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Historians are a poor lot for writing history. They like to stick, to facts and accordingly miss a good deal."" So writes Gould, a weekly columnist for the Christian Science Monitor, in this waggish history of the state where his ancestors first settled in 1618. Keeping his tongue planted firmly in cheek, Gould examines Maine from its first sighting (Irish fishermen probably told Columbus about Maine, he reckons) down to the present. Along the way, he considers such matters as the state's accidental discovery by Norsemen, its original submission to ""Taxachusetts"" until 1820, the state's uproarious pre-18th Amendment experiment with Prohibition, the origin of Poland Spring water, the odd nomenclature of certain towns (there is no discernible reason why Athens, Moscow, Lisbon, and Vienna received their names, since no immigrants from these cities settled in these towns), and how residents fared in such conflicts as the War of 1812, the Aroostook War, and the Civil War. Most of the time, Gould sounds like an amiable down-easter putting his feet up as he regales an audience hanging on his every word (the wife of William King, Maine's first governor, was ""a humdinger of the freest kind, properest of the proper, and pretty as a pail of new milk""). Occasionally, however, he tosses in a barbed comment (""The age-old reputation of the Down-Mainer for canny, homespun, reliable, inherent, unequaled intelligence is excessively gratuitous, for he can be the biggest damphool most of the time, and when he votes he usually is""). After a while, however, the non-Yankee reader can take only so much of Indians saying ""ayeh,"" and other good-humored oddities. In the end, all of this comes off as one long inside joke best appreciated by the locals. A slice of wry history, easily consumed and as quickly forgotten.

Pub Date: Aug. 6th, 1990
Publisher: Norton