Cover to Cover

Books by UNH faculty and alumni

A Building History of Northern New England, by James L. Garvin '67
Misreading Masulinity: Boys, Literacy, and Popular Culture, by Thomas Newkirk

Also of note:
Elisabeth Ellington '96G and Jane Freimiller
Christopher J. Fauske '84, '86G
Nicoletta F. Gullace
Nancy Pagh '89G, '91G
Ellen Fitzpatrick
Frederick T. Short and Robert G. Coles
David Eastman '65
Brendan A. DuBois '82

A Building History of Northern New England
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James Garvin came to Portsmouth in 1963 as the second employee of Strawbery Banke Museum. At that point, 25 18th- and early 19th-century houses had been allotted to the museum for preservation by the local urban renewal authority. Dozens more were to be demolished.

On the mornings that a house was to be demolished, Garvin showed up before dawn to salvage doors, paneling and mantelpieces. He realized that he had become "a curator of a collection of artifacts for a culture that was unknown to [him]," and he set about learning that culture's codes. Today, he is New Hampshire's architectural historian, a position he has held since 1987.

Like many of the buildings Garvin describes, this book is simple but elegant in structure and detail. There are three chapters: "How a House is Built: the Evolution of Building Technology," "Why a Building Looks the Way It Does: the Evolution of Style" and "How to Date a Building: the Evolution of Key Features." As Garvin notes, this is not a book about restoration; rather, "it is a book about the necessary prelude to preservation or restoration." He focuses on one small and, he argues, "understudied" area: Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Although preservationists, contractors and students of architecture will benefit from the vast knowledge imparted in these pages, Garvin especially writes for homeowners.

The book won the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities Book Prize, the Antoinette Forrester Downing Award from the Society of Architectural Historians and the Preservation Award from the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance. Chapters trace historical developments in just about every aspect of building. The chapter on building technology, for example, includes information on framed houses, masonry, hardware and paint. In his chapter on style, Garvin details Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Romantic and 20th-century styles. And his "key features" chapter profiles moldings, doors, windows, casings, mantelpieces, turnings and balustrades. Helpful photographs and drawings are included for each topic.

There is much wisdom and sensitivity here, and therefore it is for anyone who loves old buildings. As Garvin writes, "Whether you love or merely tolerate your old house, it is well to approach the building with one truth firmly in mind. Human life is short. The life of a house is potentially limitless. Even in the youthful United States, we have houses that have been sheltering families for 300 years or more. ... Remember that the number of old houses is finite and diminishes each year. It is a privilege and a responsibility to own a piece of the past."

Misreading Masculinity:
Boys, Literacy and Popular Culture
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Thomas Newkirk, a UNH professor of English, begins his second chapter, "Making Sense of the Gender Gap," with an anecdote about his fourth-grade teacher: "One day when I was especially restless ... I could see Miss Rickenbrood circling to the back of the room.

I wasn't aware of having done anything in particular, but I knew her eyes were on me. After a few minutes she leaned over and whispered in my ear, 'Tom, would you like to go outside and run?'"

Like Miss Rickenbrood, Newkirk has come up with some original and unconventional answers to a set of perplexing questions about boys and literacy: What counts as literacy? How do we balance social appropriateness and boys' attractions to fantasies of conflict and violence? How can we learn about, appreciate and make use of the stories that appeal to potentially alienated boys?

Newkirk is especially convincing in his analysis of the question of gender equity in schools and the effects of popular culture on male behavior. He identifies two important ways in which parents and teachers misread masculinity: by failing to engage in the forms of literacy that boys most enjoy and by taking boys' reactions to media too literally.

Newkirk engages the gender equity debate while extracting himself from it. Both sides--the liberal feminists who are advocates for girls and the members of the educational right who advocate for boys--have valuable insights, he notes. "The focus on gaps," he writes, "tends to pit boys against girls, to emphasize either/or. Yet surely it is possible to focus on boys' difficulties in school without rejecting claims that girls may experience different difficulties or inequities."

The core data for Newkirk's study is a set of student stories and a series of interviews with about 100 students, boys and girls, in five New Hampshire elementary schools. The conversations are enlightening (and often quite amusing), and by the end of the book the reader is convinced that it is sensible and necessary to do what Newkirk thinks we should do: "move beyond the prominent censorious attitude toward popular culture and open up to the transgressive pleasures of boyhood."