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 :