Affiliate Link:Autobiography (Penguin Modern Classics)
As I started the new year I decided to stop myself going a bit crazy with constantly reading books that I didn’t really want to read, other than to tick them off the list, I would alternate between a book off the list and one I really wanted to read. Autobiography had been a Christmas present and being a Smiths fan I was very interested to read it.
Oh God. This is easily the funniest book I have ever read just because it is so bizarre. The first few pages describing post war Manchester could be somebody making fun of Dickens through bad poetry. I don’t normally do this but I have to quote a bit to demonstrate,
“Manchester’s Victorian generation having coughed to their deaths after lifetimes of struggle, and these waterlogged alleys have occasional shafts of greeny-yellow grass jutting between flagstones that have cracked under duress like the people who tread them. Here, behind the shells of shabby shops, the foul animal-waste waft from which no one can fail but to cover their mouths as they race past. These back-enteries once so dutifully swept and swilled and donkey-stoned to death by the honest poor now have no future, for this now is their future, that moment when time runs out.”
Now if you don’t know anything about the Smiths you’d probably go “who the hell does this guy think h is?” and shut the book before you got to the end of the first paragraph (it’s several pages in). But that’s the thing with Morrissey, that is just what he’s like; he is a unique snowflake and you just have to roll with it. Although he goes a bit OTT with the language he does bring up a very accurate picture of what it was like growing up in Industrial post-war Britain and it was probably just as bad as he describes. Especially the bit about school, I have no doubt in my mind that there is zero exaggeration there.
And that’s the thing with this book, the first few paragraphs are crazy and then it settles down. Although the structure is all over the place once you get past the first few years there is much less of the poetic ramblings and much more information. It is like Morrissey has set us a challenge to see who can see past the extravagance and wants to know the real story. This book deals with the historic court case which pretty much ended the Smiths and we see it all of course from Morrissey’s point of view. Now how reliable his version is I don’t know but at the same time Morrissey was so ridiculed by the media that he never really had a proper voice before; he also talks about how everything he ever said was twisted by the media in, there are no chapters so it’s kinda the 3/5 point of the book.
What this book highlighted for me was that we never really know celebrities, we only know their persona. Maybe everything in Autobiography is the honest truth or maybe Morrissey is the diva he was made out to be in the papers. Personally, I don’t trust either account but this book raised a lot of interesting question for me about how we imagine others. I think that even in writing Autobiography Morrissey is presenting what he wants us to see; he is creating as much of a persona as the media did. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that because I imagine if you are as famous as Morrissey is you need some defence of your privacy, but it has certainly made me realise that we can never really know the truth.
Would recommend to: the Smiths fans, other wise I don’t think you would be able to understand, or put up with, anything Morrissey says.
P.S. If you want to have a bit of a laugh I suggest you read the reviews of this book on Goodreads.