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Reactionary Radicals

The Militia of Love

A Visit With Novelist Carolyn Chute

Carolyn Chute's return address includes the postscript, "No Fax/No Phone/No Paved Road." The self-taught novelist of Maine's backwoods can add "No More Good Reviews," for with her latest book, Snow Man, she has committed an unpardonable act of literary patriotism: She depicts a militiaman as a human being.

We came to Chute's Parsonsfield from Concord, Massachusetts, where our daughter plunked imaginary redcoats on the rude bridge that arched the flood. (Two hundred years ago. New England had use of militiamen.) We were borne, not on the night wind of the past, but on the ribboned highways of the present. The McDonald's we passed in Westbrook was selling a Lobster Value Meal—who says there's no place for regional cuisine under global capitalism?—but not for nothing has Maine been relegated to the far corner of the country: Vandals keep throwing rocks through the window of the Starbucks in Portland. Some people just have no respect for private property.

The German and Swedish cars that hum along the Maine coast give way, the further inland one goes, to pickups, until our green Lumina starts to look suspiciously hoity-toity. Carolyn's hand-drawn map, with such landmarks as "Big old place" and "old trees," is a cartographic masterpiece, as for once we make no wrong turns.

We find her dirt road near the Maine-New Hampshire border....

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