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Dandy in the Underworld [Hardcover]

Sebastian Horsley
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Sep 2007
This is the story of Sebastian Horsley's life. Growing up at High Hall, in Hull, with his alcoholic mother, who regularly attempted suicide, his stepfather, a cult member dressed in orange, and his father, a crippled millionaire, Sebastian Horsley couldn't wait to leave home. Searching for happiness, meaning and a good outfit he embarked on a doomed career as a punk guitarist, had a stormy relationship with a notorious Scottish gangster, enjoyed a wildly successful period as a stock-market entrepeneur and experienced a near fatal stint as a shark-hunter. Sebastian charts his years as a dandy, an artist, a male escort and a brothel connoisseur. There are the love affairs, with Rachel 1 and Rachel 2, and a harrowing descent into heroin and crack addiction. DANDY IN THE UNDERWORLD evokes his desperate attempts to get clean, culminating in his crucifixion in the Phillippines.

Sure to shock and surprise, Sebastian Horsley recounts his story with excruciating self-knowledge and a savage wit.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; 1st Edition edition (6 Sep 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340934077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340934074
  • Product Dimensions: 3.1 x 14.5 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 108,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Sebastian Horsley is a pervert who stands for everything that is wrong with British society today.'

(Jeremy Vine )

'He is simultaneously enthralling, charming and fantastically annoying.'

(Will Self )

'A posturing popinjay, a neon narcissist, an incorrigible entertainer'

(Jessica Berens, Observer )

'Sebastian is an atheist, but the first I've ever met whose spiritual tradition doesn't just come from a lack of imagination. His attempts to become other than he is, are epic.'

(Nick Cave )

'Dandy in the Underworld is immortality for a while (with a dashing immorality)'

(Sarah Lucas )

Book Description

'One of the funniest, strangest and most revolting memoirs ever written' Sunday Times --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Five stars or one star - not too many books get such extreme reactions? The truth is this book deserves both ratings and extreme reactions are certainly what Horsely seeks.

In this his autobiography, Sebatsian simultanesouly views himself as the solipsistic centre of all that matters and yet confesses to abject poverty in terms of originality and ideas. Half of the book is about the main-line hedonism that can be enjoyed if one has absolutely no morals and total self-conviction, the other half is about the abyss of self doubt and a decline into addled lunacy.

Suffice to say, Horsley provides some of literature's more extreme scenarios - I will not quote the startling lines that follow a first "romantic encounter" with a Scottish hardman gangster of some renowned. Despite having read some pretty outre stuff, I still winced. And few autobiographies feature detailed descriptions of having oneself crucified.

Horsley has a nice turn of phrase a lot of the time and if occasionally it is all a bit over-wraught, then move on and some new gem of offensiveness appears. Dancing on pretty thin ice on pretty much all matters of possible contention (relationships, sex, race, age, disability, family) there is something to offend everyone here. Surely an achievment of sorts?

I suspect that what those criticsing this book really mean is that they don't like the sounds of the book's main protagonist (one Mr Sebastian Horseley). Given the ends to which he goes to ensure he portrays himself as an utter degenrate this makes his work quite a success n'est pas?

"Dandy" is well worth reading - reading is not always meant to be about nor nodding emphatically while reaffirming one's existing ideas. I suggest following this up immediately with another autobiography - "Quite Contrary" the autobiography of Mary Whitehouse. Life is full of oppositions - enjoy.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Sebastian Horsley is (or rather was, since he has sadly died recently) a very intelligent author. Every sentence has been thought out carefully. I enjoyed this book more the second time, when I could savour the words rather than looking for the story. Some of the things he did were unpleasant, but only to himself. He is not some stupid punk rocker, but a sensitive man who chose to live an eccentric lifestyle. His attitudes to life, the universe and everything are refreshingly honest and free from the need to appease other people's points of view. We can't all live our lives in such an uninhibited manner, but reading about someone who did is interesting, if not a role model.

