Thursday, December 5, 2013

Morrissey's Memoir Specially Edited for U.S. Audience

Many of my friends are huge fans of The Smiths, an English alternative-rock band that had a string of hits in the '80s. So when it was confirmed that the frontman of the band, Morrissey, was releasing an autobiography, they were beyond excited.
Morrissey as a young man.
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Adding to this excitement was that no one was even aware that he was writing a book. The music blog BrooklynVegan called it the "Morrissey autobiography that you didn't know was coming." But when it came, it immediately became a best seller. According to the Belfast Telegraph, it outsold the new Bridget Jones novel, Mad About the Boy, the first week it was released in the United Kingdom. (First-week sales figures for the book were 35,000 copies, compared to 32,000 copies of the Bridget Jones novel, reported the Belfast Telegraph.) Further fomenting my friends' hysteria was that the book only seemed to be available for purchase in the UK. Desperation led a few to buy it through Amazon's UK website.
A display of Autobiography, by Morrissey.
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Finally, on December 3, the publisher of the book, Penguin Classics, allowed for it to be released in the United States through G.P. Putnam's Sons. Flipping through the U.S. edition of Autobiography, fans began to notice that something was missing from Morrissey's recollection of his childhood, adolescence, time with The Smiths, subsequent solo career, public court battles, and private life. There was little-to-no mention of his long-term relationship with photographer Jake Owen Walters. This significant relationship, homosexual in nature, was edited out for the U.S. audience. Meanwhile, details of another long-term relationship, this one with a woman, have remained in the book. 

Anyone who is a fan of Morrissey and thus would purchase the book is well aware of his sexuality. So why not leave the details concerning Morrissey's male partner in the book? Was Penguin Classics - and by extension, G.P. Putnam's Sons - afraid that the mere mention of homosexuality would offend U.S. readers of the book? Would prevent it from being stocked in chain stores across the United States? Would adversely affect U.S. sales? If that's the case, like typical corporate suits, they haven't a clue. And they definitely don't know the fans of Morrissey and of The Smiths. Even those who aren't fans still love a juicy story: it's human nature to flip through a book to get to "the good part." The publisher would have done well to leave Morrissey's story alone.

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