The Same Ax, Twice: Restoration and Renewal in a Throwaway Age

Howard Mansfield, Author University Press of New England $35 (288p) ISBN 978-1-58465-028-7
A cross between Tony Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic and James M. Lindgren's Preserving Historic New England, this volume delightfully investigates Americans' penchant for fixing up old stuff. New Hampshire journalist Mansfield (Skylark: The Life, Lies, and Inventions of Harry Atwood) introduces readers to engineers who spend their spare time trying to replicate the Wright brothers' original plane; to devotees of historic Deerfield (a colonial village come to life in Massachusetts); and to the tourists who visit places such as the Shaker Village in his hometown of Hancock, N.H., and Graceland. He eavesdrops on gravestone restorers musing about 17th-century slate headstones and provides tips for preserving photographs and furniture. (Don't place nectar-dripping flowers in a vase you want to last; blot--don't rub--at alcohol spilled on furniture; don't drag furniture if you care either about the chair or your floorboards). Similarly, Mansfield investigates the meaning of Old Home Day orations and auctioneers' rhythmic cadences and provocatively contrasts New England villages--of yesterday and today--with gated communities in the suburbs. Our fixation with restoration, he concludes, has meaning beyond the idle fascination of rich folks with nothing better to do than fix up old trunks and sleigh beds. Rather, as his subtitle suggests, we find renewal in our reclaiming of objects from the past. ""The best restorations,"" writes Mansfield, ""are truly restorative."" Reading this book is equally so. (May)
Reviewed on: 02/28/2000
Release date: 03/01/2000
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-1-58465-117-8
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