With The Perfect Number: Essays & Stories Vol 1, Baumer uses the essay effectively to write about being raised in the Catholic Church (“The Altar Boy”), he offers a paean to the late John Gould, one of Maine’s most notable writers (“Writing About John Gould”), as well as tracing the decline of small towns in Maine, like his hometown of Lisbon Falls (“Goin’ Back”). He also shares his own Dilbert-like take on life in a cubicle for one of the state’s largest insurance companies(“Moscow Mutual”), along with the road trip he and his wife made to Texas and back across the South to see his son, who was walking across America in 2010 (“A Northerner’s Journey Crossing the South”). His other two essays, making up just the right number and amount of narrative deal with losing a dog (“A Dog’s Life”), along with his essay detailing the importance of reading and how it led to his emergence a bit later than many (“Reading Is a Journey”) as a successful writer.
The essay dates back to Voltaire and possibly further, and Baumer uses it adeptly to craft a book that has the feel of a memoir in places, while also recognizing the contribution that a writer like John Gould made, in capturing the Maine that he wrote about for nearly six decades.
His final essay on his hometown is some of the best writing that anyone’s done about the demise of communities like Lisbon Falls, and the economic changes that have made life difficult in similar small towns across the state and the country.
The Perfect Number: Essays and Stories Vol. I is sure to garner attention from readers who care about Maine, and value writers who have an ear for the pitch of the place.