Turn & Jump: Reviews

Down East Books ISBN: 0892728167


Advance Praise for Turn & Jump:

“Howard Mansfield has always had a gift for bringing the complexities of our past to light. In Turn & Jump he directs his gift towards examining the many permutations of human time — the way time has of inhabiting us as much as we inhabit it. Reading his deeply imagined book is an experience that’s both pleasurable and profound.”
— Jane Brox, author, Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light

“As an excavator and guardian of our living past, Howard Mansfield is unmatched. This decent, unpretentious, wonderful writer possesses the sensibility of a poet combined with boundless curiosity and deep, deep knowledge. In its quiet, persistent, honest search for timelessness and truth amidst the clamor of our uncertain times, Turn & Jump takes us to the very soul of America.”
— John Heilpern, Contributing Editor, Vanity Fair.

“Through vivid, detailed examinations of certain elements of our New England past, Mansfield provides a shimmering window into that mysterious, unfathomable reality called time. I was totally fascinated—and entertained—throughout.”
— Judson D. Hale, Sr., Editor-in-Chief, Yankee Publishing.

“Turn & Jump lights up the present by shining a beam on the past, something Howard Mansfield does better than anyone else. From stories about vaudeville to reflections upon water mills or shopping malls, he reads American culture in a way that collapses the distance between what we were and what we are.”
— Elizabeth Pochoda, Editor, The Magazine Antiques.

“Who would have thought there were so many modern forces at work breaking down the continuity that once bound time and space together—everything from the railroads to vaudeville? The book roots through all the permutations of Faulkner’s old dictum that the past is not dead—it isn’t even past!”
— John Hanson Mitchell, author, The Paradise of All These Parts: A Natural History of Boston.


“Like Thoreau, Mr. Mansfield is a keen observer and, in his neck of New Hampshire, a granitic critic of the rushed life.”
The Wall Street Journal.

“A powerful assessment of the changing nature of both time and community. Any general lending library will find this a lively discussion.”
Midwest Book Review.

“Clocks ruined time. Such a declarative statement seems out of place, a complete contradiction. Yet, when people attempted to control time, plan time, co-opt time, yes, even tell time, time actually lost its place. You see, time and place go together. You cannot have one without the other. “When” and “where” are uttered in the same breath. Indeed, physicists tell us that matter, space, and time must exist together; one cannot be apart from the other two. What difference does all this make? Humans have unwittingly given jurisdiction of their lives to digital readouts; we are servants to the time-clock. In so doing, place is torn from its moorings; time became a commodity, dragging space with it.

One must thank Howard Mansfield for dragging us back. Turn & Jump is a marvelous rollick through periods where place mattered. Diarists begin the tales as people who mark their days with the distinctiveness of time wedded with place. Pithy proverbs such as “clocks are a fiction we accept in order to get on with our day” and “once time was a river, now time was money” dot Mansfield’s pages. Over and over Turn & Jump—a metaphor for the tempestuous life of vaudevillians hustling money within short stretches of time over the long haul of place—tells tale after tale of history which has lost its historical significance….

Mansfield’s strength is how he tells about time and place with multiple stories—result of a researcher’s long hours. Episodes of life cascade over the waterfall of our reading; a joy for which we simply gaze in wonder. I was especially taken by the description of the New England meeting house, a decorated shed. “The worship mattered, not the church.” So important is this idea that Mansfield concludes by saying, “We should look more closely at the life that flows through [the house]. The continuous show is inside” (100). Time meets place and creates meaning. People cannot live well without meaning. We think we control time only to find that time now controls us. Mansfield does well to end his story montage in the graveyard. Time will ultimately prevail. We cannot control what cannot be controlled. Time will continue without us…”
— Dr. Mark Eckel, Dean, Undergraduate Studies, and Professor of Old Testament at Crossroads Bible College, Indianapolis. Warpandwoof.org

“Benjamin Franklin said time is money. For Howard Mansfield, time is people… He does his turn on Ebeneezer Edwards, then jumps time and space to Denman Thompson or Marge Bruchac. The connections are what gives the book its power.”
— Tim Clark, Yankee magazine.

“”Howard Mansfield is remarkable for an ability to draw attention to the large dimensions of small things.”
— James A. Rousmaniere Jr., editor, The Keene Sentinel.

Like most history teachers, I spend my days trying to lure students into awareness of their deep, embedded relationship to the past. With the concluding line of his new book, Howard Mansfield suggests a new strategy: “Throw out your clocks.” Our clocks have come to obscure time itself, he believes. “Time is curved, time is braided.” It spirals, twists, mists, rains down. To discover time—to discover yourself in it—seek paths beyond the timeline. Turn and Jump: How Time and Place Fell Apart is full of them.

Chapter by chapter, Mansfield takes the reader deeper into worlds familiar and strange, illuminating both this historical process and its human cost….But this is not a political book except in the deepest sense; Mansfield stays clear of the fruitless ideological blame-game, an indulgence for which it is way too late. His inquiry rather takes him into the soul of the civilization that imagined and countenanced such changes.
— Eric Miller, associate professor of history, Geneva College, Books & Culture: A Christian Review

When I saw a New York Times feature on Leonard Koren recently, I was curious about his ideas on aesthetics, so I requested Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets, & Philosophers on inter-library loan. It’s a fascinating little book that was perfect to read as I was mulling the idea of known and strange things passing, catching us off guard, and blowing open our hearts. In the first sentence, Koren lays out his thesis: “Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.”

For someone relentlessly critical of herself and always pursuing paths to improvement, that’s a comfort. Once you think about wabi-sabi, you see if everywhere — in art, design, music, food, even just the way some people live… Koren says later in the book that to achieve a wabi-sabi aesthetic in art and life, one should, “pare down to the essence, but don’t remove the poetry.” Simple but incredibly difficult, and a quality of much of my favorite literature.

I would say that Howard Mansfield is one author who achieves that balance perfectly. Mansfield’s writing is lyrical and figurative, but clear and simple.

This synthesis of history, sociology, and personal reflection makes Turn & Jump both contemplative (like wabi, which Koren tells us “refers to the inward, the subjective”) and informative (like sabi, which “refers to the outward, the objective”). Ranging from vaudeville (where the title comes from) to an outlet dam on a small lake in New Hampshire to a family store in a small town, covering everything from the standardization of time to suit railroad schedules to the nonlinear view of time held by native peoples, Mansfield guides readers along routes of inquiry well researched but never dry.

Mansfield is a great writer, and a great thinker. Read his book and you’ll feel as if you’re talking with your smartest friend.
— Deb Baker, Events Coordinator, Gibson’s Bookstore, Concord, NH