Alexander Masters tripped over his first book subject on a Cambridge sidewalk, and the result was the multi-award-winning bestseller Stuart: A Life Backwards. His second, he’s found under his floorboards.
One of the greatest mathematical prodigies of the twentieth century, Simon Norton stomps around Alexander’s basement in semidarkness, dodging between stalagmites of bus timetables and engorged plastic bags, eating tinned kippers stirred into packets of Bombay mix. Simon is exploring a theoretical puzzle so complex and critical to our understanding of the universe that it is known as the Monster. It looks like a sudoku table—except a sudoku table has nine columns of numbers.
The Monster has 808017424794512875886459904961710757005754368000000000 columns.
But that’s not the whole story. What’s inside the decaying sports bag he never lets out of his clutches? Why does he hurtle out of the house in the middle of the night? And—good God!—what is that noxious smell that creeps up the stairwell?
Grumpy, poignant, comical—more intimate than either the author or his quarry intended—Simon: The Genius in My Basement is the story of a friendship and a pursuit. Part biography, part memoir, and part popular science, it is a study of the frailty of brilliance, the measures of happiness, and Britain’s most uncooperative egghead eccentric.
About Alexander Masters
Alexander Masters studied physics and mathematics in London and Cambridge. For five years he worked in hostels for the homeless and ran a street newspaper. He has also worked as a newspaper columnist, a travel writer, an illustrator, and a bedspread salesman.
Masters (Stuart: A Life Backwards, 2006) does a solid job of portraying Simon Phillips Norton as a peculiar, once-reputable math prodigy with immense intelligence who devolved into a disheveled recluse—and the author’s live-in landlord. With droll undertones, Masters depicts Norton as a brilliant child who amazed educators with a 178 IQ, penned a sonata at age 10 and excelled as a teenager in the development of mathematical group theory at Eton College in the 1960s and then at Trinity College. After co-authoring a seminal text, The Atlas of Finite Groups, Norton botched a mathematical equation in the presence of peers, and a systematic collapse of genius ensued from which he never quite recovered. Years later, the author found himself a tenant sharing physical space in Cambridge with Norton, who shuffled around in a cavernous basement flat cluttered with garbage and transit timetables. This residential arrangement afforded Masters copious face time with the cosseted mathematician and his lifestyle oddities, including a penchant for odorous canned kippers, grunting communication and a scruffy, unkempt appearance—much akin to Russian math genius Grigori Perelman. Writing with uncanny delight and wonder, Masters offers a hectic amalgam of comical drawings, complex numerical calculations, photographs, articles and letters, all contributing, in one quirky way or another, to the elevation of Norton’s hyperactive intellect. – Kirkus Reviews
From Here to Infinity - ‘Simon: The Genius in My Basement,’ by Alexander Masters
The New York Times Book Review – June 8, 2012 (Excerpt)
When Simon Norton was 3 1/2, his I.Q. was measured at 178. For three years running in high school, he was among the top scorers in the world at the International Mathematical Olympiad. At the age of 27, he and a colleague, John Conway, formulated an audacious conjecture in group theory called “monstrous moonshine,” which inspired a frenzy of mathematical work around the globe that culminated in a Fields Medal-winning proof by Richard Borcherds almost two decades later.
Today, Norton holds no paid employment, publishes in his field only occasionally, subsists largely on canned mackerel and rice packets, and spends much of his time riding buses around Britain in a campaign to preserve public transport against deregulation. He lives in the basement of a house he owns in Cambridge, renting out the upper rooms. By chance, one of his tenants is the writer Alexander Masters, whose heartfelt and eccentric book “Simon: The Genius in My Basement” chronicles Norton’s strange journey from prodigy to . . . well, to whatever he is now. [Read the full article...]
THE LONDONDERRY AIR
Testament of an Ulster Gunman A Novel by Garrad Gawler
It all changed for Charles Cunningham, a Physics teacher at the local College of Technology in the County Derry town of Maddenstown, on a June afternoon in 1973 when a bomb exploded in his neighborhood. He answers an advertisement by the UDR, the Ulster Defence Regiment, but, in the time to come, he will experience the consequences of his decisions, and how his involvement complicates matters with family and friends, Protestants and Catholics alike, to an unexpected degree.
With “The Londonderry Air – Testament of an Ulster Gunman” Garrad Gawler describes in minute detail and with an astonishing level of authenticity not only the inner workings of the Ulster Defence Regiment, but also the activities of underground paramilitary groups of regular citizens who planned and carried out the assassination of suspected Republican terrorists in their neighborhood.
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
FrogenYozurt.com may generate ad income and accept advertising/ads and links. Paid entries are marked as “Paid Articles.” Entries describing a product (book reviews, etc.) may contain descriptions provided by the manufacturer or other sources (Amazon.Com, etc.).
All entries marked as "Satire" may refer to actual persons or events, however, the content is of a satirical nature based on the writers' personal views and should not be taken seriously. All other entries reflect personal opinions on various topics.
All content on this website has been posted under the impression that they do not infringe any copyrights. However, if this site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner, we believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Should you suspect a copyright infringement or any other legal issues with posts on this website, please contact the editor through the contact form as indicated on the top navigation bar, and we will remove the post immediately. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.