Penguin Classics paperback out now – £8.99
We’ve had a lot of big titles out this month including Stephen King, William Boyd’s Bond and the new Bridget Jones. But Steven Patrick Morrissey is shaping up to be the biggest of the bunch. Even before it was out, the media was awash with commentators opining on the fact his autobiography was being published as a Penguin Classic alongside Homer, Tolstoy and Oscar Wilde. “I don’t see why not,” said the former Smiths singer, when asked in 2011 if Penguin would meet his demand for the book to be issued as a distinctive black classic.
It’s too early to anoint it as a classic, but dipping into this much-anticipated volume on publication day has been an utter joy: a terse encounter with a lady at the Stretford Jobcentre who wants him to clean canal banks; the 50 pence purchase of a New York Dolls single in Rumbelows; the history teacher who “sniffs out burgeoning transexuality” as the teenage Morrissey dyes his hair and declares his allegiance to Roxy Music (at least until he discovers that Bryan Ferry dines on veal). Media reports have already picked up on his hilarious mocking of Judge John Weeks as “the pride of the pipsqueakery” (the judge described Moz as “devious” during the 1996 Smiths royalties case). Yes, there’s going to be some score settling but the first part is a droll, beautifully written memoir of his Seventies childhood. If his account of The Smiths is as good as his early years, this may surpass Bob Dylan’s Chronicles as the finest musician’s autobiography of recent years.