Continuum’s new series of small-scale
books on classic albums wastes no time in changing its format.
Instead of being a non-fiction work about an album, Joe Pernice’s book
on the Smiths' Meat is Murder is a work of fiction that revolves around
and evokes the spirit of the album.
A published poet and a singer-songwriter
of some repute, Pernice takes a decidedly American approach to one of the
quintessentially British indie classics in this book. Pernice’s novella is the
story of an unnamed narrator, an anglophile feeling lost and isolated in the New
England of the mid-eighties. Teen
suicide was the order of the day and the Smiths were the kings of UK miserablism
an ocean away. Manchester was an
exotic place packed with wonder and possibility.
To a North American, British indie offers music far enough outside the
norm of mainstream rock to be different, insuring the listener needn’t fear
the horrible curse of empty popularity nor was the music dangerously brainy
enough to be unpopular.
Pernice captures the essence of the anglophile UK indie lovers that exist in little groups all over North America, desperate for any validation of their beloved music yet terrified that it might possibly happen and anyone might get in on it. Even more so, however, is his extended contemplation on the spirit of _Meat is Murder._ This is the heart of the novella, what gives it its spark.
Pernice’s Meat is Murder
isn’t about the unrequited love that so often gets associated with the Smiths.
It is about a far more horrible feeling than unrequited love.
It’s about the horrible feeling of being in love and the terrible
nightmare of not knowing if she likes you in that way.
She knows you exist, so there isn’t the acknowledgement of unrequited
love, it might – might - be requited and that makes it all the more painful,
the uncertainty being the killer, the not knowing where you stand or if you
stand, or where you could stand. If
she didn’t even know you existed, if she didn’t know who you are, then the
certainty is reassuring, you can embrace the pain and glory of unrequited love,
thrive in the pain. But if -- if -- something might happen, something could
happen, then there is nothing to stand on, nothing to hold on to, you are in
freefall, hurtling at the earth at the speed of light.
Pernice’s novella captures these feelings of the despair of possibility, of rushing out to meet the world and the world rushing in to meet you, and the price of that meeting. As sound tracked by the Smiths.