Posted: July 6, 2011 in Uncategorized, Writing
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The first thing I noticed about James Maker’s memoir, Autofellatio, when I saw it advertised on his friend Mark Simpson’s blog, was its inspired title.

That is not strictly true. The first thing I noticed, was James Maker. I think it was to do with the contrast between the usual buff, big-pecced (often bland) boys that I was accustomed to seeing on Mr MetroDaddy Simpson’s blog, and this vision of unique, subversive beauty. There’s something about a man wearing six inch heels and pointing a gun in your face that is hard to resist.

But resist I did. Out of sheer spite. How dare someone be that attractive, and also be the author of what was by all accounts a brilliant autobiography, and also be all chummy with my then sort of hero all at once? I vowed never to read Mr Maker’s book and never to admit that I would sometimes furtively return to that page on Mark’s blog, for just one more look at his beguiling form.

Unfortunately my plan failed.  When Mr Maker turned up recently in Internet land, guns blazing and his turquoise shirt in his twitter photo perfectly setting off his piercing blue eyes, I couldn’t help but fall for his charms. I gave up the ghost and read Autofellatio, greedily guzzling on its every word.

The title is inspired. By being so upfront about the narcissistic, naval-gazing, masturbatory aspect of writing about your own life, Mr Maker has been able to avoid coming across as falsely modest, as many autobiographers do. This is a life worth telling, he seems to be saying. You don’t have to listen. But you won’t be able to help yourself once you start.

Simpson has likened Autofellatio to The Naked Civil Servant by Quentin Crisp, and I can see the similarities. They both speak in a painfully honest, painfully funny voice, not sparing the reader any details, due to such boring considerations as taste, vulgarity or triviality. So a tale of a doomed trip on a Manchester bus with Morrissey, 30 years ago, with Maker wearing a bowler hat, is told with as much sincerity, wit and care, as his heartbreaking description of him standing on the window ledge of his flat in Peckham,  much more recently, contemplating bringing the end of the story much nearer.

Maker does actually recount a brief, momentous phone call he makes to his icon Mr Crisp, back in the dingy landline-only 1970s. But I will leave you to read about that yourself.

The book is full of great one-liners, that create a staccato rhythm to the narrative. A few I liked best include:

‘I feel that Morrissey has achieved the impossible. It is the straightforward that eludes him. He had to become famous because although he is a savant in the auditorium, he is a dead loss in a launderette.’

‘I fail to see what progressive rock is for, besides making life seem much longer than it actually is’.

‘Violently rained on by hailstones, drenched and with running eye-make up, the parade disintegrated and the liberating Christian army rapidly took on the appearance of an Alice Cooper convention’.

Deservedly, Autofellatio is longlisted for this year’s Polari Prize, a celebration of writing about the ‘queer experience’ (whatever that is). Maybe I am just shallow, but I would have liked to have read a bit more about the spit and sawdust of Maker’s ‘queer experience’. He writes about his ‘life partner’, for example, with great love, but not in much detail. I guess even autofellatio artists want to keep some things private.

I was going to use this review to write my own musings on autobiography/biography and fiction, and the differences and similarities between them. But I don’t want to take the spotlight off the star of the show. James Maker isn’t a famous rock star. Some might call him a failed rock star. But his writing is nothing if not illuminating.  Long may he shine.

Autofellatio is available on Amazon Kindle at a ridiculously low price:

James Maker and the  Polari Prize longlist :

  1. Elise says:

    I was going to review this too, but as you’re the only commenting reader on my blog, I thought it was pointless in terms of giving Mr. Maker “exposure”! This book is so entertaining in content and prose that at the sinfully low price, there’s not a *chance* of purchaser disappointment. I hope if he wins the Polari he’ll get a print edition and reissues of his fabulous music (which everyone can check out on YouTube). That’s my dream, although awards don’t always work that way. But they’re always nice to talk about afterwards!

    Also in my dream, the print edition will have a lot of photos. Because, yeah, like you said.

  2. Jim says:

    I think “Autofellatio” is an apt title for any autobiography. That’s about what most of them amount to anyway.

  3. Gs says:

    Ok, homosexuality is no longer a detestation, cross-dressing is simply a joke, and gunpointing is a ploy, a marketing ploy.

    Exactly how have we as people changed? Except to allow, ‘Ok I’m happy, I’m now in the cultural mix.’, we probably haven’t.

    Truthfully, I guess there is some societal advancement to be proud of in all this.

    • I have no idea what your point is GS

    • Elise says:

      I’m not sure when that photo was from, but I’m guessing it’s from the 90s, when p.c. was still surrounding representations of homosexual men (if it doesn’t indeed even now). It doesn’t, at any rate, represent comfort at being part of a cultural mix.

      And Mr. Maker, as his autobio recounts, was wearing heels in public a long time before… cross-dressing was a joke? That happened when?

      • Gs says:

        I think the greater accessibility of gay bars, gay magazines and literature, as well as greater participation in mainstream media are all indicative of a ‘comfort at being part of the cultural mix.’

        And I’m going to challenge you a little bit on this one as well as stand-up fora better explication.
        What part of cross-dressing is not a joke?

  4. Gs says:

    Ok, I reread the post. I think my initial reaction was to feel like I got slapped by the determined effrontery of the title and picture.

    It sounds like an interesting autobiography, but still, my exposure to that world is one of ‘Oh sure that stuff started with Elton John and David Bowie, . . . and ended there as well.’

    I wonder what seemingly outrageous stuff will happen in another 40 years and make Mr. Maker seem tame in comparison.

    • what ‘stuff’ do you mean GS?

      • Gs says:

        Stuff would mean outlandishness, in this case, gender and sexuality based. Heels, mesh shirt, gun, etc.

        I’m sure outlandishness has been around prior to Mr. Marker or Elton John, etc. but I guess I didn’t think of it as a continuum but rather as a happening or occurrence. A happening with a beginning as well as end. Yet, someone manages to take each generations mores and turn them on their head.

        Again, I shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover and it does sound like an interesting read but still, this cover and title should be given it’s due as not being, shall we say . . .pastoral.

        • as it covers a life it goes back to when Mr Maker was born, in the early 1960s. So he is not from a very different generation to Elton John/David Bowie etc. he didn’t turn up in 2010 in that get up just to sell his book.

  5. Elise says:

    Jumping back in here… I think the point of this photo is that it’s conceived in purely aesthetic terms. Gun and high heels are symbols are effrontery, the whole thing lent effectiveness by the attractive face and figure. It’s in quotation marks, but in a good way (which is hard to pull off). But, the purely aesthetic has political consequences, and so it’s never apolitical.

  6. If he was a woman the aesthetic would be totally different. He knows his body is gendered. it is not pure it is gendered and sexualised.

  7. Jim says:

    “If he was a woman the aesthetic would be totally different. ”

    And old news. That would be Annie Oakley, in cowboy boots, touring Europe and entertaining all the crowned heads, a hundred years ago.

  8. A note from the Maker of Autofellatio:

    ‘The photo is part of a session for a UK album cover (that also features the other musicians).
    The idea behind it is in the RPLA chapter (of Autofellatio)

    We are queers who play hard rock. We do not conform. You are a confederacy of denim-jacketed, dyed-in-the-bouffant bigots who do not understand the essence of Rock and Roll.
    I stand before you in my high heels with my Magnum 45 to send you the message: EVOLVE – OR PERISH’

  9. […] I am delighted to find that the marvellous James Maker has been shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize with his searingly honest and sparklingly funny memoir,  Autofellatio […]

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