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October 17, 2013 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Morrissey's autobiography was released today, and rocketed straight to number one with a bullet. Published under the Penguin Classics imprint, it's full of surprises and quintessential Morriseyisms, and has even inspired a musical cover version from Peter Serafinowicz.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED (60 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Quintessential Morriseyisms like "You can't help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies"?
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:36 AM on October 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


I haven't read it (yet) but based on the "Morriseyisms" link, I am not entirely convinced this "autobiography" isn't just unused song titles from his solo career strung together to form a narrative.

Anyway, I really look forward to reading this and I can in no way explain that because I just can't imagine anything about Morrisey's life is particularly interesting.
posted by griphus at 9:36 AM on October 17, 2013


I forget where I heard it but the line "Today is hot and miserable, like Morrissey" always cracks me up.
posted by The Whelk at 9:38 AM on October 17, 2013 [19 favorites]


It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize the 'Quintessential Morriseyisms' piece was satire. Bravo.
posted by BrandonW at 9:39 AM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


sadtrombone.wav
posted by griphus at 9:41 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this not yet available in the States? My searching on Amazon just brings up 1 copy available via 3rd party seller.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:42 AM on October 17, 2013


Why would you want to bull your autobiography into Penguin Classics? I mean, that's just mockery waiting to happen....
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:43 AM on October 17, 2013


That's the problem with Penguin Classics, Kitty Stardust. So many of them are out of print.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:44 AM on October 17, 2013


He wrote about how Walters followed him back to his house after meeting him at a restaurant and "steps inside and stays for two years".

Holy crap, so my slash novel was right?
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:45 AM on October 17, 2013


Order with Amazon Prime and you'll have an answer to "How soon is now?"
posted by dr_dank at 9:47 AM on October 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Most of those surprises and so on are not that pleasant - I was perfectly willing to suspend a little disbelief, for instance, when listening to that song that references the Kray brothers - but they were not nice to know. There's a certain kind of queer history person who tries to set Ronnie Kray up as a second Genet - and it's all very well to play at that, but taking it a as a serious position is repugnant.

I wonder if the book deals with all the racism in later Morrissey. "Bengali In Platforms" is one of the most loathesome songs I've ever heard, with the treacley "Life is hard enough when you belong here [so go home, auslander] refrain. And the fetishy "Asian Rut". And all the rest. What a creeper.

It kills me, because I really love the Smiths. And the Derek Jarman videos for "The Queen Is Dead" and "Ask"....The xenophobia seems so pointless, that's what gets me - it's almost like it's an aesthetic choice, like a sort of camp Englishness, but it hurts real people.

And of course who doesn't love "Piccadilly Palare", which back in the days Before The Internet I could not figure out because the amount of information about polari available in suburban Illinois was approximately zero even if the spelling had been standard.
posted by Frowner at 9:50 AM on October 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


I got an advance copy because I am a journalist and shit. Those rundowns in the paper missed the most shocking revelations:

1. Morrissey has had pica since about 1991, and he eats a square meter of wax paper every day.

2. He had a cameo on Spenser for Hire in '86-- Hawk put his character in a shopping cart, set him on fire, and pushed him down Beacon Hill.

3. He was legally married to a Skye terrier in Belgium, but only for three weeks. Now he hates them and flies into a rage if he sees a Skye terrier on the street.

4. He tried to purchase George Bernard Shaw's skeleton, but it was just after the Joyce/Rourke lawsuit and he could only afford a femur and a couple of metatarsals.

5. Morrissey once put a groupie in a hotel bathtub and pleasured her with a Ranger Rick magazine.

6. He and Pierre Trudeau shocked some tourists in Montreal by giving pressed hams at a window, but Morrissey leaned too hard and shattered the glass. He still has a tiny scar.

7. He drives a fully restored Reliant Robin, but the stereo is custom because the stock one was "absolute shit."

8. He's a big fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, and has curtains and a duvet with the team logo in his bedroom. But he has an irrational fear of Mr. Met, which he attributes to Mr. Met's oversized head.

