“Stuart: A Life Backwards”

November 19, 2008 at 5:02 pm | Posted in Nonfiction | Leave a comment

What exactly is A Life Backwards?  In Stuart, Alexander Masters does something unusual for a biography:  He starts out with a rather messed-up adult individual and tracks backward through the incidents of his life to try to find out how he got that way.  In this case, the strategy is absolutely effective and compelling.

The Stuart in question probably isn’t someone you’d go out of your way to get to know.  A homeless junkie, he’d been in and out of prison for acts of extreme violence and aggression.  If you’d seen him on the street, you might well have asked, “What happened to you that you turned out that way?”  While his story is undoubtedly unique, it might be a fair indicator of what exactly does happen to people to land them on the street.

This book is a real contradiction in that it’s hysterically funny and heartbreakingly sad.  Masters’s telling of Stuart’s life has one sucker-punch after another.  Just as you wonder if things could get any worse, they do.  But all along you’re snickering and checking out Masters’s illustrations.  The story is very rich and definitely a memorable read.

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