Friday, 25 February 2011

Week 1: State - Maine

Maine is the most north-eastern state in both the New England region and the USA. It borders only one other state, New Hampshire, so you can probably guess which I'll be moving onto next. Known as the 'Pine Tree State' 90% of its land is forested and as a result it's the most sparsely populated state east of the Mississippi river (only 1.3m people). The capital is Augusta and the largest city is Portland. Maine is famous for its lobsters.

Notable films set in Maine include Casper (Friendship, Knox County), Lake Placid (Aroostook County), In the Bedroom, and of course several Stephen King adaptations.

Maine's most famous living resident is writer Stephen King, who was born in Portland, Maine, now lives in Bangor, and has set many of his novels in fictionalised towns in the state.

I have to admit I've never been Stephen King's biggest fan. Having only read the novella collection Different Seasons and felt underwhelmed by his style and put off by the length of some of his novels I've yet to give him another go. I was tempted to plump for The Cider House Rules instead, but as we'll be moving onto New Hampshire next there'll be plenty of John Irving to pick from soon. So instead I have gone for:

CARRIE (1974)

Carrie was King's first published novel, written while he was living in a trailer in Hermon, Maine and is set in the fictitious town of Chamberlain in Oxford County. It's also one of his shorter novels (one of the main reasons I picked it).

Other fictional Maine towns which feature in King's novels include Castle Rock (The Dead Zone, Cujo, Needful Things) and Derry (It, Insomnia, Dreamcatcher).

Review to follow next week...

The challenge: 50 books set in 50 states over 50 weeks.

Starting on 25th Feb 2011 I am setting myself the challenge of reading a fiction novel set in every state in America over 50 weeks. Why? Being an Englishman who has long romanticised all things American the idea of undertaking a road-trip taking in every state has long appealed to me, but having neither the time nor the money I figured this was the next best thing. Why is it a challenge? Well, I’m not the fastest reader in the world by any means. The most books I’ve ever read in a single year was around 25 a couple years back, so I’m already looking to double that. Also, I have a day job, I practise with a band twice a week, and I have a life. So that only leaves around 3-4 evenings a week to focus on ploughing through these books. For my own benefit I won’t be tackling any weighty tomes, but so as to not “cheat” I will be limiting myself to books I’ve not read before.

The books themselves have to be solely or at least mostly set within the state boundaries. I'll allow in some cases for fictitious towns/cities clearly set in the state where there's lack of a decent alternative.

I’ll also be working my way through the states geographically, like a proper road trip. So I’ll be starting in Maine and ending in Hawaii.

If I make it even halfway I'll be impressed.