9. Claims to have invented Necco wafers.

10. Morrissey bleached his hair one summer, was mistaken for Slobodan Milosevic, and was imprisoned at The Hague for a month until he convinced everyone of his identity by singing a karaoke medley of The Smiths' tunes.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:53 AM on October 17, 2013 [42 favorites]


Morrissey autobiography: 12 astonishing revelations in explosive new memoir

Neither explosive nor astonishing.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:59 AM on October 17, 2013


Got to love hack journalism: The Independent headline screams "12 astonishing revelations in explosive new memoir".

Of which number eleven is: "He has vivid memories of his time in Manchester."
posted by colie at 10:00 AM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


The Peter Serafinowicz thing is brilliant.

As for those not in the UK, when we were there last month on vacation, talk of this impending autobiography was in the papers everyday. It was really strange!
posted by Kitteh at 10:00 AM on October 17, 2013


I've never forgiven Morrissey for the time when I arranged a surprise trip for my then-fiancé to go and see him in concert. Hotel, flights, tickets, he didn't know we were going anywhere til I took a "detour on the way to dinner" and drove to the airport. He couldn't wait. We had a great day, dinner and wine, then got to the show. We were both big Smiths fans, him especially, and when he came on stage and did "How Soon is Now?" we looked at each other like omigod it's Morrissey!!

Two bars into the second song and some fuckwit threw a pint onstage and he walked off...and never came back. The couple of thousand of us stood and waited, and waited and then waited some more. Of course he'll come back! we thought. He's not going to leave us all standing here after paying all this money just because of one moron! Oh how wrong we were. About twenty minutes later someone came out and announced he wouldn't be returning and we could get refunds. Absofuckinglutely gutted. With all the money he has you'd think he could have bought a towel and dried his eyes. I took my SO to see him closer to home a while later, but I sang along through gritted teeth. Bastard.
posted by billiebee at 10:05 AM on October 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


Morrissey's school life may have been miserable, but he remembers the city of Manchester of the late 60s well enough to describe it as "an old fire, wheezing its last, where we all worry ourselves soulless, forbidden to be romantic".

Does that mean he remembers it well or not? I can't tell....
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:07 AM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


It has the most Morrissey-est cover possible.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:08 AM on October 17, 2013


an old fire, wheezing its last...

Wheezing is not really what fires do though, is it? And what's an old fire anyway? I have to say the prose does not seem good in the extracts I've read so far. If only he'd played it totally straight like Dylan and Keith Richards did with their autobiographies I think he might have repaired the damage of the racism/paranoia/boring rockabilly years we've endured.
posted by colie at 10:11 AM on October 17, 2013


I'll see your story, Billiebee and raise you TWO separate occasions wherein I've purchased tickets for Morrissey and he cancelled the show a day or two before. Though I don't know what would be more frustrating, no show at all or the interrupted show you got.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 10:14 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the old guy has had major health issues that resulted in those cancellations... he also would not have received his fee for the abandoned show (and probably had to pay out for the promoter's costs).
posted by colie at 10:16 AM on October 17, 2013


he also would not have received his fee for the abandoned show (and probably had to pay out for the promoter's costs)

Let's hope so.
posted by billiebee at 10:37 AM on October 17, 2013


Well, Viva Hate seems to be an apt description of this thread.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:39 AM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


I know, and it's strange because he's such a lovely, warm, light-hearted guy! He would never say anything mean about anyone.
posted by billiebee at 10:57 AM on October 17, 2013


From the quotes mentioned, it seems like just another in a long string of his blather which you happen to read, shake your head and say "Oh, Moz...", and then go back to listening to Smith albums in your own particular way.

I'll pass on this, and check out the filtered version on teh wiki, when I happen to think of it.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:04 AM on October 17, 2013


10. Morrissey bleached his hair one summer, was mistaken for Slobodan Milosevic, and was imprisoned at The Hague for a month until he convinced everyone of his identity by singing invited to sing a karaoke medley of The Smiths' tunes with Ceca.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:19 AM on October 17, 2013


I love Morrissey. I love the Smiths. But I refuse to gloss over the fact the man says really awful shitty things about immigrants. It's a pity that this is the hill he's dying on in his later years because it absolutely mars some of his catalogue. Just because he's who is doesn't mean he gets pass for his abhorrent views. You can hold your idols accountable and you should.
posted by Kitteh at 11:21 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I loved the Smiths, but more because of Johnny Fucking Marr than Morrissey I have to say. Ever since my gal pointed out the very limited and predictable melodic patterns in the vocal lines, I can't hear it without hearing her spoof version.

