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Norrissey: The Novel, By Morrissey - A Synopsis
David Stubbs , January 6th, 2014 06:37

Man of refined taste and lucky skip skimmer Mr David Stubbs has procured us an early draft of Morrissey's debut novel...

With the news that Morrissey is to write a novel, we dispatched David Stubbs to Penguin's London offices in the hope of doorstepping them for an interview on the matter. He was declined.

However, on exiting the building and passing by a skip, he caught sight of a manuscript, a possible first draft of the work. It was entitled THIS HANDSOME MAN – A NON-AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL MADE-UP STORY OF LOVE AND VINDICATION. We reprint it in full here.

Author's note to the reader: The characters in this book are entirely fictional. Any resemblance between them and any real life persons, living or dead, is entirely a product of your grubby imagination. How dare you insinuate otherwise.

ONE

Stephan Partick Norrissey looked at himself longingly and bashfully in the bedroom mirror. He was 12, and in the throes of a shy infatuation with the boy who stared back at him. Although there was no one else in the house, he dared not appear naked before himself. He would go blind if he saw himself without clothes on, he believed, dazzled by the whiteness and beauty of his own skin. Norrissey exchanged a furtive glance with himself and, shyly and chastely, a tender caress. In the thrill of the moment, he wondered what his own genitals looked like – he averted his eyes when at the lavatory, which made for a wayward spray, but so be it. He banished the temptation to speculate on their appearance, however, or root down there with the devil's hands where he mustn't, on pain of a scolding, or a clout round the head with a kettle. Norrissey was in love with Norrissey – but did Norrissey even know Norrissey was alive?

Norrissey's childhood was a bleak and maudlin one, growing up in Greater Manchester. The calendar in the parlour room read Sunday, February 13, 1934, at all times. He lived in a terraced house with his parents. It was not an intimate household. He never met his father, although he often heard him traipsing across the hallway floorboards to the bathroom. Life was intensely monochrome – Norrissey did not see the colour green until he was 14 years of age, nor the colour red until his drummer turned up in a jumper of that hue to rehearsals when he was aged 23 – but more of that to-do later.

He was educated at the local nunnery-cum-schoolhouse, overseen by the fearsome Mother Superior George Goering and his henchmen in habits Herbert Himmler and Eric Goebbels. (It was not until the 1980s that the Catholic church in the North of England allowed women to become nuns). Norrissey would spend his mornings thrashing himself within an inch of his life with a tulip stalk under the supervision of Sister Himmler, then his afternoons kneeling on the stone chapel floor doing a rosary penitence for not having thrashed himself hard enough. Books were strictly forbidden at Norrissey's school but he sneaked in a few down the back of his trousers nonetheless. He relished the warmth of his own backside, exuding from those precious volumes – Keats, Eliot, Wilde, Pugwash. He started to write poetry – no rhymes – no words, even. But full of feeling, blank as those sheets of paper were, white as his own skin.

TWO

Norrissey switched off his transistor radio in disdain at the inane jabberings of the disco-fixated disc jockeys. None of them told them anything about his life. Was it too much to ask that instead of gurgling, "That was the fabulous Earth, Wind & Fire, now here's a great smash hit from Michael Jackson!" that they say, "Your name is Stephan Partick Norrissey, you live at 24, Cobblestone Terraces, Manchester, you have a fine, dark head of hair and you are an enigma shrouded in a drear cloud of intensity." Just once, just once, I would have liked them to say that. He would have liked them to say it, that is to say.

An outsider, engulfed by modern superficiality yet destined to be adored by everyone except bitter, fat female journalists (some girls are certainly bigger than others), Norrissey would form a band. They would be called The Joneses. (They would be the group all others would aspire to keep up with, but fail to). The guitarist's name was Johnny Mere - "Mere by name, Mere by nature," he once quipped, for if he had one merit, it was a recognition of his own smallness, both physical and spiritual. The remainder of the musical chores were performed by two other musicians whose names Norrissey did not recall. However, as Norrissey reliably and un-truculently remembered the drummer saying to him, "There's no need to remember our names, bandleader Norrissey, they're of no significance. We're just happy to play along in the background for whatever pittance you see fit to pay us."

THREE

For Norrissey, getting on Top Of The Pops was something he at once dreamed of and yet utterly disdained, such was his fascinating duality. However, these were the 1980s and an unspoken racism meant that it was hard for those whose skin was not disco-coloured to get booked on the programme. So, Norrissey hatched a plan. He and the band turned up at the BBC studios one Thursday evening in Afro wigs, their skins applied with burnt cork, minstrel-style. "Hi!" they said, jively, to the man at the door, waving their hands in the sort of way that makes some wonder if Britain is Britain any more. "The name of this here group of ours is The Blackfaces and we're here to play our new single 'Strut Your Superficial Stuff'." Naturally, they were immediately allowed on the show.

