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It’s a rare thing to be really and truly grabbed by a book. Sure, there are works that will hold your attention long enough to allow you to sink into them. And sometimes, that connection never bears out and you abandon ship. But for a book to seize you by the shirt, commanding and demanding your attention and refusing to let go from the word go, well … that doesn’t happen very often.

But it does happen. And when it does? Strap in, because you’re going on a journey.

Morgan Talty’s new book “Night of the Living Rez” (Tin House, $16.95) is going to take you on a trip, pulling you through a world with which you are likely unfamiliar, even as it exists alongside your own. This collection of a dozen stories is a reflection and exploration of Talty’s history and heritage as a member of the Penobscot Nation, bringing together moments of triumph and tragedy as it digs into the realities of what it means to be connected to one’s culture while also striving to live in the larger world.

Every one of these stories is effective on its own, brimming with a bifurcated and self-aware energy. But as they are consumed together, they feed on one another, spiraling upward on waves of simple joy and sadness and dark humor generated by the trials and tribulations of a singular young man. This is a book that is more than the sum of its parts, each tale a piece of the puzzle; it all comes together into a smart, thoughtful and utterly fascinating big picture.

Published in Style

One of the joys of living in Maine is the wide array of environments you can enjoy. There’s the ocean, of course. There are mountains and forests. Lovely cities and idyllic small towns. Cold winters and warm summers. Few places run the gamut like the state of Maine.

That variety of place is reflected in the types of stories told about the place. We’ve got the Master of Horror, of course – hi, Mr. King! – but storytellers embrace all manner of genres, using the assortment of settings to bring to life literary fiction, sci-fi, mysteries, thrillers … the list goes on and on.

Every once in a while, though, you get a book that marries setting, style and story via that Maine lens that just clicks.

That’s what Adam White has done with his debut novel “The Midcoast” (Hogarth, $27), a crime drama that offers up a compelling story while also exploring the definitions of success in a small town. It is a taut, sharp thriller – one that balances the stressors of its storyline with the underlying laconicism that marks life on Maine’s coast.

It’s well-crafted and propulsive, a fast read that sweeps the reader along into its wake, pulling us into the disparate lives of the characters at its center.

Published in Style

The notion of Yankee ingenuity is one that has long been engrained into the cultural consciousness of New England. The twin tenets of “needs doing” and “making do” are huge parts of the region’s history, with generations of people finding ways to accomplish what needs accomplishing via utilizing what’s on hand through general cleverness.

As you might imagine, this also means that there is a lengthy history of invention and innovation that springs from the region. And a great deal of that inventing and innovating has taken place in the state of Maine.

Author and historian Earl H. Smith has taken it upon himself to celebrate Maine’s inventors with his new book “Downeast Genius: From Earmuffs to Motor Cars, Maine Inventors who Changed the World” (Islandport Press, $17.95). It’s a quick-hit breakdown of over 50 Mainers whose creations made an impact on the world – some big, some small, but all entertaining.

The work of these innovators spans the decades, reaching from the waning days of the 18th century to the cusp of the 21st. These inventions also impact a wide variety of industries, from the agricultural age to the electronic. And each of these people – and their work – is brought to our attention in eminently readable bite-sized fashion. A fun, quick read – engaging and informative.

Published in Style

Some of the best narrative nonfiction springs from when an author is able to get really granular with the subject at hand. When the writer digs deep, vein after vein of precious literary gems can be unearthed, painting vivid and compelling portraits of people and places. These stories are captivating and enlightening in the best of ways.

Some of the WORST narrative nonfiction starts in the same place. These are the stories wherein the author treats the subject(s) as some sort of vaguely anthropological study, holding themselves above the people with whom they are engaging. They parachute into a place and imagine that their brief dalliance is enough to bestow actual understanding.

The State of Maine has unfortunately seen a bit more of the latter treatment than the former in recent years, with this place and its denizens being rendered simplistically and/or stereotypically – junk shop kitsch instead of fine art.

I honestly wasn’t sure which I was going to get from “Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America” (Harper, $27.99), the new book from Gigi Georges. I’ve been around long enough to know that these efforts to somehow “unlock” the truth of rural America often wind up being little more than condescending confirmations of the author’s already-extant attitudes, cherry picked to prop up whatever thesis they sported upon their arrival.

This book is not that.

Published in Style

Fame can be fleeting. No matter how talented a person, no matter how renowned in their time, oftentimes it comes down to mere chance whether an artist is forever feted or ultimately forgotten.

