Before I start this review I should probably caveat: I’m a big Morrissey fan. I’ve travelled across Europe to see him (Spain, Italy, Croatia, Hull). I have numerous lyrics tattooed on me. It’s always been my ‘thing’. I’m not the biggest Morrissey fan I know, but I’m probably the biggest Morrissey fan you know. I came to this book with a vague level of respect, admiration and love.
Morrissey’s first book, Autobiography, was bloated and over long and badly edited; prone, characteristically, to self indulgence and bitterness and terrible, boring tangents. It did, however, have glimmers of greatness; some parts were funny, some of the writing was elucidating and interesting. I liked it, basically.
So. List of the Lost. His first novel. The follow-up to Autobiography. Does it contain any of this humour or eloquence or even some elegantly worded spite? Is it everything we had hoped for?
No. No it is not.
You’ll probably have seen a paragraph from this book do the rounds on Twitter today — a paragraph about sex that somehow manages to be viscerally revolting AND prudishly squeamish at the same time.
“It’s probably just out of context” I thought.
“The rest of the book is probably fine” I thought.
“Remember when they took all that Jonathan Franzen sex writing out of context, and it was actually quite good?” I thought.
I was wrong. If anything the context makes it worse, because ‘context’ requires you to read the whole book.
I commented to a friend earlier that it’s what a sixth former would write having read fifteen pages of Ulysses and it’s the closest I can come to an accurate summation, really. It’s dripping with cultural references but none of them come even close to being pulled off — calling your main character Ezra Pound, Morrissey? Really? — and mawkish references to eternal Morrissey bugbears (the Royal family, Thatcher, judges) are crowbarred in for absolutely no reason at all.
The book is set in 1970s Boston! Why would they be banging on about the philosophical ramifications of the British monarchy? Why would a relay team be talking about Margaret Thatcher? Why does everyone talk in exactly the same overwrought, overwritten way? Why?
The aforementioned sex bits are bad, but the whole book is about sex really. I was going to say that the homoerotic undertones are classic Morrissey, but the word ‘undertone’ suggests some level of nuance or subtlety. Women are poorly written to the point of misogyny but then what do we expect?
So, my verdict? I would say 1 out of 10, but any slightly redeeming feature is erased by my intense disappointment. I went to see him a few days ago and he was great. Stick to the day job, Moz.