Of course, Norrissey and his band had no intention of playing 'Strut Your Superficial Stuff'. Instead, they played their actual new single, 'This Handsome Man', loosely based on Norrissey himself, a lyric he had penned at the band's suggestion. The Top Of The Pops audience were astounded. They had never heard lyrics of such depth, such perception, lyrics which spoke of the truth of life – that everything in this too-colourful world apart from a cold, damp puddle below a kerbstone in a Salford street on a tepid Sunday afternoon is a lie, and a false lie, one without a scintilla of truth, at that. For, as Oscar Wilde wrote, "A man should conceal his shirtflaps – but never the truth."

Then came the moment of revelation, as the "Blackfaces" stopped playing, and rubbed away the dark cork on their faces, revealing themselves as The Joneses – this had been the only way a white English group could be smuggled onto Top Of The Pops in the 1980s. They had paved the way so that other white English groups might follow, without wigs or make-up. A black day of the sort they weren't used to for disco musicians but a breakthrough for England!

FOUR

Norrissey's appearance on Top Of The Pops had been a sensation. However, this was as nothing compared to what he would do next. The disc jockey hosting Top Of The Pops had been Jimmy Savile. Now, rumours were rife about Jimmy Savile – the things he got up to - evil, disgusting things – but which no one dared to inform the authorities about. Norrissey, however, wasn't intimidated by Jimmy Savile's showbiz status - his image as a cigar-toting, yodelling big shot cut no ice with him. He would inform the police.

And so, the next day, the Greater Manchester Constabulary held a press conference, with Norrissey sitting alongside the Chief Constable. "Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "Thanks to irrefutable eyewitness testimony from Mr Norrissey, lead singer of The Joneses, we are issuing a warrant for the arrest of Mr James Savile. Mr Norrissey spotted him backstage at the recording of Top Of The Pops doing something unspeakable. He was eating a ham sandwich."

Three days later, the DJ was hanged. A week later, the Queen died – for shame, having awarded Saville his OBE in the first place. A few days after that, Margaret Thatcher, who hobnobbed with the disc jockey with a carnivorous secret, committed suicide by guillotine.

FIVE

By this point, Norrissey should have been King Of The World, if the truth be known – every time The Joneses played live, he found himself staring out at literally hundreds of fans. He'd even been sent a letter of appreciation by Elton John. But Norrissey's success bred enemies. Fat women, many of them, for some reason. As Oscar Wilde might have said, "To be fat may be regarded as a misfortune. To be a woman, too, looks like carelessness." Worst of all, though, was Jeff Travesty, head of the London record label Rough Justice. Travesty had stolen The Joneses from under the nose of Tony Won'tson, head of Industrial Workplace records in Manchester. Now, no one knew it, although everyone did – Travesty ruled London like Adolf Hitler, with a rod of iron. Had Norrissey been in charge, he would have ruled with a rod of irony, but that is just the sort of clever thing to have said that Travesty hated. And, having signed The Joneses, it was naturally in Travesty's interests to sell as few of their singles as possible, which is why Rough Justice only manufactured 30 copies of 'This Handsome Man'.

Worse still was the UK rock magazine the New Musical Train That Doesn't Stop At Any Stops (or NMTTDSAAS, as it was known). Norrissey once submitted an article to the magazine, not caring really whether they accepted it or not, but they sent it back, saying that he wasn't fat enough to work for them. When they saw him on Top Of The Pops, they instantly resented his svelte-like physique and sent their arch-hatchet reporter, a Bulie Churchill, to "get" him. However, she was so monstrously obese that she was unable to get out of the door of the offices, and, what with everyone else who worked there being grossly overweight, and what with the weight of all the articles Norrissey had sent them which they'd rejected but never thrown away because they secretly loved them and read them obsessively, the foundations of the offices gave way, with all of their writers buried amid their own unwarranted rancour and jealousy. The New Musical Train That Doesn't Stop At Any Stops was never heard of again.

SIX

2013 and Norrissey was at last vindicated. His enemies had all bowed in the face of reality. Jeff Travesty had admitted that they should have manufactured five million copies of 'This Handsome Man' as soon as they heard the demo of the single. Bulie Churchill had issued a public apology to him, on behalf of herself and women in general, saying, "You're right, Mr Norrissey, we just don't really cut it as a gender." Disco Tex And The Sex-O-Lettes and Althea & Donna had loosened their vice-like grip on the Top 30. He had printed his autobiography, instantly hailed as a classic, and been praised for the way in which it resisted wallowing masochistically in dour nostalgia, his generosity of spirit to those he had met along the road to success and his magnanimity in letting old, tedious grievances lie.

And yet, the man who basked in the adoration of millions had been exiled from the Kingdom of true and intimate love. No more. In 2013, in a ceremony that broke down new barriers in terms of civil partnership, Norrissey married the one man who had kept faith in him, adored him quietly from afar, been his companion in times of loneliness, his only true friend – himself. Beautiful and touching as the ceremony was, and moving as was the tribute Norrissey paid to Norrissey at the wedding dinner, and vice versa, some were sordid enough to wonder how they would manage to consummate the relationship. They need not have feared – for if anyone was able to insert himself up his own rectum, it was Norrissey.

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