It’s not as if Morrissey needed additional opportunities to provoke unanimous public disgust in the 2010s. His outspoken support for the far-right Islamophobic political party For Britain, his concert performance with a “Fuck the Guardian” t- shirt, and his assertion that “everyone ultimately prefers their own race,” may have done it for the ex-Patron Saint of Indie music. Morrissey didn’t need to write a novel as woefully narrated, bafflingly structured, and bluntly misogynistic as List of the Lost. But he did anyway.
Morrissey’s previous foray into print was his 2013 autobiography which, despite being buoyed on entirely by self-indulgence, was at least a compelling and entertaining read. Being published prior to his egregious political outbursts made it easier to be forgiving of his outrageous narcissism: he demanded it be immediately published under the Penguin Classics imprint.
List of the Lost, however, has no such saving grace. The plot – although it feels charitable to refer to it as such – follows an American sprint team in the 1970s cursed by a demon after they inadvertently kill it. The characters are barely formed and narrated in a wholly inarticulate way. Though a blessedly short 180 pages, the novel drags hugely, a problem exacerbated by excruciating dialogue that often spans pages.
The most unforgivable episode has to be the sex scene, which made me cringe so hard I felt certain I had ruptured my spleen. I don’t wish to disturb any readers who might be eating, so I won’t quote it in full, but beware that it contains the sentence: “His bulbous salutation extenuated his excitement as it smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza’s body except for the otherwise central zone.” Yikes.
List of the Lost is more than just terrible, terrible prose. It’s an example of the cultural re-polarization that solidified in the 2010s: Morrissey’s exquisite music and twirling gladioli defined the latter part of the twentieth century. Now he is left a social pariah, clutching a Literary Review Bad Sex Award and wearing a For Britain badge.