A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in a Skip’, by Alexander Masters

Methode-times-prod-web-bin-193eb790-0b9a-11e6-9777-cb378ba09ac6Melissa Harrison at The Financial Times:

Alexander Masters is the sole practitioner of a very particular kind of biography. His previous two books were the much-lauded Stuart: A Life Backwards, a portrait of a homeless man, and The Genius in my Basement, about the reclusive mathematical prodigy and transport obsessive Simon Phillips Norton. To call his earlier subjects “ordinary” would be to do them a disservice, but neither were famous or conventionally notable — Masters’ interest is firmly in obscure and unseen lives. That’s not all that sets his books apart: they have a postmodern playfulness, the writing process described in the narrative and their subjects reading and commenting (not always favourably) on the work-in-progress, while doodles, photos and knowing,Tristram Shandy-style jokes dot the text.

A Life Discarded fits comfortably into the tradition he’s established. Its subject, anonymous initially, is the author of 148 diaries that Masters’ friends Dido Davies and Richard Grove, both Cambridge professors, retrieve from a skip. What’s immediately clear is that the earliest notebooks date back to 1959 and that the astonishingly prolific diarist was writing an average of 2,500 words every single day.

Masters does not begin to investigate the books straight away; in fact, it’s 10 years before a house move sees them resurface among his boxes and rekindle his interest. During that time Richard is involved in a car crash and confined to a wheelchair, and Dido, Masters’ writing collaborator for 25 years, is diagnosed with cancer.

more here.