Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Same Ax, Twice

The Same Ax, Twice: Restoration and Renewal in a Throwaway Age by Howard Mansfield.

After my adventure with Gumbrecht, Same Ax, Twice was a light summer read - a welcome change.

It is a book filled with stories about people and their relationship to the past, and especially the material stuff and places of the past. There are lots of well-told stories of re-enactors, and collectors, and restorers. They are stories of people living very intentionally in relationship to their sense of the past. They are stories of people attempting to capture and portray the fact and spirit of the past, from what does it take to be a true civil war re-enactor, to what kind constitutes a true reproduction of a Wright Brothers plane.

As a book filled with lots of narrative, it doesn't confront the reader with a lot of challenging data and concepts, but gradually builds its case. As the book nears its end the author reflects on the various stories told and their connecting themes of nostalgia, our sense of home and place, and our relationship to our physical environment.

Unlike most of the other books I've read for this blog, this book did not cause a flurry of note-taking, making for a more casual reading experience, but it is a thoughtful book.

I'll close this brief post with a quote from the last page of the book.

"Renewal. Ours is an age of broken connections, lost connections between heart and work, soul and politics, community and the self. Restoration is renewal -- an effort to mend the world -- or else it is not worth doing. Good restoration is a prayer, an offering. It's praise, attention paid; it revels in the glory and spirit of this life." (p. 276)

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your remarks about the accessibility of Mansfield's prose, and the poesy way he builds his arguments. In the Memory House (a must for archivists), and Bones of the Earth (a must for historic preservationists) build on the same theme with the same methods. They are wonderful reads, though, when you need to be reminded of the deep purpose of this type of work (since, well, deep purpose doesn't always translate into well-monetized work). : ) TLT