Harry Potter-style hysteria predicted for release of Morrissey’s autobiography

480-page book to come out in paperback as a Penguin Classic

“The mystery surrounding Morrissey’s Autobiography is the equivalent of a publishing phenomenon,” Johnny Rogan, author of Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance, said. Photograph: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

“The mystery surrounding Morrissey’s Autobiography is the equivalent of a publishing phenomenon,” Johnny Rogan, author of Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance, said. Photograph: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Fri, Oct 4, 2013, 13:51

Penguin is to publish singer Morrissey’s autobiography as a Penguin Classic on October 17th, a month after a statement on the Morrissey fan site True to You appeared to pull the plug on the deal, citing a “content dispute”. The 480-page book, Autobiography, will be priced at £8.99 in paperback.

In 2011 a Penguin Books spokesperson said Morrissey’s autobiography was “a classic in the making” after the former Smiths singer-songwriter revealed he had finished the book that year and wanted the book to come out as part of the Penguin Classic series, despite the imprint normally being reserved for established literary classics rather than new titles.

Autobiography covers Morrissey’s life from his birth until the present day. Steven Patrick Morrissey was born to Irish parents in Manchester on May 22nd, 1959. Singer-songwriter and co-founder of the Smiths (1982-1987), Morrissey has been a solo artist for 26 years, during which time he has had three number 1 albums in England in three different decades.

Morrissey has courted controversy over the years, not least for his verbal attacks on Margaret Thatcher and the British royal family, declaring in 2012: “It was a celebration of what? 60 years of dictatorship. She’s not [my queen]. I’m not a subject.”

The BBC has referred to Morrissey as “one of the most influential figures in the history of British pop” and the NME named the Smiths the “most influential artist ever” in a 2002 poll. In 2006 Morrissey was voted the second greatest living British icon by viewers of the BBC, losing out to Sir David Attenborough. In 2007 Morrissey was voted the greatest northern male, past or present, in a nationwide newspaper poll.

Johnny Rogan, who last year brought out a revised and updated 20th anniversary edition of his book, Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance, and who will review Autobiography for The Irish Times, welcomed the news.

“The mystery surrounding Morrissey’s Autobiography is the equivalent of a publishing phenomenon. In an age of pre-publication hype, embargos and lead-ins of six months or longer, his book virtually appears from nowhere with a promise of publication as early as October 17th. It promises to be a ‘Harry Potter’-type event with crowds gathering outside bookshops at midnight with all the accompanying fanfare. Already the book is provoking intense speculation as the questions multiply. The chief one for me is the format and price. We know Morrissey wanted it to appear in the Penguin Modern Classic series, but who could have anticipated that there would be no hardback? Amazingly, it’s seemingly going straight into mass-market format with a retail price of £8.99 – bargain of the century. There’s barely time to complete a serialisation deal either, a lucrative bonus for any publisher.

“The content? Don’t ask. Penguin’s blurb has to be the most uninformative ever produced. All it tells us is who the singer is, complete with a potted list of his achievements and awards. The content of the book is not addressed. Will it cover the complete arc of his career in its 480 paperback pages? Are we going to get his full version of the Smiths story? The complete troubled adolescence and pre-fame frustrations? The solo years too? Or will it be a series of flashbacks and meditations on selected events? My bet is something closer to the latter, but I have no more information than anybody else, so forget the armchair speculation. Hard to believe that it’s this close. Will there be one final touch of drama before publication day? Watch this space.”

Morrissey was famously less enthusiasticd about Rogan’s book before it was published, saying: “Personally I hope Johnny Rogan ends his days very soon in an M3 pile-up.

An essay from Autobiography, a short story entitled The Bleak Moor Lies, appears in The Dark Monarch: Magic & Modernity in British Art, published by Tate St Ives. The fictional story sees Morrissey write about taking a trip to Saddleworth Moor in the South Pennines and encountering a ghost. Morrissey referenced the moor in The Smiths’ Suffer Little Children. The moors became notorious when serial killers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley used them as a burial ground. In the essay, Morrissey asks: “How many unfortunates have Saddleworth Moor as their resting place?”