Buggered, Bored and Crucified




Dandy in the Underworld by Sebastian Horsely (Sceptre)

Some books make promises they fail to keep, drawing the reader into a disappointing experience that, like many affairs, should have been abandoned long before the bitter end. Sebastian Horsley has created such a piece of literary malpractice. Dandy in the Underworld begins like a more modern Naked Civil Servant, a book which it constantly references to the point of laziness and theft, but hasn't the intellect to better. Actually, it's brilliant for the first hundred or so pages, whilst he relates the details of his hideously self-centered family, who are a gift to any aspiring writer but a curse to grow up with. Sadly he squanders this lineage of grotesques too early, and the book descends into Bridget Jones territory, with crack instead of chardonnay as the social prop, or in Horsley's case the prop that failed. England breeds essentially pointless people like Horsley, a dairy heir who spends his spoilt time talking out of his, cursed with the wit to recognise their circumstances, but bereft of the urge or need to do much to remedy the situation, they take to the arts. Rarely has a book so revealed the glaring limitations of wit. Wisdom without the capacity to be wise. It is a woefully honest account of someone who seems to think that shamelessness is a virtue, but it goes well beyond the need for honesty, and maroons itself in the most mundane, junky self-absorption. Horsley is nothing if not a sharer, so when he meets a woman he adores, he gets her hooked and then has the nerve to bemoan her smacked-out uselessness. He indulges in a gay cultural exchange with the career reformed and diminutive criminal Jimmy Boyle. Public school buggery meets the penal kind, and is wounded to the point of parody when he discovers that his wife has been fucking Boyle too. Drugs, needles, smack, crack, and lashings of meaningless sex with faceless hookers -- even an encounter with a limbless lady in a Dutch sex club, which he attempts to sell as an act of supreme empowerment on her behalf -- make one long for the relief of an overdose, At least it would end the misery for both the reader and the peacock narrator whose finery has seen better days. Finally Sebastian decides to get nailed properly a la Christ. He goes to the Philippines to be ritually crucified. Of-course he has some meager art statement in mind, but falls off his new perch before his allotted time. Thankfully this grants him some of the recognition he feels his life has so far lacked, and then he returns to England and has some more drugs. The book has no index; it doesn't require one as it has only one character, the woefully self-christened dandy in the underworld of his own making. Dr Johnston once opined of the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, that it was worth seeing, but not worth going to see. Sadly the same sentiment befits Horsley's stab at autobiography.

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