Why Is Maine So Bookish?
Maine is an undeniably bookish state, and I've often wondered why that is. When you think about it, the size of our literary reputation is all out of proportion to our modest populace. It goes well beyond the famous authors we first encountered in junior high school. I'm talking about the whole literary shebang — the bookstores and reading groups and vast hosts of library volunteers. You cannot step onto the street here without stumbling over an accomplished author, and as someone who appreciates good writing, I'm pleased that's the case.
So what is it about the Pine Tree State that has made it the perfect place not just for authors, but also for readers? I'd say it's two things: climate and character. The climate part probably goes without saying. We Mainers are faced with many days when the best possible choice of action is curling up with a book. Mud season is best weathered in a comfortable reading chair, with a mug of Earl Grey ready at hand.
The character part is more nuanced, and no, I'm not speaking of ethical superiority, although I happen to believe that the act of reading can strengthen one's moral fiber. By character I mean all of the attributes that define Maine as a place unto itself - the craggy, quirky mix of people and places that makes the Pine Tree State utterly unlike anywhere else in the world. This concept boils down to an expression I often hear from Down East readers: "Maine still feels like a real place." And it strikes me that real places are more interesting to read about - and write about - than superficial ones.