Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Rapid Reviews: List of the Lost by Morrissey

'Beware the novelist' the blurb on the back of this book intones...

After reading it, all I can say is beware the novelist indeed! Because this is such a disappointing mess. I love The Smiths, I like Morrissey. I read the autobiography and I felt that his prose suggested he had a natural voice for the novel. I looked forward to him one day tackling the genre.

But no way did I expect this utter bumwash to be the result! 

There are some good lines here. But they are few and far between. Characters speak like no real persons ever do. Witness one scene in which Ezra and Eliza, the All American high school sweethearts, discuss - with remarkable insight, like all American teenagers in 1975 didn't do - the then Tory leader of the opposition, Margaret Thatcher.

"I hate womb-men like that...they just can't wait to be one of the boys...and just watch, if she becomes Prime Minister, she won't hire any women in her government"

When one of them goes on to mistakenly call her Margaret Hatchet instead of Thatcher, it is immediately picked up on in the most immature, clunkily pretentious of ways

"Her name's Thatcher. Although you could be right when you say Hatchet. Just look at that boneless face...if ever an engine of grief..."

By the way the ellipses are the author's own. See what I mean? It's like the adolescent Adrian Mole thinking he's being daring and politically cutting. I'm a socialist, so I'm always up for someone giving the Iron Lady a good kicking, but please, this was embarrassing. And there's a lot more of this style in the non-event narrative of murder and four promising Bostonian track athletes.

Mercifully, the novella is just 118 pages long and I read it in one sitting. But if you ask me, it's 117 pages too many.


  1. I consider Morrissey the second most important artist in my record collection... but he can't half be a dick at times. Although I found his autobiography well written, I had to give up on it because of its lack of chapters, sections... even paragraphs! (To be fair, I did try reading it soon after my son had been born so I was suffering baby brain. I keep meaning to go back to it.)

    Everything I've read about List Of The Lost has convinced me to stay away, and the examples you quote further convince me: this is just plain bad writing. The problem, as always, will be that Morrissey will allow no editor to tell him what's good or bad... in the same way he falls out with record companies at the drop of a hat because they've not put the right kind of cress in his egg and cress sandwich.

    "Characters speak like no real persons ever do." That's the other problem of course. Morrissey speaks like no real person ever does. He's so wrapped up in the artifice of Morrissey, a pompous creation of an insecure teenager which he's stuck with now forever... he has no idea how people feel in the real world.

    Still, gotta love him.

    1. List of the Lost also eschews paragraphs, but does occasionally break off into chapters/sections. There's one long rant from an aged hobo that runs to something like 3 pages with no breaks whatsover. It really is ridiculous. And yet...there are glimmers of interesting comments. It's just they've no place in the novel itself. Musings on Bonanza and its cultural effect on what would become the Reagan administration, the lions led by donkeys argument of war, these are all interesting and valid points but they have no real place in a novella bout four young athletes from Boston. It's like he set out to write a very dark Stand By Me and soon got bored, so decided to pontificate instead investing characters with his own opinion and who would simply not possess such a world view.

      I would say the autobiography is leaps and bounds the better read, but I can understand it's not an easy read - especially with baby brain! He's a remarkable talent but he is a dick. That shines through in the autobiog of course, but I genuinely thought he'd steel himself and suit the novel, if only because he wanted to be taken seriously as an author. But yeah, so many irritating things to his character; blaming a support act for falling ill, likening eating meat to paedophilia, his behaviour towards Rourke and Joyce, banging on about the Falklands and 'I hate Wills and Kate'