|Penguin Classics ISBN: 978-0-141-39481-7|
Friday, November 1, 2013
"Autobiography" by Morrissey (Penguin Classics, UK)
A great memoir needs a strong character who writes, and Morrissey takes that role to the maximum. Overall each page has a quotable sentence or two, and the way he constructs his sentences is a beauty in form. The narrative is not important but its the way he tells the tale, and that he does very well.
A long-time fan or student of Morrissey will not learn anything new. He does get personal in his own way regarding his love life, which is vague, but one is allowed to connect the dots. There are people through out his life that is very important to him. In fact he has two sets of individuals that he cares for. The people he knows, and the people he admires, which are mostly film and music icons of sorts. Some are more famous than others, but they're interesting because his admiration for these artists are sort of a clue to what makes Morrissey tick.
Sadly there is no index of names in the book, because his reading and listening taste is very interesting. He's very much a curator of taste, his taste mind you, but I consider that one of his highest talents is to both expose these artists, as well as trying to figure how they influenced him. His great admiration for New York Dolls and Sparks makes perfect sense when you hear his music. I think Morrissey learned a lot from those two bands with respect to lyric writing, and also the same for various British poets. Besides his appreciation for French pop music artists, it seems he doesn't make any comments on foreign literature - meaning non-English language books. Except perhaps Pasolini, but I am not sure if that is an appreciation for his films more than his writing.
The only drag in this book is him writing about the trial between him and the drummer of The Smiths. He goes on many pages in detail about this case, which was a major event for him. But I suspect for most readers it is just a case of money disagreement. But even that, he writes with incredible passion, almost over-the-top and its kind of amazing piece of the book in its way. I am going to have to presume that his editor at Penguin probably wanted him to cut this section out ,but I am glad that he stuck to his principal to keep it in. It tells more about his passion, and this book is about passion.
The first part of the book is Charles Dickens circa Manchester 1970's. His description of the sadistic gym teachers are right on the button - because i too suffered from these goons in the 70's (Morrissey and I are roughly around the same age), so I found it fascinating that even in America, had weird sex perverted gym teachers as well. It was an international problem! The way he paints his school years and the early Manchester punk scene is heartfelt and picturesque. You can smell the grayness of the landscape off the pages. Also his commentary on various people are hysterical and sometimes mean - but it is like having Noel Coward tearing into someone. Morrissey has a sharp tongue that brings out even sharper words to the page.
Overall the book could have used a tighter editor, but in the end of the day (or night) this is a fantastic book that i think will please the Morrissey fans, as well as anyone wanting to read about the music scene of the era of The Smiths and solo Morrissey.