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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

July 25, 1993|DICK RORABACK

IT IS NOT NOW: Tales of Maine by John Gould (W.W. Norton: $19.95; 194 pp.) Eyah, as they say in Maine. Eyah to John Gould, 84, who's nothing if not a Down-Easter, a Mainer. Crusty, succinct, thrifty, practical, eccentrically articulate. A humor you could dry the wash with. A gem. Eyah.

Gould's friends and acquaintances have names that place him before he opens his mouth (which is only when he has something to say): Ruel Hanscomb, Haddie Nutter, Lon Putney, Jethro Murdock, Good Will Stutly. Judge Larrabee, Doc Rockwell, the Reverend Tuttle, Squire Bibber, Grampie Gilman and Gimlet-Eyed Coolidge, the banker. But when Gould gets going there's a veritable bestiary of betes noirs: intrusive government, green blackboards, pasteurization, the title Ms ., snowmobiles, the feckless tourists Mainers call "summercators," a generation that calls slopping the hogs "administering nutrients."

It's what he likes, though, and what he misses, that vitiate his pose as a curmudgeon. Gould likes hauling lobster traps, red-flannel hash, Morgan horses and fiddlehead ferns ("a magnificent obbligato to a vernal meal"). He misses running boards, house calls, chamber pots, "days of short rides and few strangers." He tells you what RFD really means ( not , as my Republican father insisted, Ranklin Felano Doosevelt). He tells you never to leave a canoe bottom up, to always milk a cow from the right side, and "Don't ever ask a Mainer to do some work for you. Ask if he'll do you a favor and he'll be right over."

He is a monument to plain, honest values, an anachronism to be sure. But it's good to know that there's still Gould in them thar hills.

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