Success hasn’t softened Carolyn Chute’s hard edges, said Charles McGrath in The New York Times. Twenty-three years after she scored a surprise hit with The Beans of Egypt, Maine, the former charwoman and high school dropout is living on a remote Maine compound with her illiterate sculptor husband, a pen of Scottish terriers, and no indoor toilet or hot water. That’s simply how she likes things. “I love people, but I don’t do well in a system,” she says. She keeps a copying machine in her living room to reproduce tracts she creates for an anti-establishment group she founded, called the 2nd Maine Militia. She also has more or less completed five linked novels, the first of which, The School on Heart’s Content Road, has just been published.
The new book focuses on a fictional Maine commune, but at one point re-creates one of the most dramatic episodes in the 2nd Maine Militia’s short history. In 1996, the group invaded the state capitol building, bearing kazoos and signs that read, “Smash Corporate Tyranny.” A more typical gathering involves a potluck dinner at the author’s place, with time for members to shoot at cans in the yard and talk about what’s wrong with the world. Chute swears the group isn’t political. “Political means you’re taking a stance on how to fix it,” she says, “but I don’t think it can be fixed. It’s the humans. How do you fix the humans?”