The Hippo


Jul 16, 2019








Courtesy photo.

 Howard Mansfield presents Summer Over Autumn

• Thursday, Sept. 28, 5:30 p.m., at Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562, 
• Thursday, Oct. 5, 6:30 p.m., at Water Street Bookstore (125 Water St., Exeter, 778-9731,
• Saturday, Oct. 14, 1 p.m., at Toadstool Bookshop (12 Emerald St., Keene, 352-8815, 

Little things, big ideas
Summer Over Autumn explores small-town life

By Angie Sykeny

 There’s more to small-town life in New Hampshire than meets the eye. That’s what Hancock author Howard Mansfield set out to uncover in his latest book, Summer Over Autumn: A Small Book of Small Town Life, which he’ll present at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord on Thursday, Sept. 28, and other New Hampshire locations in October. 

The book, which was released earlier this month, contains 21 essays about people, places and things in New Hampshire’s Monadnock Region, such as animals, tractors, trees, yard sales, funerals and money. 
“New Hampshire is made up of a mix of different things. To see all the eccentricities and [points of] interest, you have to look for the deeper stories,” Mansfield said. “You have to look at how the moments in small-town life open up to a bigger view.” 
In one of the essays, Mansfield explores the layout of Hancock’s Main Street, which appears neat and well-ordered at first glance but, upon a closer look, is revealed to have a number of quirky details that give it character. 
“You can start to see that things are a little askew,” he said. “It’s disorderly within limits. The largest house is next to the smallest house. Some buildings don’t face the street. There is symmetry and asymmetry. But that gives it this kind of looseness and breathing space that makes it interesting to look at.” 
Mansfield also draws parallels between simple things and broader ideas. For example, he likens an old chair in his studio — beaten up, sawed into, painted and repainted — to the New Hampshire landscape, filled with “rough beauty and toughness.” 
Other essays highlight the workers and volunteers serving small-town fire stations, libraries and meetinghouses. 
“They’re the people who keep the town going,” Mansfield said. “They don’t stand in pretentiousness. They just believe in where they live and in helping their neighbors. They surprise us with the grace of the ordinary.” 
Curiosity, Mansfield said, is what drives him to investigate the various elements of small town life in New Hampshire. When he comes across something that intrigues him, the first questions he asks himself are “Why am I interested in this?” “What do I think about it?” and “What is the opposite of what I think is true?” From there, he begins research on the subject, looking at historical archives and interviewing people who can provide valuable insight. 
The title of the book is based on a particular moment that Mansfield has observed every year in mid to late August, when summer is still in full bloom but the very first glimpse of autumn appears. 
“You look at the side of a mountain, and it’s green, but there’s just a bit of yellow slipping out from under the green,” he said. “It’s one of those moments we all pass through. We pass through many moments like that every day.” 
Mansfield’s hope is that Summer Over Autumn will inspire readers to look at their home towns with fresh eyes, to ask more questions and to dig deeper into what makes those towns unique. 
“Maybe they’re going out on a road that they’ve gone down a thousand times, but this time, they see something new in the landscape or in their neighbor or in a building,” he said, “and maybe that makes them appreciate it anew and enriches their daily life.” 

®2019 Hippo Press. site by wedu