It gets lost because of the underappreciated rhythm section and the amazing arrangements.

That being said, the aesthetics he contributed to the whole thing, the 60s kitchen sink realism, the arch, funny and droll sensibility was appealing before it all went pear-shaped.

And Johnny Marr is playing tomorrow night at the Roundhouse in Camden. I think I'll go along.

And, check out this Letters of Note from Marr to Morrissey...

TwitPic Letters of Note Morrissey
posted by C.A.S. at 11:28 AM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kitteh: “It's a pity that this is the hill he's dying on in his later years because it absolutely mars some of his catalogue.”

I can see tomorrow's headline already – KITTEH TO MORRISSEY: LESS MARRING, MORE MARR
posted by koeselitz at 12:03 PM on October 17, 2013


I was totally waiting for that joke in some form!
posted by Kitteh at 12:07 PM on October 17, 2013


Recreational drugs are definitely not for everybody.
posted by bukvich at 12:09 PM on October 17, 2013


bukvich: "Recreational drugs are definitely not for everybody."

I need to confirm that. Got any?
posted by Samizdata at 12:28 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kitty Stardust and billiebee: I guess everybody's got a cancelled Morrissey show story, right? I've bought tickets for three Morrissey concerts: one was postponed once, the other two were postponed twice and eventually cancelled. Out of the eight dates for which I had tickets, he performed ... one show.
posted by orthicon halo at 1:55 PM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have traveled to another state twice to see Morrissey and had the shows cancel the same day, once while I was on my way to the venue. This is a small part of the thick layer of disillusionment I now keep between myself and a dude I used to admire enormously (larger parts include "subspecies," general artistic decline, ugly public fallings-out with people I admire, etc.). I did buy the book, though, because of a weird sense of owing Morrissey something -- not any more of my money, God knows, but the right to have his own say about a story that a lot of writers have taken it upon themselves to tell for him.

I have to admit that I probably won't read it all the way through. I have no interest in the fifty pages on the court case, and I know there will be a lot of the frustrating romanticization, slagging-off, and heavy prose that Morrissey is heir to (and I speak as a person whose literary tastes actually are pretty prosy and romanticized). But I am looking forward to reading the sections about his youth and relationships and inner life, which reviews have suggested are well done and illuminating.

I do think the Penguin Classics thing is silly. It's a strange thing -- Morrissey has/had a pretty solid sense of irony, and he's previously worked in that register (i.e. the cover of Ringleader of the Tormentors) in a mode I think is successfully light and ironic, but I don't get irony from this at all. Maybe it's just because I've read his prose before, and his dense and layered aesthetic just works much better in a briefer medium where he can choose his tone precisely. A purely literary venture is always going to have sort of a portentous feel, from the cover in.
posted by thesmallmachine at 2:20 PM on October 17, 2013


Which is, yeah, a euphemistic way of saying that I don't think he is a good prose writer. This is not unrelated to the fact that he is a good lyricist.
posted by thesmallmachine at 2:29 PM on October 17, 2013


I loved the Smiths, but more because of Johnny Fucking Marr than Morrissey

The opening guitar on How Soon Is Now is my favourite sound of all time. I could listen for all eternity to the second where it just bursts into that gorgeous, pure peal...

The first time I heard it was when I was 16 and working in my cousin's small record shop (still my best job evar). We got to put our own music on and as I was the minion I had to come in first to clean before we opened. I was in the empty shop and the Smiths Best...1 had just come out. I had heard of them but didn't know their stuff. When that song came on I remember just stopping what I was doing. I still remember it so clearly, it was like a shock went through me. And then that voice! And those lyrics that spoke to a shy awkward kid! I think it might actually have been the first time I fell in love.

Ah, c'mere Morrissey, ya grumpy auld fart *ruffles quiff* I guess that's why we forgive you. Now just try and not be a twat anymore.
posted by billiebee at 2:30 PM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


I guess everybody's got a cancelled Morrissey show story, right?

