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The Genius in my Basement

The Genius in my Basement [Kindle Edition]

Alexander Masters
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

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Product Description


From the reviews of ‘Stuart: A Life Backwards’:

‘Unique and wonderful’ Daily Mail

‘This is a very rare and haunting book … A great first book’ Andrew O'Hagan

'Good books like this appear about once every five years. It's been years since I've been so delighted by a book and so surprised by it … When I'd finished I felt bereft, as if I'd lost an old friend' Zadie Smith

'I feel so strongly about this strange, funny, sad book that I hardly know where to begin … My enthusiasm feels almost limitless. A page-turner' Observer

'Funny and original, a startling book … By the end I was doubled up in tears, but throughout I was often doubled up with laughter. It is dazzling' Vogue

'A remarkable biography. Unforgettably moving. A gripping read' Tim Lott, Sunday Times

'With his first book, Alexander Masters … has achieved something remarkable. He has, without patronising, given a voice to the "underclass"; at the same time, without preaching, he shows us the value of even the most damaged of human lives … a powerful book, humane, instructive and entirely original' Sunday Telegraph

Product Description

An intimate portrait of an everyday genius.

Alexander Master’s landlord, Simon, lives in the basement of their Cambridge house. Between teetering towers of outdated maps and slagheaps of plastic bags, Simon eats endless meals of tinned kippers and plans trips on the Cambridge public transport system.

But Simon was one of the greatest mathematical prodigies of the twentieth century. He spends his time between train journeys working on a theoretical puzzle so complex and critical to our understanding of the universe that it is known as the Monster.

Poignant and comical, ‘Simon: The Genius in my Basement’ is about the frailty of brilliance and how genius matters very little in the search for happiness.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 14698 KB
  • Print Length: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (1 Sep 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005E8A29W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #135,688 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I really think Alexander Masters has dropped the ball here. He has all the right elements for a great book, but somehow, (rather ironically given the main theme of the book), manages to put 2 and 2 together and come up with 5.

The book follows, Simon Norton, a mathematical genius, who comes across as an extremely likeable fellow if not a little bizarre (perhaps even with a touch of Asperger's?), but I can't help feel that this book has let him down massively.

After reading this, I am left with very little insight into the man and what makes him tick, and feel that Masters was trying to cajole his subject and make him out to be something he simply wasn't, whilst focussing on the things that 'he' wanted - not the things that mattered to Simon.

I think the book would have been much more interesting if it concentrated on Simon's life now, rather than what it once was. It seems Simon would agree, and he too it seems, constantly tried to point out to the author how irrelevant a lot of his questions were.

Instead, I got the feeling that I am left with no idea what makes this genius tick. It's like Master's observed Simon, but chose to ignore everything about this man.

The writing style too I found a little cumbersome. It jumped around and tried to be fun and creative, dropping in 'crazy' drawings - but I found this got slightly laboured and only made a (in a few places) confusingly written book, harder to follow.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable biography 25 Aug 2011
By I Read, Therefore I Blog VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Dr Simon Philips Norton was a child maths prodigy who came top in international Mathematical Olympiads, earned a degree in maths whilst still at school and then went to Cambridge where he studied for his doctorate. Norton's particular expertise is in Group Theory and he's spent most of his life trying to understand what he calls The Monster, the most convoluted atom of symmetry, which is studied using a grid containing 808017424794512875886459904961710757005754368000000000 columns.

Supported by his family's wealth, Dr Norton owns a house in Cambridge (in which Masters rented a flat) and lives in the basement rooms (a shambles filled with bags of junk and with a toilet that's fallen through the floor). But Norton hasn't worked since Cambridge University's Maths Department opted not to renew his contract and he spends most of his time campaigning for public transport (for which he funds a £10,000 annual prize). In this book, Masters paints a portrait of how Norton came to be in his current position, why he failed to live up to his early promise, why he's so passionate about public transport, his relationship with The Monster and how come he seems so happy with his lot.

Having really enjoyed STUART: A LIFE BACKWARDS, I was looking forward to reading Masters' next book and THE GENIUS IN MY BASEMENT for the most part doesn't disappoint. Simon Norton is not a willing subject for an autobiography, offering his co-operation only in return for Masters' help in clearing his rooms and the promotion of his views on public transport. He frequently complains about the mistakes that Masters makes about both him and his work, and has a very poor memory for the basic facts of his life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A great chance completely missed 26 Dec 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
A really interesting topic for a book - to explore the nature of 'genius' through the random chance of having a landlord who happens to have been/still is a mathematical genius. However the book completely wastes the chance, since it adopts almost no clear structure at all and meanders along with a few brief insights into Norton's thinking via trips out to Woking and Haverhill. After about 125 pages you start to realise that you now know as much about Masters as you do about his subject until the book reaches its key moment - the author's photograph appears! This explains why Masters so totally fails to get to grips with his subject - for example, he never manages to really explain why Norton gets so much pleasure from buses and trains, and tellingly gets some of his bus and rail terminology wrong. In the end there is simply not enough about Norton in here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to connect with 29 April 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I loved Alex Masters previous book (Stuart - a life backwards)but just could not get to grips after 3 attempts with this book. The premise has possibilities - a maths genius landlord who lives in the basement totally surrounded by piles of paper, including trying to collect every newspaper, every day. How did he come to have all this clutter and how did he come to live a secluded and unemployed life?

However, Masters writes the story in a very disjointed fashion and when he tries to explain the maths theory the landlord has developed -I just no longer had the will to follow.I also disliked the line drawings in the book - sorry, not for me.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars I wanted to like this more
I'm glad many people did enjoy this book and found it amusing and interesting. I did too, only not as much as i wanted too. Read more
Published 9 months ago by GJ_Reading
4.0 out of 5 stars BASEMENT GENIUS
"He doesn't want to sit all day in a neon-lit office block working out the 13th Fourier coefficient of a modular function on a 26-dimensional hyperbolic hyperplane... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jet Lagged
2.0 out of 5 stars Too clever
I really enjoyed Masters' last book, Stuart, but I thought that Genius was just an unproductive biography of an unwilling person. Read more
Published 18 months ago by SAP
4.0 out of 5 stars A Little Gem
This biography of the mathematical genius (Simon Norton) who lived in a flat below the author is funny, intriguing and moving. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Stardust
2.0 out of 5 stars After 106 pages it still was not very interesting
When I looked, bored, at my current page number I was shocked to see I was at page 106 and I was still waiting to get into it. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Ransen Owen
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing
Disappointing that this is not as good as Stuart - a life backwards. However, this has it's moments, and shows Masters ability to present sympathetically characters that most of... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Don Panik
4.0 out of 5 stars The Enigma in the Excavation?
As my star rating shows, I enjoyed this atypical biography. However, the title is misleading, as Masters himself doesn't seem to know if Norton IS a genius, WAS a genius - or never... Read more
Published on 14 April 2012 by Steven Brake
5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable
Portrayal of a man who it would be easy to categorise as "eccentric", but who the author suggests is more a very intelligent person with an unusually clear idea about what makes... Read more
Published on 10 April 2012 by Study Shortcuts and Exam Tips from Oxford Grads
2.0 out of 5 stars That difficult second book (part46)
'Stuart, A Life Backwards' is a small classic of literary biography, but, sad to relate,I struggled to finish 'The Genius In My Basement'. Read more
Published on 16 Mar 2012 by Bela Lugosi's Dad
3.0 out of 5 stars Unique
This is a very unique book and maybe not my cuppa tea. However, it did intrigue me and I dipped in and out of it whenever I had a few moments to spare. Read more
Published on 21 Jan 2012 by kehs
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