Autobiography (Morrissey book)

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Autobiography
Morrissey Autobiography cover.jpg
Author Morrissey
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Autobiography
Publisher Penguin Books (UK, Commonwealth and Europe), G. P. Putnam's Sons (US)
Publication date
17 October 2013 (UK, Commonwealth and Europe), 3 December 2013 (US)
Media type Print (paperback) and e-book
Pages 457 pp (first edition)
ISBN ISBN 978-0-141-39481-7 (first edition)

Autobiography is a book by the British singer-songwriter Morrissey, published in October 2013.

Controversially, it was published under the Penguin Classics imprint. It was a number one best-seller in the UK and received polarised reviews, with certain reviewers hailing it as brilliant writing and others decrying it as overwrought and self-indulgent.

Publication[edit]

Morrissey mentioned that he had begun work on his autobiography in a radio interview in 2002.[1] An extract from Autobiography titled "The Bleak Moor Lies" was published in 2009 as part of The Dark Monarch: Magic & Modernity in British Art, a compendium published by Tate St Ives art gallery.[2] The extract tells the story of Morrissey and a few companions seeing what they believed to be a ghost near the Yorkshire village of Marsden in 1989.[3] In 2011, Morrissey said in an interview that he had completed the book and was looking for a publisher. He expressed interest having the book published as a Penguin Classic.[4]

A few days before the book's apparently scheduled, but unannounced, release on 16 September 2013, Morrissey issued a statement explaining that a content dispute with Penguin Books meant that publication would be delayed and that he was seeking a new publisher.[5] The book's subsequent European release, on 17 October 2013, caused controversy as it was published under the Penguin Classics imprint, normally reserved for highly esteemed deceased authors.[6][7][8]

On the day of the book's publication, Morrissey undertook a signing session in Gothenburg, with some fans queuing up to 30 hours in advance.[9]

The book was published in the United States on 3 December 2013 by G. P. Putnam's Sons.[10] An audiobook, read by David Morrissey (no relation), was released on 5 December 2013.[11]

Content[edit]

The book is not divided into chapters and its opening paragraph lasts four-and-a-half pages.[12] The book covers Morrissey's childhood and adolescence, his period as lead singer with The Smiths, his subsequent solo career and his courtroom battles with Smiths drummer Mike Joyce, who sued him for royalties in the 1990s. He writes extensively about the television, literature and music that influenced him, devoting many pages to the New York Dolls, whom he persuaded to reform in the 2000s. The book includes a number of descriptions of people Morrissey has worked with which his biographer Tony Fletcher calls "character assassinations". Fletcher describes the depiction of Rough Trade Records boss Geoff Travis as particularly unflattering.[13] Morrissey writes in the book about two serious romantic relationships he has had with a woman and a man.[12] In the days following the book's release, he issued a statement emphasising that he did not consider himself to be gay: "I am attracted to humans. But, of course, not many".[14]

Reception[edit]

Neil McCormick in The Daily Telegraph gave the book a 5-star review that called it "the best written musical autobiography since Bob Dylan's Chronicles",[15] while Boyd Tonkin in The Independent criticised the book's "droning narcissism" as well as the behaviour of its publisher for issuing it in their Classics series.[16]

For John Harris writing for The Guardian website, Autobiography "for its first 150 pages, Autobiography comes close to being a triumph", but focuses unduly on Morrissey's legal battles with Mike Joyce: "the verbiage dedicated to this stuff threatens to eclipse what he has to say about every other aspect of his career".[17] Stuart Maconie in The Observer described the opening section of the book as "brilliant" but the section on The Smiths is "both sketchy and wearisomely exhaustive".[18] Literary critic Terry Eagleton, in The Guardian itself, wrote: "There is a relish and energy about its prose that undercuts his misanthropy. Its lyrical quality suggests that beneath the hard-bitten scoffer there lurks a romantic softie, while beneath that again lies a hard-bitten scoffer."[19]

A. A. Gill, who won the Hatchet Job of the Year for his review in The Sunday Times,[20] wrote: "What is surprising is that any publisher would want to publish the book, not because it is any worse than a lot of other pop memoirs, but because Morrissey is plainly the most ornery, cantankerous, entitled, whingeing, self-martyred human being who ever drew breath. And those are just his good qualities."[21]

Autobiography became the number one selling book in the UK upon release, setting a new first week sales record for a music autobiography.[22] It also topped the non-fiction chart in Ireland.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bret, David (2004). Morrissey: Scandal and Passion. London: Robson Books. 
  2. ^ "Morrissey previews autobiography with essay relating to Moors Murders". NME. 21 December 2009. 
  3. ^ Michael Bracewell, ed. (2009). The Dark Monarch: Magic & Modernity In British Art. St Ives, UK: Tate St Ives. 
  4. ^ "Front Row" BBC Radio Four, London 20 April 2011 Retrieved 20 April 2011
  5. ^ "Morrissey autobiography pulled at last minute following 'content disagreement'". NME. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  6. ^ Sandle, Paul. "Morrissey's 'Autobiography' a classic before it's even been read". Reuters UK. 
  7. ^ Sherwin, Adam (22 April 2011). "Smiths bidding war hinges on 'classic' status". The Independent (The Independent Print). Retrieved 29 December 2011. 
  8. ^ Mayer, Catehrine (22 October 2013). "Two British Greats, Sir Alex Ferguson and Morrissey, Peddle Their Legends in New Books". Time. 
  9. ^ "Morrissey launches Autobiography with single book signing in Sweden". The Guardian. 17 October 2013. 
  10. ^ "Morrissey Autobiography to Be Published in U.S.". New York Times. 29 October 2013. 
  11. ^ "Morrissey's Autobiography audiobook to be read by … Morrissey". The Guardian. 4 November 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Marc, Schneider (17 October 2013). "Morrissey Opens Up About His Personal Life in Autobiography". Billboard. 
  13. ^ Fletcher, Tony (16 October 2013). "Autobiography by Morrissey: a full review". i-Jamming. 
  14. ^ "Morrissey says he's 'humasexual', not homosexual". The Guardian. 21 October 2013. 
  15. ^ McCormick, Neil (17 October 2013). "Morrissey, Autobiography, first review". The Telegraph. 
  16. ^ "Autobiography by Morrissey - Droning narcissism and the whine of self-pity". The Independent (London). 17 October 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2013. 
  17. ^ Harris, John. "Morrissey's Autobiography is nearly a triumph, but ends up mired in moaning". The Guardian. 
  18. ^ Maconie, Stuart (19 October 2013). "Autobiography by Morrissey – review". The Observer. 
  19. ^ Terry Eagleton "Autobiography by Morrissey – review", The Guardian, 13 November 2013
  20. ^ Alison Flood "Hatchet Job of the Year goes to AA Gill for Morrissey broadside", theguardian.com, 11 February 2014
  21. ^ Jon Stock "Hatchet Job of the Year 2014: AA Gill wins for his review of Morrissey's autobiography", telegraph.co.uk, 12 February 2014
  22. ^ Stone, Philip (23 October 2013). "Morrissey tops chart". The Bookseller. 
  23. ^ "Morrissey knocks Dunphy off No 1 in book chart". RTÉ Ten. 22 October 2013. 
Preceded by
Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding
UK number one selling book
22 October 2013 (one week)
Succeeded by
My Autobiography by Alex Ferguson
Preceded by
The Rocky Road by Eamon Dunphy
Ireland number one selling non-fiction book
22 October 2013
Succeeded by
My Autobiography by Alex Ferguson