Not yet! Of course, I've only seen him 3 times: London (1997), Los Angeles (????), Sendai (2012). In order to preserve my good luck, I should never buy another Morrissey ticket.
posted by betweenthebars at 2:59 PM on October 17, 2013


billiebee, was that show at the Preston Guildhall? I went to that, only I recall the paper saying Morrissey was hit by a sharpened 50p coin. That show means I get to say I saw the Smiths six and a bit times.

16-year-old me would be very excited about this autobiography. Much older me is still curious, but Morrissey was right: I grew out of him.
posted by vickyverky at 3:33 PM on October 17, 2013


And all the rest. What a creeper.

It's easy to misinterpret Morrissey's power of making obvious unstated reality as hatefulness. But, aren't his songs hilarious?

I mean, who hasn't ever thought about someone "if you're wondering why all the love that you long for eludes you and people are rude and cruel to you — I'll tell you why: you just haven't earned it yet baby"!! Or "why do I give valuable time to people I'd much rather kick in the eye?"!

Bengali in Platforms is just another example of pointing out an ugly emotional reality: the difficult failures of an immigrant's urge to belong. It's just like Henry Miller writing talking about the emotional world of whores while calling them cunts is proof of his empathy for them.

Don't people who insist on "frank and open deep conversations" make you want to puke — even when it's you? Or you think that if you could just contact an ex-lover, maybe they'd have a message for you; would it be… "push off"?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 3:46 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


billiebee, was that show at the Preston Guildhall? I went to that, only I recall the paper saying Morrissey was hit by a sharpened 50p coin.

No it was the O2 in Liverpool. How did I never know this is just a thing he does?!

who sharpens a 50p?
posted by billiebee at 4:26 PM on October 17, 2013


Bengali in Platforms is just another example of pointing out an ugly emotional reality: the difficult failures of an immigrant's urge to belong. It's just like Henry Miller writing talking about the emotional world of whores while calling them cunts is proof of his empathy for them.

Let me guess: you're white and you're male and you're not an immigrant. Am I right?

Morrissey has no "power" of making unstated reality obvious any more than the fckn BNP.
posted by jammy at 5:31 PM on October 17, 2013


Perhaps you will indulge my taking an inventory of our two comments.

I gave four examples of difficult, unstated realities, and I compared Morrissey's being charged with racism to Miller's being charged with sexism — both being based on superficially naïve reading.

You swore and tried to make things personal.

You might want to consider whether the charge of racism, which goes hand-in-hand with closed-minded illiteracy, is best defended by your attitude so far, which illustrates the same.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:29 PM on October 17, 2013


I think it's tempting to infer that uncomfortable writing and poetry is the fault of the art while totally discounting the possibility that the reader is simply illiterate. Remember when Montag read poetry that made Mrs. Phelps cry in Fahrenheit 451?
Mrs. Bowles stood up and glared at Montag. “You see? I knew it, that's what I wanted to prove! I knew it would happen! I've always said, poetry and tears, poetry and suicide and crying and awful feelings, poetry and sickness; all that mush! Now I've had it proved to me. You're nasty, Mr. Montag, you're nasty!”
Didn't we all think: what an illiterate cow?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:56 PM on October 17, 2013


You might want to consider whether the charge of racism, which goes hand-in-hand with closed-minded illiteracy, is best defended by your attitude so far

I'd say it's best defended by all the apparently racist things Morrissey has said in a variety of media. This isn't a sixth-form common room. "You're just too illiterate to understand. Maybe you are the real racist" is not a very interesting argument.

If someone adopts anti-immigration stances ("the gates of England are flooded"), employs nationalist imagery and makes racist comments ("subspecies") over a period of decades, it's quite reasonable for the literate reader to conclude that they are possibly, or probably, fairly racist. It's sad that Morrissey says these things, and it's sad that he seems to believe them. Pretending that he deserves a special pass on them as "an artist" isn't going to make it less sad.

