In Brief

Morrissey's debut novel List of the Lost: best of the worst reviews

'The stale excrement of Morrissey's imagination' The first reviews are in and they are not pretty

Morrissey's debut novel List of the Lost has been savaged by critics for its "monstrously overwritten" prose and "atrocious" sex scenes.

The former frontman of The Smiths won accolades for his autobiography two years ago, with one reviewer describing it as the "best-written musical autobiography since Bob Dylan's Chronicles".

But his first attempt at fiction has so far had the opposite response.

List of the Lost tells the story of a teenage track relay team in suburban Boston in the 1970s. One of the team – named Ezra Pound – accidentally kills an old man during a night out in the woods and consequently the boys become cursed.

The novel deals with male friendship, rivalry, sex, murder, American politics and child abuse, although critics complain that it fails to say anything illuminating about any of its themes and that all the characters speak much like Morrissey, with sentences such as "My body is decorative art! I delight in my own magnificence!"

Also included are dozens of "mini-rants" touching on the singer's well-known pet hates such as the royal family and Margaret Thatcher.

Here are the best of the worst reviews:

'Load of old cobblers'

Alex Clark at The Guardian describes List of the Lost as "verbose, tangential, unfocused", "bewilderingly all over the shop" and – at just 118 pages – "far too long". She laments the fact that Morrissey had no editor, resulting in some "pure gibberish" sentences and no clear plot or, indeed, point. "Yet here is the devotee's plight: in the midst of this utter garbage are tiny glimpses of Moz-as-was," says Clark, pointing to some of the book's finer lines. She adds: "We footsoldiers in the Moz army have had more to contend with than this load of old cobblers, which surely could have been improved if someone had cared enough or, more likely, been allowed to."

'Monstrously overwritten'

In her one-star review, the Daily Telegraph's Charlotte Runcie says Morrissey's metaphors are mixed "beyond all comprehension" and the novel is "monstrously overwritten" from the first page to the last. "Has there ever been a less sexy moment in literature than Morrissey describing 'the pained frenzy of his bulbous salutation' as it 'smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza's body except for the otherwise central zone'?" asks Runcie. But what struck her was how little these "atrocious" sex scenes stand out. "The rest of the novel is just as overwrought, just as nonsensical, just as poorly conceived, awkwardly expressed and lazily imagined."

'Repulsive treatment of women'

Nico Hines, London editor of the Daily Beast, says the writing is "laughably clunky, the characters thinly drawn, the style stilted". But the most glaring problem with List of the Lost is its "repulsive treatment of women", says Hines, with an "extraordinary tone of misogyny" pervading the entire story. Meanwhile, the mixed metaphors are "among the funniest parts of the book", he says. "Cryptographers are still working on this sentence: 'Politicians marvel at the submissive gullibility of the electorate, and the hang-hungry judges of America remained beagle-beaked on their benches; blindfolded Father Time always ready to throw the book and run up the flagpole.'"

'Unpolished turd of a book'

Perhaps one of the harshest critiques comes from the Guardian's music editor Michael Hann, who warns: "Do not read this book; do not sully yourself with it, no matter how temptingly brief it seems." Hann says that all the people who "shepherded it to print should hang their heads in shame" because it is "hard to imagine anything this bad has been put between covers by anyone other than a vanity publisher". In summary, Hann says it is an "unpolished turd of a book, the stale excrement of Morrissey's imagination".

AA Gill rewarded for Morrissey hatchet job

12 February 2014

SUNDAY TIMES columnist AA Gill has won the Hatchet Job of the Year award, presented by The Omnivore website for his scathing review of Morrissey's autobiography.

"It is a heavy tome, utterly devoid of insight, warmth, wisdom or likeability," Gill wrote in his 1,200 word demolition of Morrissey's work, published in October last year. "It is a potential firelighter of vanity, self-pity and logorrhoeic dullness."

Gill was also scathing about Morrissey's insistence that the book be released as a Penguin Classic. "Putting it in Penguin Classics doesn't diminish Aristotle or Homer or Tolstoy; it just roundly mocks Morrissey, and this is a humiliation constructed by the self-regard of its victim."

The review was hailed as an "expert caning" by a panel of judges including Rosie Boycott, Brian Sewell and John Sutherland.

"The 30 reviewers on the long list were easily reduced to eight, and then, as we knocked them off the list from bottom to the top, the winner emerged without argument," said Sewell.

The review, which can be read in full on The Omnivore, declared Morrissey's summation of his early life to be "laughably overwrought and overwritten, a litany of retrospective hurt and score-settling that reads like a cross between Madonna and Catherine Cookson".

Gill is the second Sunday Times journalist to receive the award, the Guardian reports. Last year Camilla Long took first place for her review of Rachel Cusk's memoir, Aftermath, which she declared to be the work of "a brittle little dominatrix and peerless narcissist who exploits her husband and her marriage with relish".

The award was established to "raise the profile of professional critics and to promote integrity and wit in literary journalism". AA Gill's reward was the coveted "Golden Hatchet" gong and a year's supply of potted shrimp, presented last night at a ceremony in the Coach and Horses pub in Soho, London.


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