A back-to-the-land and back-to-the-old-ways collection of often charming autobiographical essays. Wetherell, a novelist (The Wisest Man in America, 1995, etc.), and short-story writer and a longtime resident of the hill country of western New Hampshire, is a resolutely happy man, blessed, he writes, with a perfect mate and a perfect home. He finds his happiness to be due in large part to the simplicity of his life; he owns no television, writes only grudgingly on an electric typewriter, and refuses to purchase a computer. Wetherell occasionally belabors his us-against-the-world stance, but he has a point; his book is full of little pieces on life's simple pleasures, like reading, or gazing at the stars, or contemplating the history of his forebears and the ways of his neighbors. ``I am revealing myself to be as extinct as a dinosaur, dead as a dodo, a relic of another era, a footnote to an age that not only rushes ahead in heedless bondage to the new, but tramples in contempt on anyone who stubbornly refuses to keep pace,'' he writes. That stubbornness takes a sometimes curmudgeonly tone, as when Wetherell grumps at the noises his neighbors make with their V8 engines and boom boxes. But more often Wetherell is a courtly critic of the modern age, an age in which ``it's becoming impossible to live with any kind of economic modesty,'' even way out in the sticks. Still, he sees signs of hope for a return to at least some of the old ways, including a reemerging ethos of repairing rather than discarding, a yearning for community, and a newfound ``reverence . . . for the land.'' A pleasing declaration in favor of the country life.