If You Had A Hammer

THE WALLS AROUND US

by David Owen

Villard; 308 pages; $21

The city man who moves to the country lugs along a cargo of rustic dreams, all calamitous. As writer David Owen, an escaped New Yorker now living in the white clapboard town of Washington, Conn., says in the first sentence of this terrifying confessional memoir, "I love buying expensive power tools and using them to wreck various parts of my house."

Just so. Do-it-yourselfers, it is now recognized, are not morally stunted; we are merely ill. Our hands tremble as we pass a display of belt sanders in a hardware...

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