The Same Ax, Twice

The Same Ax, Twice

by Howard Mansfield

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Overview

An old farmer boasts that he has used the same ax his whole life -- he's only had to replace the handle three times and the head twice. In an eclectic, insightful meditation on the powerful impulse to preserve and restore, Howard Mansfield explores the myriad ways in which we attempt to reconnect with and recover the past -- to use the same ax twice.

Mansfield's In the Memory House (hailed as a "wise and beautiful book" by the New York Times) explored the complex interconnections of memory and place, showing how the loss of a sense of place in our ever more mobile society has profoundly impoverished our collective memory. Now he tracks our need to reconnect with place and memory. Moving easily between meditative reflection and compelling insights, he offers lively journalistic descriptions of some of the extraordinary people who are imaginatively, lovingly, sometimes obsessively, realizing their own visions of the restorative impulse.

Mansfield himself is deeply engaged in the search for restoration. He travels with Civil War reenactors to help recreate the Battle of Antietam; he enrolls in auctioneer school to observe the endless recycling of artifacts, and he compares this process to the sterile preservation of these same objects in displays and museums; he tours 18th-century houses that have been variously restored to their "original" condition or stripped to their essence; he observes the ever-ongoing work of preserving the USS Constitution, "Old Ironsides," a ship that has been replaced over the years board by board.

The act of restoration, Mansfield concludes, whether it's rebuilding antique engines or reviving the village model of community organization, must contain an element of renewal. Rejecting the sentimentality of nostalgia and the superficiality of commercial appropriation, Mansfield argues for an understanding of restoration that is concerned as much with the future as it is with the past, that preserves and communicates a spirit as well as a form.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940014055574
Publisher: University Press of New England
Publication date: 04/05/2000
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 289
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

“Howard Mansfield has never written an uninteresting or dull sentence. All of his books are emotionally and intellectually nourishing,” said the writer and critic Guy Davenport. “He is something like a cultural psychologist along with being a first-class cultural historian. He is humane, witty, bright-minded, and rigorously intelligent. His deep subject is Time: how we deal with it and how it deals with us.”

Writing about preservation, architecture and American history, Howard Mansfield has contributed to The New York Times, American Heritage, The Washington Post, Historic Preservation, Yankee and other publications. Mansfield has explored issues of preservation in six books, including In the Memory House, of which The Hungry Mind Review said, “Now and then an idea suddenly bursts into flame, as if by spontaneous combustion. One instance is the recent explosion of American books about the idea of place… But the best of them, the deepest, the widest-ranging, the most provocative and eloquent is Howard Mansfield’s In the Memory House.”
Travels in Time and Place

Researching The Same Ax, Twice Mansfield immersed himself deeply in the search for restoration. He traveled with Civil War reenactors to help recreate the Battle of Antietam; he enrolled in auctioneer school to observe the endless recycling of artifacts, and he compared the process to the sterile preservation of these same objects in displays and museums; he toured 18th century houses that have been variously restored to their “original” condition or stripped to their essence; he observed the ongoing work of preserving the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” a ship which has been replaced over the years board by board.

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