DANDY IN THE UNDERWORLD by Sebastian Horsley


An Unauthorised Autobiography
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A guide to supremely selfish hedonism.

Born into a British family of lazy wealth and contemptuous privilege, Horsley had little use when growing up for, well, anything. His father, a millionaire businessman and paraplegic, never realized just how wonderful a boy Sebastian was. His mother, a dark empress of well-announced and dramatically failed suicide attempts, is charitably described by her son as “about as useful as a nun’s tit.” So Horsley’s life began in a state of decrepit aristocracy so Grand Guignol it was only a couple of murders and an incestuous romance away from a V.C. Andrews novel. He dawdled through an expensive education, wasted on someone more interested in imitating idols like Marc Bolan and Johnny Rotten. A few failed bands and a serious drug habit later, he fell in with Jimmy Boyle, a cheerfully psychopathic Scottish murderer who thoroughly charmed the Guardian-reading intelligentsia with his tale of supposed personal reform. While ostensibly running a criminal-rehab organization with Boyle, Horsley indulged in some serious self-destruction, including a stint as one of Boyle’s many not-so-willing sexual partners. He wasn’t having much luck figuring out what to do with his life, which he describes here in a seemingly inexhaustible flow of knotty, bitter one-liners, doled out every several paragraphs. (“Dandyism is a lie which reveals the truth and the truth is that we are what we pretend to be.”) He finally bottomed out in the last, worst resort of the work-averse narcissist: performance art.

At least the supremely self-obsessed and hateful Horsley has the good manners not to leave readers on a note of false uplift. This is one dandy who will go sneering into the grave, bitching from beyond about the quality of guests at the funeral service.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-06-146125-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2007