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Sunday, 25 October 2015

A little textual analysis

I'm no sycophant, so I can honestly say this: List of the Lost is a mess. A glorious mess, but a mess none-the-less. Boston college kids ranting about Thatcher is 1975? The American dero with his accurate but unlikely rant about the British Cruelity Family? "...snoozled in sleepland; a smiling sleep of dreamland." Really? Really? REALLY?

Don't get me wrong, I love it. It will become a cult classic, if it isn't already. It's the "White Album" of novels. Ezra's "bulbous salutation" and Harri's "manly central issue" that Tracey finds "too slight to grip" will be much quoted. And this: “Whoever put the pain in painting had also put the fun in funeral.” It's overloaded with such gems.

But it's not the quality of the (often tortuous) prose that concerns me here. I'm more concerned with matters of identity. Many co-incidences have already been pointed out (but I have failed to find mentioned the obvious FTM reference on page 109: "Edgar Allan Poe couldn't concoct this."). What I'm interested in here is to draw attention to something else.

The writing style of LOTL is baroque, brash and overbearing. It's a wordy tome that's slim in pages, but long in lengthy sentences (woe-betide David Morrissey or whomever else gets the job of reading it into a talking book, should it get that far). There's the wit of Autobiography, but in LOTL it's in overdrive. They share the dialogue in italics. They share the expected Morrissey-esque themes. But what gets me is that, although there's the occasional phrase lifted from a Morrissey lyric, it's very different from Morrissey's well-honed song verses. And if people thought Autobiography needed editing, then we can only assume that Michael Bracewell got the sack after that effort and M decided to fulfill that role himself.

Stylistically, it's quite different from what we've seen on the MW blob and on TTY. The messages are familiar, with the novel's oopart discussions of Churchill and of meat and the college-based conspiratorial abuse cover-up in the novel constantly reminded me of the Skull and Crossbones conspiracy theory played with on the MW blob, but the means are quite different.

Ever since reading the Brazil short story on MW (and re-published in the Blue Rose Society tumblr) I'd wondered if it showed the way to the novel. Thematically, it does; sex and death and the squalid abuse of power and money. Stylistically, though, they are quite distinct.

So, here's what I did. I popped some text samples into the Online Authorship Attribution Tool. I copied and pasted some prose from LOTL (seen in the analysis as Author 1), some TTY statements signed off as being composed by Morrissey (Author 2) and samples from Brazil (this went into Author Unknown field). What is being measured is how Brazil compares to the sample texts from LOTL (Author 1) and TTY (Author 2).

Here's the results:

It's hardly conclusive and this analysis tool may not mean that much. Maybe the prose of LOTL is so overblown that there is nothing in the Morrissey canon that is stylistically analogous, thereby creating a bias that gravitates Brazil closer to the TTY samples through their more familiar conventional prose styles. As the disclaimer says:
This tool is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. No guarantee is given as to the accuracy of the results, and the outcomes are not to be used for commercial or legal purposes.

However, the result is intriguing, as it suggests that when handed to an anonymous, unthinking software tool that wouldn't know the emotional difference between Please Help The Cause Against Loneliness and Mambo No.5*, it turns out that Brazil is more likely to have been written by Morrissey than his debut novel.

* I compared those two song lyrics with Kiss Me A Lot and the Online Authorship Attribution Tool erred on the side of PHTCAL being written by the same author as KMAL, but the result didn't make it into the green.


  1. This confirms what many of us have thought, that Brazil was written by Morrissey.
    Congratulations on your research Comrade, it produces a very interesting result.
    I also heartily agree with your comments about LOTL.

    I found Brazil an excellent story and perhaps Moz should consider writing short stories for his next tome.

  2. I should say - that Brazil was PROBABLY written by Morrissey !

  3. Interesting piece Comrade. I genuinely loved LOTL - whenever I open it, there's something so daring about it, and very rich linguistically, verging on poetic. I love its oddness. Innovation is always a delicious risk.

    I wouldn't be surprised to find out Moz likely wrote Brazil, I'm sure many of us wouldn't be. Very psychologically fascinating and well-written. I will give it another read soon. It would make sense to me that Moz may be able to bring to life a variety of writing styles that we aren't even aware of; I think he could keep us continually on our toes.

    This analysis tool has me quite intrigued. I've never heard of it before. I'll probably fool around with it for ages now, maybe with a bit of my own writing too.

    1. I should clarify that LOTL's roots did penetrate to my core on occasion.

      I would even go as far as to suggest that the book is itself partly a parody; a (Gothic) parody of what people expect from Morrissey and like all good parodies, it is grounded in some searing truths.

    2. I was chatting to a certain someone on Twitter a few weeks ago. And I mentioned that I still hadn't read LOTL in full (STILL haven't).
      And his reply was just so brilliant. He said - "nobody has".

    3. I had wondered about that when no one seemed to have picked up on the obvious FTM reference on page 109. You couldn't make this stuff up! I have read it all, but in small grabs over several days.

    4. Although I don't view the quote on p 109 as an obvious FTM reference, I find your piece quite fascinating, Comrade. I'm glad you pointed out the thematic similarities between Brazil and LOTL - although they are quite obvious and I had been thinking along the same lines, I don't recall anyone else mentioning them (but I'm quite forgetful lately). As Marianne suggested, I too think that Moz is probably adept at writing in many different styles at will (รก la Pessoa), and he chose the style of LOTL for a specific purpose. In typical Moz fashion, I believe there is more lurking beneath the surface than is immediately apparent - and yet many don't bother to do much, if any, digging.

    5. I too don't believe the Edgar Allan Poe concoction in LotL is a reference to FTM, but interestingly, for over 60 years, on the anniversary of Poe's death, someone placed 3 roses on his grave stone.

  4. quite interesting really as I clearly remember in the chatroom how much I said I liked the Leonid Albrecht story and moz59 was quite intrigued as to what I liked about it at the time, I must add, as we all know, we were told that it was sent in by anon in 2009 I think was the year, strange enough when MW first appeared

    1. love my random throwing of commas all over the place, also my back to front sentences, wonder how the tool would pick up on it