Words on Words: A treatise on Maine biases

4 mins read

Not all biases are created equal. For example, if our aquaintence Ralph is found to have discriminating taste in wine we feel that Ralph is a person of culture. If, on the other hand, we learn that Ralph discriminates against Asian Americans we feel that Ralph is a bigot. Book buyers, naturally, have biases of all kinds, political, social and cultural.

Our topic today is a Maine specialty, regional bias. Let us take one instance of it and explore it in detail. In Maine, we are entirely biased in favor of Moose, especially in books. Having a moose as a lead character in a picture book trumps all other concerns. A book entitled Lawrence, the Muskrat Coroner, would immediately arouse our critical displeasure. “This graphic two page spread of Lawrence performing an autopsy on a mutilated badger, is that really appropriate for a toddler,” we would ask?

If the book before us is Edmund The Moose Coroner, we are ready to suspend all critical judgment, however. “Look at him use his antlers to hang his scalpels and forceps while he’s autopsying the forest critters,” we exclaim, “how cute.” It doesn’t stop there though, because we want to know where Edmund lives. Is he in Maine? He can do no wrong! Is he in some unnamed place that might be Maine? That’s close enough, he’s all right! Is he in Minnesota or Canada? It’s disappointing but we can more or less deal with it, after all Moose in Minnesota belong there, its their home, while Moose in New Hampshire and Vermont are presumably lost or confused. So we still like Edmund but we don’t love him anymore. So, is he in fact lost or loitering in another New England state? That’s not all right. What’s wrong with him? Why isn’t he in the Maine Woods? They were good enough for Thoreau but not for Edmund? To the devil with him. I mean a book about a coroner for young children is a terrible idea to begin with!

Let’s consider a recent book by Dave Horowitz, Duck, Duck Moose. The book is a humorous, artfully drawn, entertaining account of a Moose’s road trip to Florida. We’re looking golden so far. Let’s turn to the first page and see what we’re dealing with. Oh no! He’s wearing an I Love New Hampshire T-shirt! Instant dealbreaker. After that we’re quick to note the factual inaccuracy on the facing page. The Great North Woods are in Maine, not New Hampshire. It’s too bad, because the book is a lot of fun, but…

All right then, so let’s look at Nicholas Oldland’s new book called Making The Moose Out of Life, which just came out. We have high hopes because Oldland’s last book, The Big Bear Hug, was completely wonderful. Turning the pages we find a delightful story of a Moose who lives in the wild but is afraid of taking chances and being adventurous. We’re a bit worried because Oldland lives in New Brunswick, Canada, but the upside is that New Brunswick is on the Maine border, and as long as there’s nothing to mark it as being somewhere else the setting looks very Maine like. Yes! We’ve finished the book and noted that, apart from it being a great story, with engaging illustrations, just the right amount of humor for young children, and a winning storyline, this book is set in an unmarked place that clearly must be be Maine! Phew, or rather Huzzah!!

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