Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
Stuart: A Life Backwards Paperback – May 29, 2007
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From The New Yorker
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Stuart begins gently: "I don't mean to be rude. I know you put a lot of work in."
And then Stuart gets specific. He'd like more "jokes, yarns, humor" and less research. In fact, he'd like a different book --- a bestseller, "like what Tom Clancy writes." Then he drops the bomb: "Alexander, you gotta start again. You gotta do better than this."
Please understand who's talking: a 30-odd year-old formerly homeless ex-junkie who has been in and out of jail, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, who was repeatedly abused as a child by his brother and a teacher. In short, a loser. What qualifies this disaster of a man to deliver literary criticism?
But one of the many great things about Stuart is his honesty. And his originality. "Do it [the book] the other way round," he advises. "Make it more like a murder mystery. What murdered the boy I was? See? Write it backwards."
Alexander Masters takes that advice. As he says, at the end of the first chapter:
"So here it is, my second attempt at the story of Stuart Shorter, thief, hostage taker, psycho and sociopath street raconteur, my spy on how the British chaotic underclass spend their troubled days at the beginning of the twenty-first century: a man with an important life.
"I wish I could have done it more quickly. I wish I could have presented it to Stuart before he stepped in front of the 11.15 London to King's Lynn train."
Well, that's starting at the end, isn't it? The absolute end. And Stuart was right --- it worked better that way, and on every level.Read more ›
Masters' integration of style and message is truly superb. He tries to convey the actual visceral reality of homelessness through the biography of a real homeless person. There are two things Masters attempts to elucidate and succeeds brilliantly. Firstly, he tries to illustrate how a person could become a homeless person in the first place. Second, he tries to illustrate how even in the UK, where the "System" is so much different than in the US, there is little positive result in either system. In many ways, the "System" only exacerbates the original conditions that created the environment to turn a person to the street.
Interestingly, Masters tells lots of amazing details about homelessness. His statement that it only takes about 4 weeks before a new homeless person becomes acclimatized to the "homeless life" or "rough sleeping" as he calls it, and finds that it is not so bad and they don't want to go back. This speed is almost inconceivable.
Masters is not high and mighty in his book, he does not claim to have an answer to the problem. But rather, he looks at the problem in its nakedness in order to try and find a resolution. The book is truly a wonderful example of how a person could get to a condition of permanent homelessness. It is recommended for all readers with a social conscience.
The essence of Stuart's life seemed to be courage in the face of so much adversity that one wonders how he lived even into his early thirties. His drug addiction, his MS, bouts of homelessness countered by months of living in small flats, an incestuous relationship with his brother....all of this did not keep Stuart from enjoying a certain high degree of humor and acceptance of the way of life that only he could lead. Masters takes these things into account as he spends some of his own time among Stuart's acquaintances on the street. While the author keeps an appropriate distance he can't help but being amused and fascinated by this man about whom he would eventually write.
"Stuart" is not an easy book to get through, at times. Far from your summertime read at the beach, this book is better read without distraction because Masters comments with great care not only on Stuart, but his situation at all aspects of Stuart's life. Writing it "backwards" works very well in this case, because it endears the reader to Stuart as the book continues.
Stuart Shorter is not a person that most of us would ever get to know or maybe even care to know, but Alexander Masters has shown us that there are those people in life we either overlook or tend to forget. I'm glad he reminds us and I highly recommend "Stuart" for its warmth and complexity.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I say Masters beautifully illustrated Stuart's chaos. This book was engaging, for me it really was like a murder mystery. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Christine M Frey
I purchased a used copy and it was in excellent shape. The book was good but the movie was better I thought.Published 6 months ago by jes
Absolutely WOW! This is a book that you instantly want to re-read, and with every reading you learn more about the homeless in general and Stuart in particular. Read morePublished 8 months ago by zimmerman
Depressing and bleak, Stuart: A life backwards is not the funny, inspiring or hilarious tell-all it purports to be. Mr. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Fiction Lover