Frances Wilson

Bin There, Done That

A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in a Skip

By

Fourth Estate 234pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

‘I took my life and threw it on the skip’ begins one of James Fenton’s best poems. After which, in the manner of skip economy, ‘some bugger’ nicked it and threw his own on the skip in exchange. Finding this other discarded life, Fenton’s narrator brings it in, dries it by the stove and tries it on. It fits ‘like a glove’. ‘You’d not believe’, Fenton concludes, ‘the things you find on skips.’

Alexander Masters does not mention Fenton’s allegory, but A Life Discarded tells a similar story. In 2001, a friend called Richard Grove found 148 diaries in a skip, dried them by the stove and handed them on to Masters, who started to piece together (and, in the manner of biographers, inhabit) the life they contain. The fit was perfect: Masters, author of the award-winning Stuart: A Life Backwards, is drawn to the people we throw away.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'It is one of those nice linguistic ironies that English should have attempted to make sex respectable by clothing… ,
    • 'He was to my mind the father of the idea that journalism – yes, even journalism – can have a moral dimension to it… ,
    • RT : Feeling old, as exhumes a piece I wrote 37 years ago. But a joy to see Kathy O’S there too. Here’s why:… ,
    • 'Enough of his character remains just out of reach for Barnes to relish the challenge of imagining him.' Patrick M… ,
    • RT : I did a thing about the new Penguin Book Of Oulipo for this month’s Literary Review: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Moore’s work has been so influential that the former ministers who provided him with much of his information now r… ,
    • 'Although he travels through time and space to find the best produce, his choices, delightfully, are not obvious.'… ,