Wilde was wrong to claim that "An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style." Indeed, he proves himself wrong in the very masterpiece that claim is prefaced to. Dorian Gray is utterly consumed and defined by its ethical sympathy, and derives its deepest artistic strength from that. No good satire is without ethical sympathy, and no great art, either. This is one reason why, sadly for him, and sadly for us, Morrissey has never managed to do more than aspire to great art. That is not the only or greatest shame of the foolish and detestable positions he has adopted, but it is a shame nonetheless.
posted by howfar at 3:22 AM on October 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thank you for the interesting comment.

I don't know about Morrissey's stances outside of his art and so I can't comment one way or the other. However, I agree with Wilde that ethical sympathies should not concern the artist and I think that was the kind of point I was making above when I described Morrissey's art. Since you remain unconvinced by Wilde's words on the subject, I doubt I would be able to convince you.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 3:58 AM on October 18, 2013


Isn't the point that howfar was making is that even Wilde himself didn't believe that sentiment, given that he used it to (one assumes ironically) preface a work which belies it? Morrissey does have some ethical sympathies, imo, which is why I was initially drawn in I think. To me he understood and saw the fat kid, the shy kid, the queer kid, the bored kid in a way I certainly hadn't been aware of before. And his ethical stance on animal cruelty is hardly subtle, inside and outside his art. It's just that he unfortunately chooses not to extend that to immigrants (among others).

Creating art does not give you the automatic right to be an asshole, despite the contrary opinion of many artists.
posted by billiebee at 5:14 AM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


esprit de l'escalier: “I don't know about Morrissey's stances outside of his art and so I can't comment one way or the other. However, I agree with Wilde that ethical sympathies should not concern the artist and I think that was the kind of point I was making above when I described Morrissey's art. Since you remain unconvinced by Wilde's words on the subject, I doubt I would be able to convince you.”

And the world will go on. There will always be artists who insist that "ethical sympathies" must not concern the artist; and there will always be a society they live in which insists that "ethical sympathies" are the duty of the citizen, and that, if a citizen does not live ethically and in fact lives by harming others in a way that exceeds the law, that citizen should and must be punished. And the artists who hate being bound by ethical concerns will chafe and cry at this. But they will never have the power in society, and they will always find themselves "oppressed" by the demand that they act and live morally. Which is, I think, much to the better.
posted by koeselitz at 7:46 AM on October 18, 2013


I think the entire contemporary notion that one can and should separate the artist from the person and treat their works as cut-off, context-free artifacts that can and should be judged in isolation without regard for the life experiences and circumstances that grounded their creation just represents the influence of industrial capitalist values.

Art isn't really just "a product" and never has been. It's direct and indirect communication from one person to an audience of others. The idea that songs, poems, stories, paintings, etc., are and should be viewed as fungible commodities that aren't in any vitally important way connected to and qualified by the circumstances of their creation or the intentions of their creators is just an extension of the modern American management sciences craze.

American capitalists believe art should be viewed as a faceless product traded impersonally and efficiently like a commodity like anything else with economic value, and over the years, those attitudes have become the cultural norm in the US. It's the industrialization of art that's led to the current attitudes toward art, with economic theory driving the critical theory.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:56 AM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bengali in Platforms is just another example of pointing out an ugly emotional reality: the difficult failures of an immigrant's urge to belong. It's just like Henry Miller writing talking about the emotional world of whores while calling them cunts is proof of his empathy for them.

Actually, the reasons why "Bengali in Platforms" is a fucked up song have nothing to do with Morrissey's concerns about an immigrant's urge to belong.

"Bengali in Platforms" is a fucked up song because the singer urges his British listeners to tell the theoretical Bengali to go home, and positions this as a truth that the immigrant is too naive or foolish to understand: "Break the news to him gently...[you should] shelve your Western plans and understand".

It's a fucked up song because it assumes that no one from the Bengal region can "belong" in the UK, which is doubly absurd because people from the subcontinent have been living in the UK for a long-ass time. Did none of them ever "belong"? If today's person-from-the-Bengal-region doesn't "belong", we can only assume that previous immigrants didn't "belong" either. Do their children now "belong"? If they do, then why are we telling the current immigrant to go away, since obviously immigrant communities do okay even if the first generation struggles?

