Bulbous salutations to you, dear readers. The dust has settled on List Of The Lost, Morrissey’s debut novel, a supernatural tale of a half-mile relay team who find themselves cursed after accidentally killing a demon – or something – and that dust has all but buried the book. The reviews have been unkind. Mockery was poured on the sex scene in which an erect penis is referred to as, yes, “a bulbous salutation”. The author’s talent for dialogue has been called into question. It has even been alleged that there is no such thing as a “half-mile relay”. But, for the love of Moz, let’s try and salvage something from this. Join us as we dust off List Of The Lost, sift through the rubble, and search for signs of life.
Moz remains righteous
The book is set in Boston in the 1970s, so it seems unlikely that the author would manage to work in attacks on the British monarchy and the British government, but he’s nothing if not headstrong. Also targeted: judges (the former Smiths singer’s least favourite demographic, as readers of his bestselling 2013 Autobiography will know), bankers, the police, meat-eaters (obviously), Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and, to be honest, demons don’t come out of it too well either.
You might learn some new words
If you think that’s patronising, know this: they’re not real words. He has made them up. Words like “tear-ass”, “dogface”, “pixy-minded” and “mind-swilling”, words like “patsy-pigeoned”, “fat-podge”, “teen-burst” and “sko”. Words that don’t actually exist. There’s no dictionary definition here so, like Moz, can use them as you see fit. Can’t think how to conclude a paragraph? Use one of these made-up words.
He might return to the stage
Not sure if we’ve hammered home this point yet, but the book has not, on the whole, been well-received. Morrissey recently threatened that his recent gig at the Hammersmith Apollo would be his last-ever UK show, but now his blossoming career as a novelist has been beaten back into the dirt, perhaps he’ll choose the smell of greasepaint over the clack of the typewriter. Or perhaps that’s pixy-minded.
There are a few – a few – good lines
Good in the sense that they would be better as song lyrics, ideally set to jangling guitar pop and delivered in an archly camp croon, and not in a book so embarrassing it’s like seeing your dad wanking. Still – “You mustn’t ask keep asking yourself why you feel what you feel”, that’s quite an insightful line, isn’t it? What about this dialogue: “I’ll have a straight gin. I tried to pull myself together but then I find I’m drowning all over again.” There’s something quite lyrical about that, isn’t there? “The force of seven full days dripped by before local news reports shrieked discovery of the body in the college grounds” is a bit overwritten but at least it builds suspense.
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The cover is a beaut
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but they have obviously never had to write an article praising Morrisey’s debut novel List Of The Lost.
He does grief quite well
There is one quite well-observed paragraph about the death of a character’s mother. “Now Harri felt a pain that others could only guess at, and here was the very first day of his life that would not pass as all other days had. Here was his first moment of aloneness, no longer someone’s son, no longer someone’s baby.” It gets overwrought after that but, you know, that bit’s moving.
It’s (a bit?) topical
Again, not sure how Morrissey managed – intentionally or not – to make a novel about a track and field team haunted by a demon in 1970s Boston even remotely relevant to UK politics, but he does address the issue of career politicians in a way you could apply to the appeal of the rumpled, unspun Jeremy Corbyn. “It’s the politics of politics that’s boring,” one character notes, “not the mechanisms of human issues… but because you know very well that only slippery people can become successful in politics… disingenuous shitbags… yet never, ever anyone who cares about the people, or who listens to the people.”
Moz is trolling Penguin collectors
Just as his Autobiography was published as a Penguin Classic, Morrissey’s debut novel has been published in the style of a 1960s Penguin Fiction edition, which means collectors of the iconic publishing company’s output will be forced to file this unreadable pamphlet alongside some of the greatest novels ever written. That’s pretty funny.
It runs to 118 pages, so at least it’s short.