Discover Alumni News: Alexander Masters

Dear Reader,

 

This is what we said about Alexander Master's brilliant biography Stuart: A Life Backwards when it was selected for the Discover Great New Writers program back in 2006:

 

"There are many Stuart Shorters. Stuart Unexpected: paranoid, softspoken, and timid. Stuart Fury: hotheaded, murderous, and temperamental. And Stuart Unpredictable: fey, cunning, and full of charm. But who is he, really? That's what Masters intended to find out, and as he woefully discovered, Stuart's life, filled with passion and intensity, may be rich fodder for novelists, but it's a downright liability for a biographer. Piled high with incident, Stuart's days erupt in perpetual chaos. 'Thief, hostage taker, psycho, and sociopathic raconteur,' Stuart Shorter, despite his 20-page rap sheet is, Masters thinks, not someone whose behavior he can explain or justify, but with any luck, he can transfer it to the page.

No fiction here, Stuart's may be the most original biography you've encountered. Despite his late-life right turn toward respectability, he remained a man of the street. As he comments on the problems of the British underclass and the issues of the homeless -- by turns maddening, frustrating, and riotous -- an unlikely yet credible friendship develops between the biographer and his subject, providing just one of the rich rewards of the book. But no reward is greater that the opportunity to meet Stuart himself. An unexpected, bold introduction to and an invigorating take on a tragic individual, Master's work is a masterwork of pathos."

 

 

Now Masters returns with Simon: The Genius in My Basement, the story of his fussy-slovenly-clumsy-obsessed-with-public-transportation landlord, the mathematical prodigy with an IQ of 178, Simon Norton.  “He’s not crazy, there’s nothing tragic about him, he’s definitely not poor and his life is full of purpose,” writes Masters in this thoroughly entertaining book, a hybrid of biography and pop science.  "Hilarious and supple prose, vivid observations, and exasperated affection for Simon make for a fascinating study of an improbably happy life," says Publishers Weekly.

 

Cheers, Miwa

 


Miwa Messer

Miwa Messer is the Director of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program, which was established in 1990 to highlight works of exceptional literary quality that might otherwise be overlooked in a crowded book marketplace. Titles chosen for the program are handpicked by a select group of our booksellers four times a year. Click here for submission guidelines.

April 21: " 'Pull' includes 'invitations to tea' at which one hears smiling reminders that a better life is available to people who stop talking about massacres..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.