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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A wise and beautiful book."
When In the Memory House was first published in 1993, it garnered extraordinary reviews. 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 books about the idea of place...the best of them, the deepest, the widest-ranging, the most provocative is Howard Mansfield's In the...
Published on February 1, 2012 by A reader in New England

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just OK
This book is OK. Some of the stories are better than others, but if you're not into the way things used to be in New England, then... hmm.
Published on November 20, 2010 by E. Woods


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A wise and beautiful book.", February 1, 2012
This review is from: In the Memory House (Paperback)
When In the Memory House was first published in 1993, it garnered extraordinary reviews. 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 books about the idea of place...the best of them, the deepest, the widest-ranging, the most provocative is Howard Mansfield's In the Memory House."

Mansfield's book hits even closer to home today. He writes: "We have everywhere an absence of memory. Architects sometimes talk of building with context and continuity in mind, religious leaders call it tradition, social workers say it's a sense of community, but it is memory we have banished from our cities. We have speed and power, but no place. Travel, but no destination. Convenience, but no ease."

He's not nostalgic. "Visitors to New England usually arrive with a lot of baggage," he has said. "They are weighted down by a lifetime of Norman Rockwell, and Currier and Ives. They want nostalgia and quaintness. In the Memory House is an attempt to see New England plain. I was looking for the contours of historical memory itself.

"Memory is a defining characteristic of New England -- this great desire to mark the landscape with historical monuments, to crowd little museums full of small acts of homage, and to tell certain stories."

Each story in the book is about a moment of commemoration -- or the failure to commemorate. At such moments, our aspirations are on full view. When we seek to honor something, we are staking a claim: This is us. In history, unlike heredity, we choose our ancestors.

Mansfield visited many small museums and local historical societies which he calls "memory houses." He examined the changes in Town Meeting and the changes in our local landscape: the loss of the elms, and the bulldozing of an entire neighborhood, Boston's West End. He explored the histories of Franklin Pierce, Thoreau, Johnny Appleseed and Jack Kerouac.

With these stories, "Mansfield gets beneath the patina of the tangible and intangible relics of our history to locate the emotional core of our past," said The New York Times Book Review. "Through the intensity of his language, his pace and wit, the predisposed reader can take the leap into collective memory and even catch, with Mr. Mansfield, that damp, sweet scent of the past....[a] wise and beautiful book."

In the Memory House is "informed by a humane spirit that prizes imagination while respecting fact," said the Smithsonian magazine. It is "a clearheaded, warmhearted book."

The Boston Book Review called it "provocative and elegant." Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs, loved the book. "This book is about all of us. Part ethnography, part description, part evocation, part illusion. It's an x-ray that has found the soul," said Thomas.

"Anyone interested in small town America should read In the Memory House," said Rosellen Brown, author of Tender Mercies. "Howard Mansfield asks profound questions about how and why we make the histories we cherish, and the ones we fear, and he has found stirring examples of the heroic presences who live among us disguised as our friends and neighbors."

And the great writer and critic Guy Davenport, author of The Geography of the Imagination, said: "That our country has for some years now been losing its democratic soul, its independence, and perhaps its mind has been noticed by various thinkers. None, however, has written about this loss as attentively, wisely and engagingly as Howard Mansfield."
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Memory House is true poetry, June 13, 2007
This review is from: In the Memory House (Paperback)
Howard Mansfield so beautifully and eloquently describes our lust to once again revisit that small town feeling, when we could leave our doors open and perhaps just the screen doors latched while only the night airs entered everyone's home. Where every town had their native sons. The prejudices that encompass the small towns and the newcomers who gently steered those wrongs into glorious rights--Mitzvahs indeed! This is truly a poetic work of the utmost proportion. Mansfield is a master craftsman whose words force us to relive those wonderful memories of a proud community and togetherness that have long since disappeared from our country's landscape. Mansfield is Hancock, New Hampshire's Myer Goldman. There is no doubt this work is beyond brilliant, there is no doubt Mansfield is a genius and there is no doubt this book is his Mitzvah! Definitely a book to read, to have, and hold on to!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just OK, November 20, 2010
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This review is from: In the Memory House (Paperback)
This book is OK. Some of the stories are better than others, but if you're not into the way things used to be in New England, then... hmm.
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In the Memory House
In the Memory House by Howard Mansfield (Paperback - September 7, 1995)
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