If Morrissey has been singing "in the persona of" a British racist just to explore the racist's viewpoint - well, he needs to signal that a bit clearer or else be resigned to getting called out for racism since he doesn't signal that it's just pretend. (I still think that would be bullshit, but at least it would be a better grade.)

And of course, the immigrant in the song is figured as this tacky, non-modern person who isn't swift enough to be well-dressed and who is eager to "impress" the Westerner. Both those things are straight-up Orientalist stereotypes - the East is of the past, the East can't be modern, when the East has a modernity which differs from that of the West, it's risible and a mere caricature; people from Asia are described as fawning and carneying and eager to be accepted by the implicitly superior white Westerner.

And then, obviously, if Morrissey is so concerned with the immigrant's desire to belong, well, he writes the song in a really weird way. He writes from the outside and expresses ugly sentiments. He hasn't asked an immigrant about their experience trying to fit in (as is obvious, because what he says is fatuous and stereotypical and does not mirror anything I've ever heard an actual immigrant to say). He isn't describing this experience sympathetically or even neutrally and he's not clearly signalling "the typical white British person might think this but it has no truth value". If the song didn't contain the whole "tell him to go home" bit, we might write it off as a really clumsy white-centered song - "the immigrant's experience is important because it is used to highlight Just How Hard It Is For Tragic Morrissey-Like White Citizens To Fit In". That would be bad, but not as bad.

Of all the songs in Morrissey's catalog to defend, "Bengali In Platforms" is a funny one to choose.
posted by Frowner at 8:03 AM on October 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I just purchased it.
It's Morrissey, she adores his music.
It was cheap.

If it weren't for SALACIOUS STORIES on LOCAL NEWS about Moz' GAY SEXYTIMES I'd nit have known it existed. Until I came here, where my peeps are. Because I am most sure my LOCAL NEWS knows who MOZ is. But there are GAY SEXY TIMES.
posted by Mezentian at 8:25 AM on October 18, 2013


Of all the songs in Morrissey's catalog to defend, "Bengali In Platforms" is a funny one to choose.

It is the one that most often gets racism hurled at, though.
And the defense has always been "tell him to go home" is what is chanted by the racists (when I listen to in in an album called 'Education In Reverse/Viva Hate'). Admittedly, my "homeland" isn't seeing the demographic changes yet that Moz would have been in 1990, but he always writes for characters, not himself.

If Morrissey has been singing "in the persona of" a British racist just to explore the racist's viewpoint - well, he needs to signal that a bit clearer or else be resigned to getting called out for racism since he doesn't signal that it's just pretend.

You are now, in 2013, talking about a song written in England in the late '80s. Things were different then.

I have been an enjoyer of Moz and The Smiths for decades, and I have never found him to be that offensive, or nasty. He has opinions, strong ones sometimes, but I don't believe he's hateful. I may have missed stuff, I tend to avoid "celeb" interviews, but his last showing on The Daily Craigy Ferg Report (honestly, I can't remember which), that I did see seemed aimed at the British tabloids as a lark. I mean, he's been in the public eye for decades: he knows what he is doing.
posted by Mezentian at 8:49 AM on October 18, 2013


TwitPic Letters of Note Morrissey

"realize"? From Marr? An Englishman?
posted by Mezentian at 9:09 AM on October 18, 2013


…even Wilde himself didn't believe that sentiment…

No. No one thinks that.

Art shouldn't concern itself with ethical sympathies because art shouldn't tell you what to think. Good art distills reality, isolates unique moments, and that makes you feel something and think something. But what it makes you feel and think depends on you.

Just because some drunken frat boys want to punch the crap out of each other after watching Fight Club, it doesn't make it a bad movie. The movie is good art if it made you feel something.

One need only glance at the list of commonly banned books to see the folly of considering the moralizing effect of art on the masses as a kind of criticism. It is not the artist's fault that the world is full of cows like Mrs. Phelps, and we do not need to have books pried from our hands by them.

[It] assumes that no one from the Bengal region can "belong" in the UK.

No, I don't think so. My reaction to the image is that it's better to be yourself than a try-hard at fitting in. What a joke: Bengali in platforms… he only wants to imprrrrrrrress you. Isn't it true that the more someone tries to fit a mold, the more the missing pieces stick out? Gandhi himself criticized Indians for the same thing.

