I’ve always been impressed when elected officials past and present write a work of fiction. To me it shows they are not merely obsessed with power and policy, though that is also true.
Well-known pols-turned-author include Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Winston Churchill, Boris Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Newt Gingrich, Barbara Boxer of California, Gary Hart of Colorado and Stacy Abrams of Georgia.
Add to that list Hawaii’s Neil Abercrombie, who co-authored “Blood of Patriots,” a terrorist thriller published in 1997.
And former state Sen. Will Espero published “Passion In Paradise,” which Amazon says is about two influential and powerful families competing in the political and business world of Hawaii “confronting the issues and current events impacting their island paradise.”
Why do politicians turn to fiction?
“Fiction allows you to say all the things you can’t say as a politician, because those things are meant to be secret, or as a journalist, because those things are defamatory,” opines a writer for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Here’s another reason, according to a 2018 piece in Politico: “If you can’t beat ’em at the ballot box, beat ’em in your increasingly elaborate fictional worlds.”
Much to my surprise, Hawaii’s lieutenant governor Josh Green has also put down words in a work of his own. It’s called “The Idea Man: A Novel of Adventure, Friendship, and the Secret of Life,” a work of “juvenile fiction, ages 8 and up” published by Loihi Press in 2010.
Here’s a tease from the publisher:
“The fantastical adventures that we all suspected were out there somewhere in the wide world, sometimes even very close to home, come to life on the pages of Josh Green’s first work of fiction. Meet Larry Plum, his best friend Boy, Chef Walter Bigfoot, Zeus Harrison, Wolfgang Bug, and an eccentric cast of characters that defy experiences in the normal world as we have come to know them. And if you want to know the secret of life, this is the novel for you!”
I don’t think that blurb quite captures “The Idea Man,” which is illustrated by local artist Krystal Tavares, giving it the look of the children’s classics “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “The Phantom Tollbooth.”
But Green’s book is ultimately like a collection of parables featuring Boy and the elusive but wise beyond his years Plum. Both characters age throughout the book, from young kids to men well into their 90s.
Among the many “Plumisms” — Zen koans of sorts, as if uttered by Yoda from “Star Wars” — that can be found in “The Idea Man” is this one: “It’s terrifying to search for yourself; you never know what you might not find.”
It’s pretty clear to me that Boy is Green himself. Many scenes are set in Pittsburgh, for example, Green’s hometown. As Boy grows into adulthood, he becomes a medical doctor. And he struggles with losing his hair.
“Yes, the book is definitely drawn from some of my life experiences, and the main characters are as well,” Green told me. “Boy is loosely based on me. And the other main character, Plum, his best friend, is a combination or an amalgamation of many of my best friends over the years and the quirks that they have.”
There’s also a chapter on middle names and their significance. Green’s middle name is Booth — “an unusual name,” he says — that comes from the Booth House in Woodstock, New York, where Green says his mom went into labor. (Green was born in Kingston, N.Y.) It is named for, he said, a distant relative of John Wilkes Booth — yep, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln.
“It’s an oddity, but also it speaks to the center of whether this best friend that Boy has does or doesn’t actually exist,” he explained. “That’s kind of one of the driving themes of the novel.”
Green began writing the novel by hand in a leather-bound journal between 1997 and 2000, when he was in medical residency in Pittsburgh. He says he wasn’t necessarily trying to be a famous author.
“I just like the idea of being creative,” he said. “I personally enjoyed the book because it really is an outlet for my own kind of internal fantasy world. And because I was in kind of two pretty serious disciplines in medicine and politics, it was definitely an outlet for me.”
Among the apparent fans is U.S. Rep. Ed Case, who contributed an admiring blurb on the back cover: “In this age of crushing conformity and slippery values, Josh Green’s surprising and refreshing Larry Plum delivers us all, young and old, a wonderful and unique reminder of the eternal life lessons and the sheer power of the fully freed and creative mind.”
Green, you might have heard, is running for governor. In the interest of fairness, I promise to review any work of fiction by his Republican opponent Duke Aiona. (Alas, his campaign biography makes no mention of such work.)
The LG is already thinking of a second book, this one nonfiction, although it will have to wait, should he be elected governor.
“I take really good notes from experiences, and I think we’ve had really intense experiences in Hawaii in the last few years, including the Samoa measles outbreak and Covid and this election,” he said. “And I actually think the next book might be a lot more interesting to people than my fantastical ramblings as a younger person.”
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