Without wanting to do a literary analysis of the book, I would like to talk about Morrissey’s novella, List of the Lost. I heard mostly bad things on its initial release but figured I’d read it out of respect for the (sometimes) great man. The premise is these four college lads, all part of a relay team, who encounter death in different ways and realise that winning a race isn’t all that important. The race is probably symbolic of life or summat. Why they’re a relay team, I can’t be sure — although I bet Morrissey will be basking in the fact that people are reading the metaphorical meaning in his work.
My overarching feeling is that it’s very Morrissey-indulgent; Big Mouth indeed Strikes Again with a dig at meat-eaters, the dumb American populace, and snide remarks about Maggie “Hatcher” Thatcher. Anything that Moz has publicly denounced in the past few years makes an appearance, though I’m surprised he omitted his repugnance for bull-fighters. He doesn’t pin his voice to one character; he is the aged and bitter athletics coach, the college girlfriend of one of the runners, then the murderous paedophile Dean. You can’t deny imagining he himself extolling that “Justice and the law are two entirely different things” or “I have found […] that there is very little difference between religion and racism”. Perhaps our author is trying to be somewhat enigmatic but you soon realise that each of these characters share the same distain for life and death that Moz has been pushing since The Smiths.
Many a successful author will pine over each sentence and Morrissey appears to do just that: ‘All quiet, all still in this decent and pleasant atmosphere of slumber and repose, where lush houses of beddy-bye shut-eye snoozled in sleep land; a smiling sleep of dreamland’. You what? It’s as though he’s aspiring to be Dr. Seuss and getting tangled up in excessive alliteration even more than I do. You’ve gotta hand it to him for coming across as well-read but when he tries to play the role of wordsmith with literature in the same way he does with lyrics, it doesn’t work. It surprises me the publishers didn’t tell him that people don’t talk in the way he writes dialogue — especially during sex. Avoiding best I could other reviewers as I wrote this, I did sneak a look at the Guardian where Ed Cummings remarked that ‘the spineless mandarins at Penguin who brought this to print should be ashamed of themselves.’ Ha ha! Perhaps.
The influences can be pinned to Wilde and Zola, and a great portion of Romantic literature — generally a plot ensues but for some reason List of The Lost doesn’t really have one. Yet Moz arrives at a mosh of modernity meets nineteenth century novelist with some archaisms and Naturalist references thrown in for good measure. This is exemplified in the strange sex scene where ‘they playfully bit and pulled at each other in a dangerous and clamorous roller coaster coil of sexually violent rotation with Eliza’s breasts barrel-rolled across Ezra’s howling mouth’ and I do wonder about Morrissey’s choice porn or erotica could be to conjure such an image. I’ve never written a sex scene so I’m not sure how far I can criticise — it just wouldn’t be like that.
Despite being symbolic of the American jock, someone whom Moz would likely despise, the runners are indeed knowledgeable and literary, name dropping the likes of Edgar Allen Poe and Onassis. It all makes me wonder who Morrissey is writing for. It hasn’t enriched my life in the same way some of his lyrics have (although nor did his autobiography). It appears to be written by Morrissey for Morrissey, with his fans straggling along trying to squeeze out any more of the astute Smiths sound and vision. Will this be a one off? Probably not.