Thursday, August 19, 2010

‘Stuart: A Life Backwards’ by Alexander Masters

19 August 2010

I’ve been reading ‘Stuart: A Life Backwards’ by Alexander Masters, the fascinating, unorthodox biography of Stuart Shorter – a tale of life on the streets, prison, drugs, violence, self-harm and sexual abuse. Much of Stuart’s story is shocking and distressing but in Masters’ telling Stuart emerges as a compelling, funny, impressive and likeable personality – a triumph of finding the person amongst the problems. Masters intersperses the account of his own relationship with Stuart with the story of Stuart’s life before they met, told chronologically backwards. This gradual revelation unpicks the chain of episodes that have led Stuart to the situation in which we first encounter him. It’s an innovative approach which really helps you to understand the whole person but I also found the flitting backwards and forwards a little distracting. ‘Stuart: A Life Backwards’ is an amazing book – not quite like anything I have read before – not always easy reading but very effective at making you think about the whole nature of our society in very different ways. It’s funny how most of our debates about class tend to ignore the homeless underclass who see people who live on a council estate as ‘posh’.



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