John Williams of The New York Times reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
Morrissey, the former singer of the Smiths who went on to equal fame as a solo performer, has published his autobiography, and he has called it "Autobiography." It's a bland title, but between the covers the book is full of the clever wordplay that made its author a star.
In the 1985 song "The Headmaster Ritual," Morrissey sang, "Belligerent ghouls/run Manchester schools." He greatly expands on that sentiment in this memoir. His early education, he says, took place in a British school that was a "giant black shadow of ancient morality." It was full of kids who were "slackly shaped and contaminated."
Morrissey seems to exist so properly in damp, gray England that he generates easy, if unintentional, laughs simply by recalling his time in places you wouldn't expect him: like in woodwork class or on Staten Island, where he spent time with a relative.
The book has its share of celebrity anecdotes, including breakfast with David Bowie and a sudden run-in with Elaine Stritch at a Bel Air hotel. But in others ways this doesn't feel like a star's biography. There's much more about Morrissey as a fan, whether he's adoring his favorites or turning against them, than about Morrissey as a creative artist. But aside from one long, tiresome section about a legal battle with an ex-band member, the book is a buoyant read. It pulls off the trick Morrissey has played so often in his music — it makes misery fun.