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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, June 09, 2008
    Drowned in beer
    Sadly, I think that Mark Fisher in The Wire has got it mostly right when he slams Mark E Smith's 'autobiography' Renegade: The Lives and Tales of Mark E. Smith as being 'a wasted opportunity - a chance for a skewed social history, for Smith to actually do some writing, drowned in beer...'

    Fisher reckons that besides a bit about Smith's interest in the work of Arthur Machen, there's little insight here: 'the wierd stuff is kept contained, for fear of disrupting the pubbish levity'. I reckon that there's actually quite a bit more than that in Renegade (see blog of April 19), particularly insights into Smith's sense of place, and values which are deeply rooted in his admiration of male working class role models like his dad and men he worked on the docks with as a youngster. But the erratic, uneven and rambling Renegade is clearly the product of a series of beery interviews in Prestwich boozers. There's no escaping the validity of Fisher's criticism, that 'Renegade isn't a book, not really. It isn't written, not even by a ghost. It's a transcript of some comedy routines and some spiteful stabs familiar to anyone who has read a few interviews with The Fall.'

    Fisher reckons that Smith has fallen into the trap of personality and become obsessed with being the 'clever prole in a pub'. The great strength of The Fall is the way the music is an excellent channel for - the brilliant fruit of - Smith's 'working class autodidactism'. Given the deviant style of the music I guess that the book was always going to be anomalous, but I share Fisher's disappointment that it could have been a lot more substantial than it is.