Saint Morrissey: A Portrait of This Charming Man by an Alarming Fan

Mark Simpson, Author
Mark Simpson, Author . S&S/Touchstone $19.95 (257p) ISBN 978-0-7432-7690-0
Hardcover - 224 pages - 978-0-946719-65-5
Paperback - 257 pages - 978-0-7432-8481-3
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Morrissey, the former lead singer for the 1980s underground band the Smiths, returned to the public eye last summer with his first album in seven years. Going by the breathless prose of this pop hagiography, Simpson was one of many fans who never abandoned faith during the long absence. The British journalist flirts dangerously with parody in the extravagant praise for "the greatest-ever lyricist of desire" and an unchecked tendency toward hyperbolic metaphor, but reveals some sophisticated insights into his "anti-pop idol." Mixing cultural criticism with biography, Simpson explores Morrissey's troubled childhood in the northern working-class city of Manchester and the significance of his obsessions with figures like Oscar Wilde and James Dean. The text is peppered with snippets from interviews illustrating the star's cagey relationship with the music press over the decades. A homoerotic spirit pervades much of the proceedings; Simpson describes his own initial encounter with a Smiths song as an overwhelming seduction, and reads much into the singer's collaborative relationship with guitarist Johnny Marr. But he admires Morrissey's deliberate coyness, concluding that it makes him accessible to self-identified outcasts of every orientation. With the star already on the comeback trail, this enthusiastic appreciation is well timed. (Nov.)

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