Whenever Howard Mansfield writes about the world around him, whether it be small-town New England, or what compels us to preserve the artifacts of our lives, or the mystery of Time, I pay attention.Mel Allen, editor, Yankee magazine
Howard Mansfield's new book, Summer Over Autumn: A Small Book of Small-Town Life is named for what Mansfield calls the moment in late summer when the season is still going strong but you get that first glimpse at autumn.
There's a moment every summer when I look up at a nearby mountain and see a weakening of the green, and here and there like a splattering of paint, the first yellow leaves, writes Mansfield. Autumn is beginning to slip out from undercover. I think of this moment as its own distinct time, as Summer Over Autumn. This is the moment that precedes the fall snap, the great colors, and the final bare season in November.
Mansfield's new book is about such moments. Summer Over Autumn is a small book of small-town life. He has written twenty-one short essays over the last thirty years, stories about neighbors, animals, tractors, trees, yard sales, funerals, money, and fidelity to time itself. It's a book about the crooked path that is New Hampshire, about the parts that are postcard pretty, and the rougher parts that have a kind of hidden grace you have to live with to really see.
He doesn't waste time with the quaint postcard view of a New England town, but shows readers where the real merit of small-town life lies. It can be found in the war waged against invasive, wild rosebushes, the hopeful placing of bets in the elm tree lottery, the artful dance of fundraising, and in bribing the band to play longer at the mechanic's anniversary party. He brings us the hidden stories in one chair, a conversation in passing, or a Fourth of July fireworks display. Like Hancock's crooked Main Street, the town and these stories are not just there for reminiscing; they are a breathing lesson.
Howard Mansfield is an everyday tourist and detective of the nearby. His ability to fully immerse himself in the here rather than rushing on towards there, has helped him create the wonderful essays in this small book full of big ideas.
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About the Author
Howard Mansfield is the author of nine books about preservation, architecture, and history, most recently Summer Over Autumn (Bauhan 2017). He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, Historic Preservation, and Yankee. He and his wife, writer Sy Montgomery, live in a 130-year-old house in Hancock, New Hampshire.
Table of ContentsSheds. Bauhan Publishing, 2016
Dwelling in Possibility: Searching for the Soul of Shelter. Bauhan Publishing, 2013
Turn and Jump: How Time and Place Fell Apart. Down East, 2010.
The Bones of the Earth. Shoemaker and Hoard, 2004.
The Same Ax, Twice: Restoration and Renewal in a Throwaway Age. University Press of New England, 2000.
What People are Saying About This
“A wonderful book. An insightful but droll glimpse inside the life of one New England town. Bringing us the small events and encounters with neighbors and townspeople, Howard goes straight to the heart of the inscrutable nature of small-town life, of New England life. We are left with no choice but to love this book.”
“Howard Mansfield truly understands New Hampshire, and he’s clearly at home here. He has a journalist’s instinct for digging up a good story, an historian’s deep knowledge of his subject, an old soul’s insights into life and a poet’s gift for turning a phrase. Howard can be hysterically funny, philosophical and eruditeall in one paragraph. His writing is a joy to read.”
“Howard Mansfield’s vision for the small town is integrated with his prose, which is at turns funny, sad and beautiful, but always smart. This is a great book if all you’re looking for is a learning experience, but it’s also extremely entertaining, full of arcane knowledge (how to wind a giant clock), insight into small town life, and fabulous profiles of Mansfield’s friends, neighbors, sometimes adversaries, and even a celebrity hog. My favorite essay is ‘The People in the Photo,’ which has an emotional and lyrical quality rare among essayists and which I feel is destined to be a classic of American nonfiction writing of our time period. It’s as if Walt Whitman had come out of the grave in the persona of Howard Mansfield for one more epic. I highly recommend this ‘small book’ full of big ideas.”
“Whenever Howard Mansfield writes about the world around him, whether it be small-town New England, or what compels us to preserve the artifacts of our lives, or the mystery of Time, I pay attention. When I finish a Howard Mansfield story or book I look upon a world changed. His curiosity propels every sentence he writes, no more so than in Summer Over Autumn.”