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Howard Mansfield

Dwelling in Possibility

We know within seconds upon entering a new house if we feel at home. We know when a place makes us feel more alive. This is the mystery that interests Howard Mansfield — Why do some houses have life, are home, are dwellings, and others are not?

Mansfield’s most recent book, Dwelling in Possibility, is a search for what makes some houses a home, and some public places welcoming. We can recognize these elusive qualities, and yet we find it very difficult, if not impossible, to create this feeling in our new houses and in our towns and cities. In Peterborough, the search for more home-like qualities led to the remaking of the mill-town around World War I.

Mansfield sifts through the commonplace and the forgotten to discover stories that tell us about ourselves and our place in the world. He writes about history, architecture, and preservation. In The Same Ax Twice he looks at how good restorations restore us. In The Bones of the Earth he shows how people still carry allegiances to the oldest landmarks—sticks and stones. In In the Memory House he examines the way we create our history, how we choose our ancestors. And in Turn and Jump, he looks at how we experience the passage of time.

 “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.”

Howard Mansfield lives in Hancock with his wife, the writer Sy Montgomery and a border collie, in an old-enough house. He has authored seven books and numerous essays.