Thursday, September 8, 2016

Autobiography by Morrissey

If autobiography is an act of post-facto self-invention, than surely the expansion or contraction of experienced time in one's narrative is the primary tool of emphasis trending toward definition. For most, Morrissey is defined by being (in) the Smiths; but in his Autobiography this is a time in his life that simply happens and then ends once it has run its course, with no delineation of change or effect on the subject. It's a period of his life that is barely there, or more properly, he's barely present within it. 

Instead, Morrissey is defined, to Morrissey himself, by the war between a monolithic, derelict childhood that is pervasively always present and the momentary transcendence found in early discoveries in poetry, pop music, glam icons, and film. Once childhood is over, or the poem ends or the needle leaves the groove or the idol disappoints or the credits roll, it's all still there--an eternal struggle of grey versus starlight, waiting to swallow us whole. 

The earliest tale-telling here is Morrissey at his best. It evokes a place, a time, and a person at odds with the previous. It hurts to read, such aches and stifled longings that are dimly understood, and yet it is thrillingly stated, equal parts sophisticated and salted, and eminently quotable. Read it aloud to your friends, and demand that they read it back to you. Nevertheless, as Morrissey's life takes off, the singing of that life slows down.

At points it crawls.

Later on in years, it seems as though the Smiths were only experienced through the endless court case surrounding who gets what money. And it reads as if endless; perhaps that was purposeful—the reader experiences the interminable disappointment of legal wrangling—but it's deadening and deadly to actually read. They're too strenuous, too burdensome, these private lashings in the dark, and the book never really recovers from this hefty section of recrimination and condemnation. (Other people's money is never that interesting.) Morrissey continues on his narrative, but it's plain that he's exhausted himself somewhat. There are still moments of sharp wit and keen observation, but they come on fewer in number and slackened in pace. More self-quotations seep in to fill the gaps, but instead gasp and wheeze for air. Worse, after the uphill climb the reader must be exhausted.

At least Morrissey tells a ghost story (maybe; hopefully; the alternative is too gruesome to contemplate) and notices some raccoons.

Tour dates, yes, but this is formulaic. Played at ____; the crowd was young and beautiful and especially young; ________ is a wonderful place; Kristeen Young (for some reason); ________ died and I cried myself empty; saw __________ backstage and we exchanged knowing smiles. Yes, and? Morrissey slinks away into the night.