Oh, Manchester. So much to answer for.
Look, I’m not going to lie. I’m a Morrissey fan. A big Morrissey fan. I wasn’t for a long time, but then something suddenly made sense, and I was all in on the guy. Smiths, solo, everything. I thought his Autobiography was compelling, and in places a lot more sweetly honest than any observer of the artist’s turn of phrase could have expected.
And now, this. It’s a novella, once again on Penguin, ostensibly about a team of runners in 1970s Boston. Who accidentally kill a vagrant-appearing demon and then are cursed.
Yep. That. The problem is that it’s not the largest problem of the work. List of the Lost is something so incomplete that calling it a first draft is giving it too much credit. There’s enormous chunks of text without paragraph breaks, style-to-the-wind application of bolding or large chunks of narrative thrown into italic because there’s a good reason somewhere, except Morrissey isn’t keen to share it with his reader because REASONS. The work badly needs an editor, and a stern talking-to.
But what happened to the lyricist who penned some of the most memorable, incisive words of the past couple of decades? He’s reduced to lots of internal rhyme which at first glance may appear a kind of Joycean flight of fancy, but on repeated exposure seems less eternal yes and more covert wank on the strand. And then, of course, there’s lines like this:
Whoever put the pain in painting had also put the fun in funeral.
Reader, meet author. The story duly works over the demon-slaying runners, by way of the usual Morrissey bugbears: boxers, royalty, judiciary, concealed sexuality, Thatcher et al. And yet, given fiction’s freedom over subjects close to his heart, the writer produces something that – it pains me to say – is so much less than any of his songs about the very same things.
(That’s without going into the couple of award-winning terrible sex scenes. Try them sometime, I guarantee there’s something physically impossible in both.)
On the back of the book, Morrissey warns us to beware the novelist. Inside it, a character laments a life story that Edgar Allan Poe couldn’t concoct. They are both correct. The only thing that gives me hope about the author’s future written efforts is that I know that no matter how disappointed I am in this work – and I am, as I’m quite the fan – he’ll be much, much more bummed.