Pop star Morrissey has cocked what many would describe as a well-deserved snook at literary snobs like me by demanding that his autobiography be published by Penguin Classics. And Penguin Classics, to general astonishment, have agreed.
One can only guess at why Penguin Classics should dilute their well-established brand in such a manner, and risk alienating their core readership. Of course, this Morrissey book is likely to have sales that will dwarf those of their more traditional offerings, such as, say, Tom Holland’s splendid-looking new translation of Herodotus. One can certainly sympathise with that: the relentless sidelining of high culture within our society, the easy availability on the net of classic texts, and cheap and often free electronic downloads, must all have taken their toll on Penguin Classics’ sales figures. And for those who ask “what shall it profit a publisher if it shall gain the whole world and lose its own soul?”, the answer is “quite a lot, actually”.
But I remain sceptical that Penguin Classics were motivated primarily by lucre. It seems to me far more likely that they made this decision purely to spur me into writing another intemperate and vituperative rant on this blog about the decline of our cultural values. Well, just to spite them, I won’t. So there.
I bet they’re all feeling jolly silly about this now.