Terre Haute, based loosely on the legacy of a Terre Haute icon, the movie “The Drunk” has one appropriate place for its premiere.
MARK BENNETT: Album turns memories into musical Christmas message for Terre Haute’s Dave Frey, band
In a way, Dave Frey walked in the footsteps of Charles Schulz.
Both men worked hard to let Linus Van Pelt explain the “true meaning of Christmas.”
MARK BENNETT: ‘Longest Night Service’ a time to reflect, remember
Holiday images rarely depict hurt or struggle.
Raising the bar
Around coffeeshops, kitchen tables and office watercoolers, Hoosiers have cussed and discussed the federal health care law.
John bypassed by Hall of Fame again
Baseball Hall of Fame electors have bypassed Tommy John again. The Terre Haute-born pitcher, who won 288 games in 26 big-league seasons, didn’t receive enough votes from the Veterans Committee as it cast ballots on Sunday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings.
Tim Meadows: SNL cast member knew he was prime time
If you watched the first broadcast of “Saturday Night Live” on Oct. 11, 1975, raise your hand.
That gives you something in common with Tim Meadows.
MARK BENNETT: Walk of Fame inductee would stand tall in any era
Unlike most of us, Amory Kinney didn’t let the wall around his comfort zone grow taller as time passed.
MARK BENNETT: Words, and what they mean, is what we remember
I remember scanning the granite wall at the grave of President John F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, looking for those words.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John getting another shot at Baseball Hall of Fame
Go ahead, circle Dec. 9 on your calendar.
Filling our void: Terre Haute artist Bill Wolfe poured his heart and soul into the project of a lifetime
Bill Wolfe thumbed through a series of photographs documenting his sculpture of basketball legend Larry Bird.
MARK BENNETT: Keeping Terre Haute a vibrant city ‘worth doing’
The past, present and future had just converged at the Crossroads of America.
The moment was made possible by the gutsy spirit of 1920s Terre Haute. Without it, the city would look starkly different.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John’s Field of Dreams
A kid pedals a bicycle, a ball glove looped over the handlebar, headed to a sandlot game.
It didn’t get much better than that for a 10-year-old in summertime.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana’s Donnelly part of ‘The Middle’ that got deal done
Hanging out in the middle isn’t cool.
Its occupants don’t attract a captivated circle of listeners at parties, their comments don’t inspire hell-yeahs on Facebook, and they don’t pretend to always be right.
MARK BENNETT: ISU professor’s book on Churchill to be TV period drama
Somewhere, Winston Churchill is lighting a celebratory cigar in Michael Shelden’s honor.
MARK BENNETT: Restoration improves courthouse top’s standing in skyline
Terre Haute has a skyline.
From some angles, it consists of billboards, restaurant marquees and convenience-store signs. From other spots, the outlines of historic buildings, church steeples, college dorms and old industries jut into the horizon.
MARK BENNETT: Inspiring project connects Blues Festival, B&G Club members with music
Think a decade into the future. You’re relaxing amid a sea of fellow lawn-chair sitters at Seventh and Wabash, watching the 23rd annual Blues at the Crossroads Festival. Suddenly, the guy on stage starts playing your old Fender guitar. He sounds like the next B.B. King. Then, the guitarist dedicates a song to the person who donated that worn Telecaster to the youth music program in which he learned to play it.
MARK BENNETT: Even Marty McFly wouldn’t want to go back to those paydays
Reliving the 1980s may sound tempting.
Ah, simpler times. Then again … hair styles as big as mushroom clouds, “Miami Vice” jackets, the trickle-down theory, New Coke, Yugos.
OK, “Back to the Future”-style nostalgia obviously has its limits.
MARK BENNETT: Hoops film focuses on life of ‘Slick’ Leonard
Many Americans connect basketball with Indiana.
MARK BENNETT: Rose-Hulman bridge design would let people walk, run, ride across Wabash River
Four months, 500 miles and 18 towns.
In the course of compiling the “500 Miles of Wabash” series, which concludes this Sunday, Tribune-Star photographer Jim Avelis and I heard valuable insights from dozens of people who live, work and recreate along Indiana’s state river. One comment seems particularly relevant to Terre Haute, especially as the ongoing 2013 Year of the River celebration stirs ideas. The quotation affirms the potential of a stellar proposal this community ought to consider.
- More Mark Bennett B-Sides Headlines
- The night it rained tears