Canonizing Morrissey

Columbus Alive | October 27, 2005
If not quite literally a dime a dozen, there’s certainly no shortage of celebrity biographies of pop stars. (If they were priced for literary value, actually, a dime a dozen sounds about right.) To the shelf already crowded with limp bios of former Smiths frontman Morrissey, early Morrissey victim Mark Simpson (who’s written several books, but whose most notorious accomplishment may be coining the phrase “metrosexual”) adds Saint Morrissey (Touchstone), an unconventional bio that is not only relevant and revealing, but (gasp!) well worth reading.

Simpson covers a few of the required biographical bases, but only on the fly, preferring to look at Morrissey’s lyrics rather than the mundane who/what/where/when details of his life. Morrissey may be much more mysterious than any pop star before or since, but that’s only because there’s no need for gotcha interviews and paparazzi journalism to find the “truth” about Morrissey’s (lack of a) love life, politics or worldview—it’s all right there in his songs. He’s fully present in his work like few if any other pop lyricists.

Thus Saint Morrissey takes the form of a highly poetic (and often hilarious) hagiography, a clear-eyed psychobio of Morrissey the man that occurs between the lines of engaging literary criticism of his lyrics, exploring Morrissey the pop cultural symbol. While Simpson is certainly a fan, Smiths and/or Morrissey fandom is not a requirement for enjoying his book. Not simply a self-congratulatory read for those who already love or get Morrissey, Saint Morrissey is rather a book for anyone who wants to understand him—or why he’s worth paying attention to in the first place.

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