On… Morrissey’s inner monster

“‘November Spawned A Monster’ lies at the imaginative centre of Morrissey’s writing. ‘It was a pinnacle’, he has said. ‘In its invasion of the mind of a “poor twisted child, so ugly”, trapped and unloveable in its wheelchair, it expresses me most accurately. It’s the record I have striven to make’. Why is the song central to Morrissey’s work and what is it about the song that ‘expresses [him] most accurately’?

Monstrosity is the other of normality, and in its various senses is one of the most persistent subjects in Morrissey’s lyrics. One sense of ‘monstrous’ is ‘a huge or outrageous thing’. Typically, of course, it is understood in a physical sense (Frankenstein’s monster, it will be recalled, is a being of ‘gigantic stature’, whose ‘yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath’). But it clearly applies to nonphysical ‘things’ too, such as feelings or affection. (The real tragedy of Frankenstein, to stay with this example, is that ‘monstrous’ ballooning of the creature’s emotions that results from their lack of reciprocation.) And Morrissey, more than anyone in pop music, is the chronicler of ‘oversized’ feelings – of emotions that exceed articulation but defy containment, and overwhelm the experiencing subject; of feelings, as in Frankenstein, that find no response and as a result swell gigantically to fill the space of the absent object; of embarrassing feelings that make their audience flinch and squirm, and are a scandal to ‘polite’ discourse.”

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