Mixed reviews for Morrissey, but fans turn out

Reviews of Morrissey's memoir, Autobiography, have ranged from an enthusiastic "five stars" to a damning verdict of "droning narcissism".

However fans have been turning out for the memoir, with Penguin announcing that it sold over  20,000 copies of Autobiography during the book's first day (16th).

A bookseller at Waterstones Trafalgar Square said its entire stock of the book, 50 copies, had sold out by 11.00am. The chain's spokesperson Jon Howells said: "The book has flown out, it has done astonishingly well...We've seen brilliant sales across the country, and have more ready to go into shops which are running low." Meanwhile North London's Big Green Bookshop sold 60 copies at its midnight opening for the book's publication, with "lots more enquiries."

Neil McCormack, writing in The Telegraph, gave the book five stars, and called it "the best written musical autobiography since Bob Dylan's Chronicles".

He said that from the opening lines, "you know you are in good hands", and described the book as being written in: "a beautifully measured prose style that combines a lilting, poetic turn of phrase and acute quality of observation, revelling in a kind of morbid glee at life’s injustice with arch, understated humour, a laughter that is a shadow away from depression or anger. As such, it is recognisably the voice of the most distinctive British pop lyricist of his era."

John Harris' review in The Guardian also focuses on on the book's strong opening, as said: "For its first 150 pages, Autobiography comes close to being a triumph… In some of the writing, you can almost taste his environment." However, he said that once the book begins to describe Morrissey's success in The Smiths, "in keeping with an unwritten rule of celebrity memoir, Autobiography takes a serious turn for the worse". Harris criticises Morrissey for dwelling on the his 1996 court case with former-badmate Mike Joyce, and said: "when the verbiage dedicated to this stuff threatens to eclipse what he has to say about every other aspect of his career, something has gone badly wrong."

He also said: "As with so many famous-person books, it also betrays a lack of editing. So too do some very un-Morrissey-like American spellings ("glamor", "center" – this is in the UK edition), his strange habit of jumping between tenses, and the odd passage that simply doesn't make sense."

Boyd Tonkin's review in The Independent sums up the memoir as "droning narcissism". He wrote: "For 70 or 80 pages, perhaps for 150 (out of a patience-taxing 457), a properly disinterested observer could nurture the hope that Steven Patrick Morrissey will make good on the promise of 25 years of achingly melancholy lyrics with a memoir that might stand the test of time," he complained: "the superstar's puerile litany of grievances eventually takes centre-stage."

Tonkin said: "Penguin's complete abdication of authority comes to the fore… An editor with nous and guts could probably carve a 'classic' 200-page testimony of northern upbringing and early music-business days from this material."

He concluded that while the book "may harm his name a little", "it ruins that of his publisher". Tonkin said: "For the stretches in which in his brooding, vulnerable, stricken voice uncoils, particularly across his Mancunian youth, Morrissey will survive his unearned elevation. I doubt that the reputation of Penguin Classics will."