This Charming Book

By: José Manuel Simián

Yes, we know it’s been a couple of months since Morrissey released his Autobiography in the US.

But we also know that it’s unlikely you’ve gone through its 460 pages, because it’s a time-consuming read—alternatively as dazzling, inspiring and frustrating as the Mozzer himself. So we did the homework for you, and here it is: Autobiography reviewed and summarized in nine quotes that will come in handy at your next MorrisseyOke.

ONE:My childhood is streets upon streets upon streets upon streets. Streets to define you and streets to confine you, with no sign of motorway, freeway or highway” (page 2).

A stunning beginning for an uneven book. A book whose basic tale—the transit from small town to freedom—is elegantly summarized in these two perfect sentences.

TWO:Another form of church, football was all that stood between earth and God” (page 28).

Another stunning sentence, summarizing Morrissey’s position on football, Catholicism and manhood in just 13 words.

THREE:Now comes the hour to choose between being acceptable to others or being acceptable to one’s own self, for we must kill our true selves off in order to survive” (page 54).

Probably all of Morrissey’s philosophy could fit in this sentence about his school years.

FOUR:Unless I can combine poetry with recorded noise, have I any right to be?” (page 90).

College kids with musical inclinations: memorize this sentence and repeat it to the girls. You’re welcome.

FIVE:It is important to judges to believe that their chosen profession is a difficult one of ‘difficult’ decisions, but this is how they themselves describe it only in order to make a plea for any impoverished decisions that they might clumsily make along the way” (page 98).

Morrissey spends more time in Autobiography thrashing judges (the long portion devoted to the Smiths’ trial is the dullest of the whole thing) than some barristers do in their whole careers. But this theory of the judiciary is a thing of beauty.

SIX:It strikes me that the Smiths name lacks any settled association on face value, yet could also suit a presentation of virtually any style of music. It sounded like a timeless name, unlikely to date, and unlikely to glue itself to come-and-go movements” (page 147).

One of the best things Morrissey says about his former band.

SEVEN:The subject of sex remained theoretical, and no one expressed any interest in me, which I didn’t mind as long as I could create” (page 179).

Oh, to be a sexless rock star.

EIGHT:David [Bowie] quietly tells me, ‘You know, I’ve had so much sex and drugs that I can’t believe I’m still alive,’ and I loudly tell him, ‘You know, I’ve had SO LITTLE sex and drugs that I can’t believe I’m still alive’ ” (page 244).

Again, there are more drugs and sex in this sentence than in almost the rest of the book combined.

NINE:Fresno is Morrissey Central and the good buddies are out in their mainman force, each posse and tribe bonded by their busting fresh flyboy look. Yet chuchala-muchala is all, as amigo and little brother hamma squeeze together. Why do you come here? I face my race. I wonder how they found me. All Mexican mellow, yet ready to put the chill on. Here in Fresno I find it—with wall-to-wall Chicanos and Chicanas as my syndicate. I walk onstage and the roar that greets me nearly kills me—would Italian godfathers find better respect? For once I have my family” (page 410).

Yes, Morrissey has been accused of being racist—accusations that he passionately rejects in the book, even when some of his statements have been troubling, to say the least. And even when there’s a tone of condescension in these words, Morrissey does call Chicanos his “race,” his “family.” So what is a Latino fan supposed to do? The autobiography ends in a mysterious, ambiguous note, and that’s precisely what Morrissey is all about: mysteries wrapped within mysteries, riddles that sometimes destroy the question. Which is another way of saying that we’ll never get a definitive answer.

José Manuel Simián is the Executive Editor of Manero. He used to be a lawyer and is probably listening to Bob Dylan as you read this.