The other day I got a call from a reporter at a weekly newspaper in Massachusetts. He had bought a copy of my book “Down the road a piece – A storyteller’s guide to Maine” at a yard sale here in Maine last summer. He said he wanted to ask me a few questions about it, with the idea of writing a piece for the newspaper he worked for. I agreed and here’s the result:
Q. There are lots of “guides” to your state on the market, so what is the criteria for a “storyteller’s guide?”
A. As a storyteller I’m not constrained by silly conventions like “facts” and “details,” which your traditional guidebooks seem to get so hung-up on. As a storyteller I’m allowed, even expected, to make overstated and unsubstantiated claims whenever I feel the need. In fact, when I decide it’s appropriate, I’m expected to flat-out lie.
Q. In the “Maine Cuisine” section you recommend Dysart’s Truck Stop in Hermon as one of your favorite eateries. Why?
A. As a kid I used to hear people say that you should go to eating places that have lots of trucks out front. Everyone knows that truckers are the true epicureans, the true gourmets with extremely sensitive palates. Therefore, long-haul truckers know where the finest dining establishments are. In fact, the reason we never dined at 21 whenever my wife and I were in New York wasn’t because we couldn’t afford it, or weren’t allowed in. No! It was because we never saw any 18-wheelers out front.
Q. You suggest in the “destinations” section that Fryeburg gets its name from the tons of fried dough produced and sold every year at the Fryeburg Fair. What are some other little-known place-name facts you found while researching this book?
A. You mentioned the lovely western Maine town of Fryeburg and this is where my storyteller’s guide might differ from your ordinary run-of-the-mill guides. Historians contend that Fryeburg got its name from Col. Joseph Frye of Andover, Massachusetts. But the idea of naming the town after someone named Frye just sounded so predictable and uninteresting. The Frye story didn’t sound right to me so, using the privileges that come with my recently renewed Storyteller’s “license” I inserted my “fryed” dough story instead.
Q. What were you hoping to put into this book that other guides to the state lack?
A. Most travel books give outsiders the idea that an area’s honest, hard-working, thrifty natives are just tickled to death when tourists arrive each summer like swarms of locusts. I just thought it was time to be honest and tell our summer visitors – or “summer complaints” as they used to be called in less enlightened times – that isn’t necessarily the way it is and if we didn’t need their money so bad we’d demolish the Piscataqua River Bridge to discourage them from coming.
Q. What was the toughest part of the book to write?
A. I guess I’d have to say the part on shopping was the toughest part to write, since I don’t like to shop and would be ashamed to admit it even if I did. But since the average tourist carries enough credit cards to shingle the average roof I thought I had to write something about shopping.
Q. Which part of the book do you think is the most indispensable to folks traveling in Maine?
A. My grandfather used to say that cemeteries are filled with people who thought they were indispensable so, I guess, it may be possible to go on living without the benefits of this book. But I think everyone traveling in Maine should consider the book’s “Introduction to Maine” as very near indispensable. For that reason I’d appreciate it a lot if the Maine Legislature would pass a law making the purchase of my book – “A Storyteller’s Guide to Maine” obligatory!