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June 24, 2019 | Rome, Italy

Stuart: A Life Lived Backwards

By | 2018-03-21T18:29:05+02:00 November 22nd, 2006|Recent Reviews|

By Alexander Masters

Harper Perennial, 2006. 304 pages.

Unique, yes. Inspiring? It depends. Masters allows Stuart, his tragicomic homeless antihero, acres of crawlspace: he can narrate, scrawl, and fume. A London vagrant for decades, Stuart’s life is a “hum of casual outrages.”

The homeless, Masters says, accept the “death of companionship” and often turn life into mean-spirited solipsism. Stuart, who evolves into Masters’ dark buddy, is both sympathetic and enraging. Sometimes Stuart is just embroidered babble (“If words were legs he’d be a billionipede. Yap, yap, yap.”)

This book wins the sympathy vote — how can such an authentic chronicle of homelessness not? — but depends wholly on poor Stuart to carry the narrative load. It’s quite a burden, with erratic results. So much good intention is too much weight.

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