For the author Rachel Field, the latter was true. Field, best known for her Newbery Award-winning book “Hitty, Her First Hundred Years,” was also a winner of the National Book Award among other accolades. For years, she spent her summers in a house on Sutton Island, a small private island off the southern coast of Mount Desert Island. She was incredibly prolific and generally beloved by both critics and readers.

And I had never heard of her.

Thanks to author Robin Clifford Wood, however, I have been relieved of my ignorance. Wood’s new book is “The Field House: A Writer’s Life Lost and Found on an Island in Maine” (She Writes Press, $16.95), which tells the story of this notable woman of letters who produced celebrated work right up until her untimely passing at the age of just 47.

But this isn’t your typical literary biography. While Wood undeniably digs deep with her research into the life and work of Rachel Field, the book’s strength lies in the author’s connection with the subject matter. Her fascination with Field plays out in many ways throughout the book, binding together Wood’s own story with that of the once celebrated and now obscure writer.

Published in Style

BANGOR – It was six months ago, give or take, when the State of Maine, nearly four years after its citizens voted to legalize recreational marijuana through a referendum vote in November of 2016, finally gave the go-ahead for retail adult use sales in the state.

By the terms of that law, adults 21 years of age or older with a valid ID are able to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of a combination of marijuana and marijuana concentrate that includes no more than five grams of marijuana concentrate.

In the half-year since storefronts began opening their doors in early October, the industry has seen steady and impressive economic growth, though as with any relatively new endeavor, there have been some growing pains along the way. The truth is that these current circumstances are the culmination of a gradual journey.

Published in Cover Story

Maine-made movies are a relative rarity.

It’s surprising, really – in a state with an abundant variety of natural beauty ranging from coastlines to mountains to forests, you’d think more filmmakers would take advantage. Of course, there are a number of reasons we don’t see movies made here – some economic, some logistical – but even so, you’d expect a little more frequency, though the truth is that many people may simply not understand the true breadth of opportunity here.

John Barr understands.

The Maine native and film industry veteran has made his directorial debut with “Blood and Money,” set and filmed in Maine and available on VOD on May 15. The thriller – also written by Barr – takes advantage of the verdant and untamed forests found in the norther parts of the state, constructing a tale of taut tension about a lone man battling his demons and fighting for his life.

Tom Berenger stars, bringing his well-earned gravitas to almost every single frame of the film. His stoic quietude matches the looming intensity of the winter forest through which he makes his way; it’s a good match, one that is served well by the gentle pacing of the narrative and the sere serenity of the setting.

Published in Movies

Click here for the COVID-19 Daily Update

AUGUSTA – Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday extended her stay-at-home order with a new “Stay Safer at Home” executive order until May 31 and released a four-stage plan to begin reopening Maine’s economy starting Friday, May 1.

Published in Cover Story

Just because a town is small doesn’t mean it is lacking in shadows or secrets. With proximity comes familiarity … and familiarity breeds contempt.

That’s why small-town noir works so well – the trappings of the genre work beautifully even removed from sprawling urban landscapes. A ramshackle desert town, an isolated Midwestern farming community or a hardscrabble coastal fishing village – they’re all ripe for receiving the noir treatment.

So it is with “Blow the Man Down,” newly streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The movie – set in the fictional town of Easter Cove, Maine, and filmed largely on location within the state – marks the feature debut of the writing/directing team of Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy.

It’s the story of a small town and the murkiness that exists in the depths beneath the seemingly placid surface. The film explores the idea that in these small places, the divide between the person we present to the world and the person we actually are can be shockingly vast. There are plenty of secrets packed into the cracks; even the most upstanding of citizens may have unsettling skeletons in their closets. And when that veneer of respectability and gentility is cracked, true (and often unpleasant) natures are unleashed.

Published in Movies

While it certainly remains a significant destination, the Mount Desert Island of today is viewed very differently than the MDI of days gone by. Yes, there are still plenty of wealthy people who summer on the island, their vast estates surrounded by nature’s beauty. But a peek into the island’s history reveals that not long ago, MDI served as a summer playground for the elite of the elite.

And where the elite of the elite gather, scandals are never far behind.

Those scandals are the subject of “Bar Harbor Babylon: Murder, Misfortune, and Scandal on Mount Desert Island” (Down East, $26.95) by Dan and Leslie Landrigan. It’s a collection of some of the more salacious stories from MDI’s decades-long stint as the go-to getaway for the rich and unprincipled. This was a time when what happened on MDI definitely stayed on MDI. These are tales of deception and theft, of sex and murder – stories that once served as the kind of cocktail party gossip that only the truly privileged might encounter.

Published in Buzz
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