I don't understand why some people find this book offensive. Sebastian was always very polite and well spoken and I would suggest people check out his YouTube videos. Whilst I would not choose to follow his examples, I do think that many of his conclusions about life are totally correct. He was sanguine about his own future death which unfortunately has come to pass due to a heroin overdose. I would have liked him around for longer to see how he viewed the world as he got older (he was my age). But at least we have his book as a record of a remarkable person who made his mark.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Middle Ground 7 Dec 2008
Few books seem to have sent readers flying to extremes as this one. Horsely's marmite persona is certainly going to divide opinion, but I frankly think that the reaction to this book is quite silly. I've read things that are more shocking and less shocking, and the prose style is wedged firmly in the middle of the universal scale of aptitude. To be blunt: It's ok. I don't see what all the fuss is about.
I can already feel Horsley searching around for the lace glove with which to slap my blasphemous face. That this is a man who wishes to be loved or hated is quite obvious from the contrived attempts to rile the reader that are scattered throughout. He wants to shock. He wants reaction. Sadly, I can't give that to him: he's interesting, certainly, and this is better than a great deal of biographies you can invest in; although in an era where any wealthy heiress and her dog can get their life story published for doing absolutely sod all, that's not saying much.
One of the things I enjoyed was Horsley's justification for his lack of morality and social conscience: at the novel's conclusion he's practically philisophical. I like the way he appreciates the worthlessness of his own existence. I like the fact that he steals excessively from his icons: if you criticise him for plagiarism, you're not seeing the joke.

Those are the things I enjoyed. Now for the things I disliked.

Firstly, Horsley, as a narrator is... well... really, really annoying. Yes, his self-absorption can be amusing; yes, his narcissism can be charming... but after about a hundred or so pages, it all gets a little wearing.
Horsley is at his most engaging when you catch glimpses of the frustrated and terminally neglected little boy from which he grew.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By Mr. T. White TOP 500 REVIEWER
Up until his untimely death some weeks before this review was written, Horsley's was a curiously unenviable life of seething excess, consumed by relentless decadence and velvet adorned decay. And yet he still somehow managed to defy the odds in writing this book of exceptional clarity & wit, before his offbeat ways finally stole the very beat from his heart. In other words, despite living the extraordinarily unstructured life of a 'die hard' waster in a bespoke bowler hat, he nonetheless wrote this truly engaging, most disciplined book - which rarely fails to be wickedly funny. Methinks "Dandy in The Underworld" is one day destined to be a cult classic, or at least it should be so for future generations of unashamedly well educated dropouts. Here's why...

Horsley was a one of a kind: a most privileged oddball who lived in a grand Georgian house in the seediest part of london, whose door bore the stern instruction for all passers by that "There are no prosti...'s at this address" and yet beyond that door's polished brass plate lived one of the greatest & most dedicated philanderers who ever lived. And by his standards that would be a very great compliment indeed, as you'll soon find on reading this most underrated autobiography.

Here you'll find what it is like to live the life of an uncommonly brazen addict who, unlike most, enjoyed "a certain spiritual charm that comes from having money in the bank". In many ways, Horsley was a 21st century hybrid of Bolan, Borroughs & Wilde. For his decadent ways, he made no excuses: "it is better to be hated for what you are, than loved for what you are not.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars wickedly funny.
Not for the faint hearted amongst us!! Shocking in its honesty but also moving and very funny.
The early chapters about family members are hilarious. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Winkie one
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome
I bought this book in a HMV sale and loved it so much I bought it again for my sister. Within the first few paragraphs it had me laughing out loud. Read more
Published 2 months ago by mrwotzit
4.0 out of 5 stars A self-loathing narcissist
By turns, hilarious, revolting, thought provoking. A talentless artist whose whose biggest exhibition was himself. Read more
Published 8 months ago by strewth101
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange, clever, derivitative, failure
This might rank as one of the strangest autobiographies you will ever read. Horsley describes in alarming detail his very peculiar upbringing, his alienation from his parents, his... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Korhomme
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have ever read
This book is both shocking and moving at the same time .... there are times when the reader will really find him most annoying but he is so honest that you can't help but be moved... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Claire Mortimer
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent purchase
Brilliant book in mint condition; arrived very quickly! Sebastian Horsley's life is like a fantasy, written with flair and wit. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Kostis
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragi-comedy classic
Sebastian Horsley undoubtedly had a genius for self-inflicted problems. Those problems were sizeable. They did, however, provide material for comedy gold. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Philippe Patek
1.0 out of 5 stars Appalling writing
Whatever one thinks of the author's character, the first thing to say about this book, as an autobiography, is that it is appallingly written. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Sebastian
5.0 out of 5 stars The only biography I've ever finished
Hilarious and grotesque at the same time from start to finish! I'm a bachelor of fine art but you definitely don't need to like art to enjoy this book! Read more
Published on 17 April 2012 by Laurasaurus Rex
5.0 out of 5 stars The last great Dandy..
I've been a fan of Horsley for many years, and must say this is one of the most vulgar,self-obsessed and depraved reads i have ever come across, and i loved every minute of... Read more
Published on 24 Feb 2012 by Joe O'Reilly
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