Autobiography (Special edition) (Anglais) Relié – Edition spéciale, 5 décembre 2013
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A rococo triumph (Independent)
Brilliant and relentless. Genius, really (Douglas Coupland)
A beautifully measured prose style that combines a lilting, poetic turn of phrase and acute quality of observation (The Telegraph)
Funnier than the Iliad (BBC Radio 4)
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A page-turner. I'm ready to start again and I want more.
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It has its flaws in that it is clearly penned by a self-taught Irish/northerner from a ravaged, poverty-stricken, red-brick wasteland, and as such has not the slickness and sheen of journalistic prose. A trustworthy editor may have improved a number of passages here and there. He likes alliteration a little too much, which I've never been fond of, & which gives the average sentence a strange sing-song quality and structure all its own. There is no way in hell this book was ghostwritten.
But then this is the books greatest strength, too. As with his passions, his politics, his sexuality, he is not 'this' or 'that', does not belong 'here' or 'there', he exists between the temporary meaning of all those words, all those labels, and it is this place he steadfastly attempts to write from in trying to explain himself and the felt experience of his life. That he achieves at all in this impossible mission would be enough for me to want to recommend the book to everyone I know, but that he makes his stand with such humour, passion and courage makes me want to press it into the hands of anyone with half a heart left to feel.
I thought at first, when I saw that it was going to be put out as a Penguin Classic that this was just another of Morrissey's whimsical appropriations of the things he loves, like getting EMI to reopen the "His Master's Voice" label up again just for him. But having got only a fifth of the way in, it seems eerily prophetic, as this is a truly great autobiography, and its very existence in the physical world feels momentous, like finding the lost journals of Lord Byron or Oscar Wilde.
Human, all too human, but worth more than a thousand of his detractors even now, the man's a national - no, international - treasure. As history shall duly record.
This is unusually written in the present tense, and I quickly grew to enjoy it. It made me feel as if I were along for the ride and living the experiences with Morrissey. However, things would often veer off (as life itself tends to do) and conversations or situations would pop up seemingly out of nowhere and I'd be left going backwards in the book to see what I had missed. Still, I enjoyed Morrissey's style.
Without judging the man, let me say this: Readers who say that there wasn't enough content devoted to The Smiths have a valid point. It's not that this period was ignored, and it accounts for around 10 percent of Morrissey's life thus far so Morrissey may have thought it didn't deserve a huge percentage of the book. But, like other fans, I felt that this period didn't deliver as much about his experiences with The Smiths as I would have liked. I recognize that Morrissey has license to choose how to tell his own story, but that was what I was most anticipating and found myself feeling a bit short-changed.
However, a considerable amount of time was spent discussing the lawsuit between Moz and Mike Joyce, which was clearly a painful recollection. I, for one, found it enlightening to hear his side of the story. And this helped me understand why a Smiths reunion will never happen. People may say mean things about Moz because of his unwillingness to reunite, but when seeing his perspective on what happened, I can understand why he feels like he has given them enough. Yes, it's the fans who suffer (and I'm one of them), but I can understand why he just can't hand these guys another payday.
To be fair, and this may be a cultural thing, but even in his autobiography, Morrissey seems surprisingly distant. For someone who conquered the world with his heart on his sleeve, this rather surprised me. But, more often than not, the reader will be given facts with a minimum of feelings. Perhaps Moz feels like he says it all in his songs. Given the events he described, a reader can see why he might be slow to trust anyone. I don't know if everything in the book is 100% accurate, but if this was his reality as he saw it, he has every right to be suspicious of the world.
In short (although it's probably too late for that), some people will find Moz to be rather judgmental and aloof. Others will see someone who has paid a dear price for success.
So, I would recommend it, but don't expect to get everything you might want from it. You'll walk away with a better understanding of Moz, for better or worse.
Somehow, he is still this child that looks upon the world as a sad comedy (and secretly notes everything in some empty room and then blurts it out to the world). I could give this book less stars since it does not have decent paragraph lengths or chapters that could really make your life easier. And it did take me a while to get my brain used to his rococo style. He writes like a lord from the 17th century. But after a fiftieth page, I began to become charmed by it, and even to believe this is the only language he could have written it with. Because it makes him felt as what he (un)fortunately is: a beautiful stranger, from somewhere else, possibly another era, observing the Comedie Humaine. Some readers were put off by his way of "dissecting" human beings whilst probably sipping the tea that lied next to his pen. But you'd understand this if you had been someone who just doesn't fit in.
Lots of references, close references of all the artists that influenced him, and why. He alludes to most of them rather metaphorically, but still with enough precision, and a poetry that does not let it turn into a dry shopping list.
And exhaustive allusions to street names during his childhood and adolescence that make you feel he is still somewhat spiritually trapped in them. Forever trapped in them.
All in all, this book is where you learn what made Morrissey a human magnet to millions: someone whose amazing will to exit that misery he lived in made him this laughing and aching angel that he is.
While I am both a huge fan of both the Smiths and Morrissey solo, I have to admit that I didn't know much about the man. His autobiography told me much of what I was interested in knowing, but unfortunately, much that was enough to turn me off to someone who had previously been one of my rock and roll idols.
The book starts off with great detail of much of his Manchester childhood, discusses his rock influences, and gives what seems to be a cursory account of the formation and experience of The Smiths. Of course, it's his autobiography and he can write what he wants. But, since this is when I fell in love with his music and became a fan, I really wanted to know more. What Morrissey referred to as "The trial of The Smiths" is handled with great detail and is one of the more interesting aspects of the book.
The other failing of the book for me was that it was simply too long. Most substance seemed to have been drained long before the finish. Hearing the detail of how many people sat in which arena in which city on which date is something that may be of great interests to his accountants and hard-core fans, but it droned on and on. I don't know if his editor(s) were lazy or simply intimidated by him, but it could have used some tightening.
What I found most interesting, and often disappointing, wasn't always what Morrissey said. It was what could be read between the lines. The degree of vitriol in the man is astounding. He uses clever words to rant about those people or institutions he hates. Oddly (or not), there is not even close to the same degree of attention paid to those things or people he likes. It's not surprising that there aren't many figures in his life who stand the test of time. Reading some of his often nonsensical and childish rants demonstrates how hard the man must be to be around for a long period. It's also interesting how he reviles aristocracy and "The Crown," but that he holds such high regard for entertainment aristocracy and special privilege. He seems distant from his Mozzers.
I thought that I would be reading insights about a man who was happier about bringing so much joy to his fans. The absence of such shows that his sorrowful self is not an act. He's a very unhappy man.
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