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Dandy in the Underworld: An Unauthorized Autobiography Paperback – March 11, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

British artist Horsley's biggest claim to fame is the crucifixion ceremony he underwent in the Philippines in 2000, an attempt to break the limits of life and make an artistic statement. The feat is the apex of Horsley's unauthorized autobiography, which chronicles his life as an artist, a junkie and a self-professed dandy. Pithy and engaging, Horsley bares all, painting himself as a misogynist, a sexual deviant and a narcissist. While the memoir starts slow—drawn out accounts of childhood travails, tawdry family history and boarding-school miseries—Horsley's writing picks up when he's describing his cyclical addiction to and withdrawal from drugs. A crack high is a whole-body orgasm and heartbreaking ecstasy; heroin is molten sunshine. By the time he is on a raft in the Philippines, paddling to the site of his crucifixion, he's been in and out of exclusive rehab clinics and self-imposed bouts of cold turkey time, not to mention a stint as a prostitute. By the time a 50-something Horsley winds down his life history—wealthy and privileged from birth (his family owned a food empire), he was also uncannily successful in the stock market—he is nearly bankrupt. He ran through, by his own estimation, £100,000 on his drug addictions and the same amount of money each on his other addiction, prostitutes, and tailored clothing befitting his stature as a dandy. (Mar. 11)Correction: The title of Lea Jacobson's book was left out in the December 10 issue. The title is Bar Flower: My Decadently Destructive Days and Nights as a Tokyo Nightclub Hostess.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (March 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061461253
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061461255
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,370,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
"I am not a writer. I am a performer. Writing is merely a way of bringing myself to the notice of the world." Thus says Englishman Sebastian Horsley, and he certainly got my notice in _Dandy in the Underworld: An Unauthorized Autobiography_ (Harper Perennial), although reading it is often like the horrific roadside crash you cannot take your eyes off. A reader cannot help thinking that this is yet another fake memoir; it is just too weird, too incredible, even if it were written by an actual dandy, bisexual, drug-addicted, self-obsessed, obsessive-compulsive, libertine artist. As far as I can tell, Horsley really exists, and really has had the adventures recalled here, although if he has exaggerated some for comic effect that is the least of his sins. If you want to read a memoir by an addict who has grueling tales of the overpowering effects of drugs and the profound misery that they can cause, but you don't want to be made miserable, check this out. Horsley is hilarious. He jokes on every page, witty puns and turns of phrases that simultaneously counter and highlight any grimness in his story. He may borrow (nay, steal) a phrase from Oscar Wilde or Quentin Crisp, but this is a compellingly original memoir, strange, revolting, funny, and self-serving by turns. "If you can't brag about doing something well," he advises, "then brag about doing it badly. At any rate, brag." He has taken to heart his own advice.

In a chapter which is the apology for the dandy's life ("Mein Camp"), Horsley lists gloves, shirts ("I devoted myself to their design"), hats, and suits of all colors, and let's just give you the ones that were pink: "Soft pink, hard pink, petal pink, shell pink, shocking pink, even more shocking pink, flaming pink, salmon pink, prawn-cocktail pink, spam pink.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By adorian on July 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
When I started reading this book, I was amazed at the constant barrage of glittering witticisms. Call them epigrams or bons mots or apercus. They are stunning, usually 3 or 4 per page. And then I got suspicious. One of them seemed to be pure Oscar Wilde. Another was worthy of Mark Twain. Finally, on page 89, the author admits that a lot of them had originally been written by Quentin Crisp. A few pages later, there is an uncredited but direct steal from Woody Allen, shortly followed by one from Bette Midler (who, I think, claimed that Joan Rivers stole it from her). And then he clumsily misquotes a famous one from George Herbert.

On page 258, he finally confesses to ten years of keeping "journals full of quips, gags, aphorisms, and epigrams," most of which he is quoting in this book, usually without any credit or context. Worse, he will create a paragraph that seems to be there merely to support one of these epigrams. (Which came first?--the epigram or the experience?) After a while, one gets the temptation to try to create one's own. "I would rather write a bad book than read a good one." "It's easier to steal someone else's perfect epigram than it is to create your own." "Which is worse--to invert someone else's bon mot or to invert your entire life?" "It's easier to write prose like this on drugs than it is to read it when not on drugs."

Why should we care about another rich kid who squanders his inheritance on drugs? Just because you idolized the Sex Pistols doesn't mean we have to read page after page about your drug-addled attempts to imitate them. As someone who never inherited money, I have zero sympathy for a rich kid who delights in wasting Daddy's money on crack and heroin and whores.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Madeira Darling on February 8, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mister Horsley's passing lends a bitter-sweet note to this dark, sardonic, hilarious memoir. His wit and ability to tell a compelling story are well displayed in this delicious little volume, from his "Evelyn Waugh meets Hunter S. Thompson" childhood, to his obsession with Marc Bolan, to his punk rock teenage years and beyond.

He has the all the style and wit of Wilde, and the soul of a true anarchist. Horsley was an artist, and one can quite honestly say after reading his biography, his greatest work was his own life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By NikMid on August 21, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the best books ever written by a super lovely man who lived very much on his own terms. Very very dark on occasion and my Scottish friend who read it threw it across the room in disgust. . . something that Sebastian found highly amusing when I told him before he died.

It is a fast highly amusing read. Totally recommend it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By W. ADAM MANDELBAUM on January 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
Sebastian said at US Customs, "I have nothing to declare but Oscar Wilde's genius." They wouldn't let him into the country. Read this book, and you'll find plenty of genius--Oscar Wilde's that is. Horsley, or more appropriately, Whoresley, is irreverent, illogical, and funny as all get out. Put down that yellow lilly, and pick up this book.
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