Dandy in the Underworld

dandyI was deeply saddened a few weeks ago when I heard Sebastian Horsley had died.  I never met him but I saw him once in Soho, just walking down the street doing his thing.  The show based on his life currently playing at the Soho Theatre was based on this book, his autobiography, and so I decided that it was only right that I pick up and read this book as soon as possible.  Out of respect.  Plus, I wasn’t about to cook up a speedball of coke and heroin in his honor, so the book would have to do.

The last page of the book says “there comes a time in every person’s life when they realize they adore me.  Yours has come.”  and its true.  I wanted to hate Horsley at times in this book – for his destructive nature and for his unbelievably arrogant tone – but I never could.  I found the story of his life at times more revolting than anything else I’ve ever read – yeah, those who went to Geek Love looking for a gross-out ought to investigate this book – but I still liked Horsley.  I wanted him to save himself and when you realize that he can’t, you simply smile and incline your head and pick out your best shirt to wear the next day.

Someone mentioned, in a retrospective on the show (still playing, I believe), that some of the lines were eerie now that Horsley has passed.  Very true.  He talks a lot about death and suicide and overdosing and all of that.  But he doesn’t seem ready, at the end.  Hence our surprise when he was found having OD’d – it wasn’t suicide but it was horrible and sad nonetheless.  He was a man who had tried many things and somehow managed to bring the spirit of the late 17th and early 18th centuries to modern times.  He was truly a dandy.  I may have pretensions to being one at times – I dress a little outrageously sharp at times, I have a sword cane, etc – but he was the real deal.  This book shows you how fucked up that meant he was – but you can’t deny that the man had fun.

The biggest problem comes, as I mentioned, from Horsley’s voice.  Jesus, he was arrogant and full of himself.  He speaks so glibly about things that you must imagine there was an underlying neurosis.  Which, of course, there was – there were many, in fact.  But despite all of the aggrandisement, I would have loved to (having now read the novel) shake his hand on the streets of Soho and watch him saunter off.  To have said that I met him.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.  Tough to get through some of the graphic drug use, strange sexual encounters, and self-important narration… but it resolves quite nicely and there are an infinite number of brilliant and sharp quotes.  If I did drugs, Mr. Horsley, I’d have saluted you that way – but instead, I place your book reverentially on my biography shelf.  Between Louis Armstrong and Hitler.  You three ought to have a party.

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Bad News (The Patrick Melrose Novels, Book 2) « Raging Biblioholism

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