It's time to put away childish fables. Art that ends with a "clearly signaled" moral lesson is rightfully distasteful because it imposes itself on the reader, it patronizes her as non-thinking. Is this you?

By now, you should be able to interpret a work of art in the context of a greater work given your own experience. Wilde was right that “those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming” and “it is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.”

And if after all, you find Morrissey's song dull, then I think you should not listen to him. Find art you like.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 9:15 AM on October 18, 2013


Just so you know, Wilde - though a genius - had opinions, he was not the guardian of all Truth. If you're essentially saying "if you find Morrissey racist then *chortle* YOU are the racist, and one who can't read Art at that!" then my own personal truth is that you are wrong, and to defend racism under the guise of defending Art is repugnant.
posted by billiebee at 9:23 AM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why don't you read the preface to Dorian Grey yourself rather than my ineffective summaries?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 9:28 AM on October 18, 2013


You're assuming I haven't? You appear to think anyone with a differing view is somehow illiterate, which is confusing. The thread is about Morrissey, not Wilde.
posted by billiebee at 9:42 AM on October 18, 2013


“those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming”

And yet, oddly, Dorian Gray is precisely about the ugly meaning of a beautiful thing. Wilde's aestheticism was not simply a pose, but there is a difference between ethical sympathy and moral didacticism. A serious examination of Wilde's work finds it replete with ethical sympathies, indeed, to a much greater extent than his contemporaries or most other writers generally. This is one of the reasons that Wilde was, and remains, a great artistic voice. His relationship to morality was defined by complexity and ambiguity, traits that I suspect we can all agree are important aspects of much, if not most, significant art.

Morrissey's problem has always seemed to me to be that of solipsism. His lack of morality doesn't make him engagingly universal, it makes him deeply particular and ultimately repetitive. He can only truly illuminate us when our personal sympathies coincide with his, and, as such, he can only ever tell us things we already know, no matter how artfully the telling is done. It is interesting up to a point, but ultimately stunted. In later years, sadly, it seems to me that bitterness and laziness have lead his work into a dim cul-de-sac of irrelevance. It says nothing to me about my life.
posted by howfar at 9:43 AM on October 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


John Crace's très amusant 600-word "digested read" of Morrissey's autobiography: "Heaven knows it's readable now"
posted by Mister Bijou at 2:07 PM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Penguin Classics: why are they publishing Morrissey's autobiography? [The Guardian]
Where will he fit in Penguin's pantheon? Just after Montaigne.
*shudders*
posted by Fizz at 1:18 PM on October 24, 2013


You are now, in 2013, talking about a song written in England in the late '80s. Things were different then.

I heard that song within about two years of its release - I remember borrowing the album from someone who'd just gotten it. It struck me, a naive kid who grew up in a racist town, as pretty screwed up and nasty and way out of line with the Smiths' general ethos.

Now, it's true that I was living in the US - but, well, everyone I've met from the UK has always said that we're more racist here. And at the time I was a huge fan of Hanif Kureshi (I still am, pretty much) and had been reading and watching as much as I could find about race relations in eighties Britain. I don't think that song was innocuous in the late eighties. This is the same Britain where the alternative (or whatever the word would be) music scene was contoured by Rock Against Racism. And there were plenty of Smiths-esque and post-Smiths bands that were actively left and vocally anti-racist.

Plus, of course, there are lots of non-white British citizens, whether recent immigrants or not. They count just as much as white Morrissey fans, and I doubt that they'd be all "well, the climate is hostile now, so I guess one more racist song is okay" or "well, 'P**i-bashing' is a relatively contemporary term, so I guess we can't expect Moz to do any better".

And I don't think that there wasn't any popular consciousness of, like, the Carnival riots and the old rivers of blood speech - those things obviously lingered in the popular consciousness because you hear them referenced in other pop music through the eighties and nineties.

"It was a different time"....every time someone trots that out and I go back and read about the time in question, I discover that it was full of heroes and villains, just like today. White people, for instance, have never been uniformly anti-immigrant or racist, no matter how much we like to project that onto the past in order to excuse past racism.
posted by Frowner at 6:35 AM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


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