It’d be so easy to shoe horn multiple Smiths and Morrissey songs into a blog post about Autobiography but that joke isn’t funny anymore. Last October, I started something I couldn’t finish, something that was squeezing my skull. I’m still ill from the whole experience. I kept on reading it, but I was getting nowhere fast. I was told these things take time, but that was a miserable lie. Well I wonder, what difference does it make if I finished it all? I could just leave it till tomorrow. I know it’s over now but it hangs over me like a black cloud…
See – so easy.
If this was a review of Autobiography by Steven Patrick Morrissey, then it would be a little late – five months late to be exact. In any case, I could only dream of writing something as spot on as what has already been. On Saturday the 8th of March 2014, after 142 days and 457 pages, I finally completed the tome that is his autobiography.
It has shaped my life so much in the last few months that I felt it necessary to come here and allow the remnants of my trauma to pour out onto the page like a PTSD victim.
See, I’m a Morrissey apologist (2016 edit: actually, fuck Morrissey). I like The Smiths a lot. I like his solo work a lot. I find his outspokenness valid and humorous. I find his passionate defence of the things he believes in to be laudable. I think he’s one of the greatest lyricists who ever lived. I’ve written about him. In fact, I am just about the only person I know who doesn’t find Morrissey totally insufferable.
Well, I hadn’t read this yet.
I don’t review literature, simply because I’m not sure I could do much better than my analyses of Othello and ‘The Parting’ by Michael Drayton in my Higher English critical essays (full marks by the way- my proudest achievement). So this reaction comes from the point of view of a music lover. It isn’t that Autobiography is badly written – it’s not really. Actually, some of the writing is quite nice. No, that’s not why it took me so long to read.
The reasons why this book is the worst I have ever read are many fold. I present them to Morrissey himself thus:
1. This chapter-less scrawl is too fucking long Morrissey. Even Jack Kerouac whacked out on a cocktail of narcotics writing on a scroll found the need to eventually divide On the Road up into sections.
2. Your musings on David Bowie, Patti Smith, the New York Dolls and even Jobriath are quite interesting, but we do not need to know your thoughts on EVERY record you listened to or EVERY movie you ever watched.
3. I did feel sorry for you in the whole Smiths court case section. You were hard done by. But you evoked that response within me in the initial ten pages of your account. The next 153735346363 pages on the topic were bitter, legal overkill!!!!
4. You have had a long, successful and storied career. I get the fact that you want to distance yourself from the five years that The Smiths were a band; you don’t want it to define you. But it is THE most interesting part of you career and you should probably dedicate more of the many words you have used anyway to it. Especially more than you do on the time you thought you saw a ghost on the moors!
5. I always thought you were an artist – someone who wanted to tell stories and make music for the joy of making music. Why are you so obsessed with chart positions, record label marketing, ticket sales and money?!
6. Everyone knows you are miserable but how could you make a book so miserable that I had to read Samuel Beckett short stories about people dying in their own filth to cheer me up??
OK. Rant over. Hush, now. (That last bit is a thing that Morrissey all too often puts at the end of paragraphs in his memoir. Why? I do not know.)
So where has Autobiography left my battered and broken spirit? Well, for one thing, it made me feel like a slow reader. Actually there were many days, sometimes weeks, in the five months it took me to complete this leaden weight that I didn’t pick it up at all. I could not face it. I toyed with just casting it aside. But when I start something I simply must finish it. I still quite like Morrissey. Well, his music. In fact, the book has given me a deeper appreciation for it – imagine if he’d decided to write novels instead of songs all those years ago in Manchester? (Shit, wait…)
Happiness has overcome my being now. I have moved on to White Noise by Don Delillo and while that probably isn’t a happy book, it will certainly have the imagination that Morrissey’s writing is devoid of.
Good riddance Autobiography. Heaven knows I’m not miserable now.