Stuart: A Life Backwards, by Alexander Masters

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I picked this book up because it had a quote on the front by Mark Haddon, who wrote The Curious Incident of the Dog in the NightTime, one of my favorite books ever, I think. (He’s got a new one out called A Spot of Bother that’s on my night-stand patiently waiting for me to get through my new McCarthy & Murakami & Maeda & Tufte & Woodward books. Yay!)

Anyway, I wasn’t really sure what to make of this book when I started — couldn’t really tell whether it was fiction or not (honestly).

It turns out to be quite real — a biographical account of a homeless person in Cambridge, England — “chaotic homeless” as Stuart calls himself. It’s a bit of an inside-out book, in that it tells the story of Stuart’s present-day life, but is interspersed with chapters describing earlier periods in his development, going backwards in time. So he gets progressively less screwed up and, in turn, more and more empathetic a character, until you get back to his very childhood. (Which, as you might expect was not perfect, although he never had a coat hanger in his eye, or at least not a documented one.)

Anyway, I really liked this book. It’s not like any other that I’ve read, and it’s such an authentic, careful, well-told story that I think it’s impossible not to get a lot out of reading it.

Contrast that to State of Denial, by Bob Woodward, which I’m reading right now. A lot like popcorn — easy to eat. Popcorn that kills your spirit, makes you feel dirty and gross, and wonder how the hell this guy ever got elected in the first (and 2nd) place. You know, like popcorn with that grody movie butter on it.

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