Steven Morrissey, not content with persuading Penguin to publish his autobiography as a classic, has now also got them to publish his debut novel. Stephen’s initials are, of course, S & M which, if the critics are to be believed, and we also assume he suffers for his art, is very appropriate. The reviews I’ve read are likely to have left ‘This Charming Man’ reeling (around the fountain). Who knows, he may even know how Joan of Arc felt, as the flames rose from her Roman prose and her literary career started to melt.
We’ve got a lot in common, me and Steven. He started out writing lyrics, like me. And then he moved on to fiction, like me. He’s a vegetarian, like me. And he’s had critical acclaim. OK, so it stops there. My lyrics are more miserable than his though:
A red sun rises on a grey world,
A torch to light the fires of hell,
Spread the rosy glow across a pallid cheek,
Rekindle life that pain may grow.
More miserable, but not quite as amusing. In my defence, I was on the way to work when I wrote that one.
I can’t say I’ve got too much sympathy for him, despite the panning his novel has received. The autobiography was fair enough. Though it was a bit of a cheek (and rather egotistical)to insist on it being published as a classic. And it could have done with some editing – all that mithering on about the people he didn’t like got a bit tedious. It’s all well and good to feel sorry for yourself when you’re still waiting to be discovered, but when you’ve had a fabulous and long lasting-career, it isn’t allowed. But the novel; that’s just playing on celebrity. I blame the publisher, not the writer. When an unknown author sends them a manuscript, they can barely be bothered to give it a look on the off chance it might actually be good. But when someone as famous as Morrissey comes knocking, pound signs ring up in their eyes. They know there’s a ready-made market – his millions of adoring fans across the world – who will buy it whether it’s any good or not. Did they even bother to read it before firing up the presses? Did they bother to edit it? Did they care whether the reviews were going to be good or bad? It’s all publicity, after all. But then, what do you expect from a company who can’t decide whether they want to make books or chocolate biscuits?
Perhaps they should have had the integrity to let him know it wasn’t very good (the book, not the biscuit). Then, like the rest of us, he could have gone back and started again. If he has the courage to write another novel after the panning this one is getting, he might do well to elicit some help (if you’re reading this Stephen my old darling, my rates are very reasonable).
At this point I should probably admit that I haven’t actually read the novel. Perhaps the critics are bad judges. Or maybe they’re just bitter about a Muso muscling in on their literary territory. And it’s not all bad. Apparently the book is up for an award. Although it is the bad sex award. Apparently Stephen was a little too florid with his euphemisms. Always a mistake. When you’re writing a sex scene, you should have the courage of your convictions and call a thingy a thingy.