Now, peace is regained as his television flickers from commercial to commercial to commercial to commercial, advertising nothing at all that he would ever want or need, yet reminding him that he is nothing and that he will die in debt, reminding him that whatever insurance he might have could never possibly be enough, reminding him that all medications will kill him mid-laughter, shouting at him as if they were the vigilant society – a blatantly sensational phony inflation with that essential TV ingredient of nightmare and pixy-minded publicity with nothing at all to touch the artistic emotions, yet preying unmercifully on the viewer’s insecurity and lack of ready cash. Whatever you can do will never be enough. You are fragile and possibly already dead.
– Morrissey in his novel List of the Lost
No book has been so mauled in the press this year as this one. I’m not finished with it yet, so I can not write a proper review. But I cannot fathom the level of hate directed its way. The book has an almost Victorian sense of language at times. It is poetic, and is the reverse of Oscar Wilde’s poems in prose. If you are looking for a page turner in the truest sense, this is not that. It’s not a beach book. But so far it is a book filled with truth, with sentences and ideas that you will remember. The above passage is about as well of a description of late night television as one will see anywhere. One could criticize the book, as one could all works of art, even great ones. The dialog is more the work of a writer’s imagination than the way people actually speak in places, but that seems intentional and is not dissimilar to many other works of the pen. But these things are all debatable. I have found a great deal of it infused with meaning, generating much contemplation as I read. Many critics have criticized the sex scenes. But the sex in the book seems like it was written to be absurd and grotesque, as sex often is at times. Yes sometimes the book seems more of a story that is being used to communicate the author’s view of the world, but then so many great books are that as well.
I am a huge Morrissey fan. I might not have bought the book if I wasn’t, if I was only buying something based on reviews. I was worried that my estimation of it might be clouded by my love of the man’s musical works. But I can honestly say that I am getting a lot out of this book, that it creates a world that I look forward to going back to, that I am enjoying it. Even if one were not a fan of his music, I believe there is an intelligence here that is worth investigating. The book exposes the absurdity of this often horrible modern world. It doesn’t pull any punches. Yet there is a beauty in its love of language. The writing style often seems as if it was from another era, the book itself is set in 1975, but the book is certainly examining not only the now of things, but the human condition as a whole.
A large part of the book so far comments on the decay of the human body as one grows older, the inevitable fate of everyone, and the things that we as creatures do to not deal with these facts head on. There are many people that mistake Morrissey as being miserable because of the dark themes that he often deals with in his day job, and this book will not change the opinions of those that don’t understand. But they are missing a laser sharp wit. Morrissey has talked about how if he was hopeless he wouldn’t say anything at all. The mere act of expression is often one aiming for a better world. The critics, as often, seem to know very little of such things.