Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Dandy in the Underworld: An Unauthorized Autobiography” as Want to Read:
Dandy in the Underworld: An Unauthorized Autobiography
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Dandy in the Underworld: An Unauthorized Autobiography

3.49  ·  Rating Details  ·  636 Ratings  ·  110 Reviews
In the honorable tradition of the eccentric dandyism of Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, and Quentin Crisp comes Sebastian Horsley's disarming memoir of sex, drugs, and Savile Row.
Paperback, 356 pages
Published March 11th 2008 by Harper Perennial (first published 2007)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Dandy in the Underworld, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Dandy in the Underworld

Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud by Scott StevensNaked Lunch by William S. BurroughsCottonmouth Kisses by Clint CatalystProzac Nation by Elizabeth WurtzelFear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
Drug Memoir A List
19th out of 156 books — 239 voters
Running with Scissors by Augusten BurroughsThe Glass Castle by Jeannette WallsMe Talk Pretty One Day by David SedarisDry by Augusten BurroughsGirl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
Best Strange and Twisted Memoirs
145th out of 399 books — 879 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,204)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Mar 13, 2014 karen rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who think augusten burroughs' upbringing was "too traditional"
when i was little i fell in love with john malkovich in dangerous liaisons.

i knew that when i grew up i wanted to be with a man who wore crushed velvet and lace cuffs and fancy shoes and was well-spoken and soulless. and they told me i would never find a straight man who dressed like that. and to all of them i now say HA!! this one is mostly straight... i did not realize that a man who calls himself a dandy and wears sequins and nail polish would spend quite so much time with his own feces: smea
Apr 02, 2008 R. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008
This fella was denied entry into the U.S. just the other day - because of "moral turpitude". Seriously, he was cockblocked on U.S. soil for being flamboyant about (among other things) and mongering the whores. Moral turpitude. Moral turpitude. Knock knock. Who's there? Spitzer. Spitzer who? Spitzer swallow, the difference is 50 bucks.


Wow. This redneck Chernobyl had a copy. That's absolutely wilde. Lots of blurbs from the likes of Bryan Ferry, Will Self, Nick Cave and...uh...Gavin Rossdale.

Mar 25, 2008 Tosh rated it really liked it
On every page there is at least two or three great one line zingers that's hysterical. On the surface he's Oscar Levent's grandchild - he must be to come off so witty. I don't fully buy his whole dandy identity, but nevertheless that doesn't make me like this book any less. He's a very (and I mean 'very') funny writer. A natural wit which is rare these days. To say I enjoyed reading this book is like asking me if I like Ice Cream on a very hot day He's a winner and afer reading the book I'm stil ...more
Anita Dalton
Jan 28, 2010 Anita Dalton rated it did not like it
I had no knowledge of anything substantive that Sebastian Horsley had done before I read his memoir and really, does one have to accomplish anything in life to write a misery memoir? What had Mary Karr done when she wrote The Liar’s Club. Sometimes these sorts of memoirs exist merely because it is interesting reading about the horrific lives other people lead, and there is a certain shock-element to Horsley’s memoir. He is the car wreck. But instead of not wanting to look away, you want to look ...more
Jul 27, 2008 Melanie rated it did not like it
Recommended to Melanie by: R. M.
Shelves: abandoned
I'm fairly compulsive about finishing books that I'm reading, but even at the halfway point, I'm just not interested in this. (And that's even after taking the book with me on several long-ish train trips, with no other reading material at hand--I think I napped instead.)

One problem is an entirely personal one, and to which I will freely admit: I'm not a huge fan of the memoir genre. Other people's lives, no matter how much crazy nonsense has transpired in them, hold less of a fascination for m
Apr 23, 2008 Therese rated it it was ok
Well, what can I tell you. This seemed right up my alley. Disfunctional, rich, artistic, sadistic, once-cruxified, Sebastian Horsley had all the raw material for a great memoir. If he could only rid himself of the copious one-liners chapter after chapter, this would have been a great read. In-between attempts at wit, there are some good parts, and you get the feeling that Horsley is a very sad and damaged person with a great story to tell. But then he hides behind this wacky persona, and the nar ...more
Sarah Garner
An okay read, very articulate guy, certainly had a very interesting life.
Oct 12, 2010 Katherine rated it really liked it
Sebastian Horsley died of a heroin overdose earlier this year. This book is essentially his suicide note. Very early in his life Horsley created a persona (The Dandy) to help him deal with the difficulties (and there were no small amount) in his world. He played with other art forms throughout his life – music, painting, but really it is this persona and the life he led through it, that was his art.

You may be thinking at this point that the book must be very somber or depressing. It is neither;
Nov 29, 2008 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
HAD to get this book by someone refused entry to the States due to moral turpitude...PLEASE. Are we one sad nation or what? Looks very promising so far. I bought way too many books at St Mark's Bookshop yesterday...
my review, having finally read the book 7 months later:
The first third is in some ways the most interesting--Horsley and siblings as 'feral children,' neglected in a sort of mansion by alcoholic and out-to-lunch parents. The rest may not be as fascinating (at times tiresome), bu
Mar 31, 2012 Speeda rated it liked it
The first half of the book is consistently laugh out loud hilarious, with Wilde-style one-liner observations -- describing being born, Horsley notes "I was so appalled I couldn't talk for two years" -- and I found myself not just amused but impressed by Horsley's wit, candor, and perceptiveness. There is also an interesting element of narrator unreliability for the reader to monitor, as Horsley relishes contradicting himself or common wisdom for amusement and diffusion.

However, there is a point
Carole Morin
Aug 13, 2013 Carole Morin rated it really liked it
Carole Morin author of Spying on Strange Men reviews Dandy in the Underworld and Sebastian Horsely's show Whoresley at The Outsiders 8 Greek St Soho London 9th August - 14th September 2013

Sebastian Horsley's autobiography, Dandy in the Underworld, is possibly his suicide note. A hilarious and heartbreaking love letter to himself, his story includes incest, love affairs with prostitutes - one of whom was the main beneficiary of his estate - and a perverse relationship with a notorious murderer wh
Jun 02, 2008 Kim rated it really liked it
I'm sure everyone who has written a review of this memoir has said this already, but...Oscar Wilde lives again. Horsley's writing also reminds me a lot of Mark Twain's. I just started this last night, but I love it already.

Now I have finished the book. Sebastian Horsley is a great writer and totally hilarious, but it was hard to stomach some of his subject matter. Three things that stand out are his descriptions of caking himself in his own excrement, having sex with a VERY VERY OLD prostitute,
Emma  Kaufmann
Aug 08, 2008 Emma Kaufmann rated it it was amazing
This book is rather amusingly subtitled an Unauthorized Autobiography. It chronicles some fairly typical hedonistic experiments (in my experience of living in London) of a degenerate middle class Englishman called Sebastian Horley, a guy who loves glittery suits and nail polish but doesn't identify as gay (although he does dabble regularly in man to man sex). