Morrissey, ‘List of the Lost’: That Joke Isn’t Funny?

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Penguin Books have so much to answer for…

We are absolutely horrified by Morrissey’s new novel, ‘List of the Lost’. All the reviews are true – read this excellent rinse by Michael Hann in the Guardian – he is spot on. The book may only be 118 pages, but reading it feels like a horrible, long, draining penance.

So, why on earth did he write it?

Really, there are only two options. One; this is just another way to trot out his standard Morrissey themes – this means, on some level at least, he must see the text as non-abysmal. Two; it is just a great big joke – an ‘art piece’ – Dismaland the novel.

So, what is the likelihood Morrissey is laughing?

Well, it reads like a compendium of Smiths’ lyrics. You can almost picture Morrissey sitting there with a friend (or cat) picking out lines to accompany each section. There are cemetery gates aplenty, chatty troubled ghosts (none as eloquent as Joe, obviously) and a car crash – with a girlfriend dead – rather than in a coma. But it doesn’t wash. There is no fun. No wry humour. It just feels bitter and angry and massively dull.

But surely Morrissey can’t be that crap a writer? His autobiography had the same heavy prose-style but it was beautifully structured, cleverly done and included enough of the self-deprecating wit that stops him being unlovable.  And he can write belting lyrics, so he surely can’t be this duff at dialogue…

The trouble is all Morrissey’s pet messages are crowbarred in. There is no attempt at subtlety. And many – like Churchill and the royal family – have no relevance whatever in a story about Bostonian athletes in the 70s. More boring still, each ill-tempered message is furiously thrust at us in a tirade of awful prose.

It just doesn’t feel like a joke. It feels like an assault of pique. And besides, this joke would only really work if he plans to bring out a second – brilliant – novel within the next three months. This seems more than a spot unlikely.

Maybe it is just a cop out then? After all, it is far easier to write a steaming pile of turd than something half decent. And so, perhaps tat of this proportion is just a neat way to sidestep mediocrity. But why write a novel at all then? It is a genre many people feel passionate about. And people with literary talent struggle to do well.

There is more to life than books you know, but not much more. Which makes it stupidly counterproductive to assault us via this method. We are massive fans, we rushed out and bought the thing, forced ourselves to read it – but just came away wanting to tuck into a giant bloody steak. Sounds like fail to us.

But perhaps, there is no escaping the fact that being a big superstar with a million chips on your shoulder is going to take its toll… especially if you’re a bit of a megalomaniac to start with. In fact, it was all pretty plain to see when we attended his fairly meh gig in Hammersmith a few weeks back, and he proceeded to roll out the dross, without irony.

There must be something awry with the judgement of someone who has no realisation that “Kiss Me a Lot” [YouTube video] is more than a bit crappy, or that there is something decidedly nonsense about “The Bullfighter Dies” [Lyrics], “I’m Not a Man” [Lyrics]… and other ways to ram his meat is murder message down everyone’s throat.

Unfortunately, it looks like Morrissey has finally disappeared so far up his own bottom that he has emerged fully formed out of his own mouth, spouting nought but bilge on his classic set of themes. It is too much. We still love him… but we’ve lost all respect for him.

But perhaps the most galling thing of all, is that Penguin (for shame Penguin) deemed this stream of turgid pap print worthy. So, if it is a rant about unfairness you’re after Morrissey… have a little think about that one.

First Published on Searchlight Magazine Arts…

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