Alexander Masters on Simon: The Genius in my Basement

July 15, 2012

Sometimes a new neighbor can be like a surprise package from Fate.  A gift you didn’t ask for, weren’t expecting, and might even prefer to return – unopened.    But that would be a mistake – because sometimes, the eccentric, odd, even challenging neighbor turns out to be one of the best things that ever happened to you.

Alexander Masters had an experience like this.  He’s a writer who lives in Cambridge, England, in a house with a downstairs, basement apartment.  The neighbor in that basement is named Simon.  He’s a tall, shambling recluse who lives in the dark, on a diet of tinned kippers and Ramen mix, and is obsessed with bus timetables.   He’s also one of the greatest mathematical prodigies of the 20th century.

Masters recently wrote a wonderful book about his brilliant neighbor – called “Simon: The Genius in My Basement.”  When he and Jim Fleming sat down to talk, they began with a reading from the book.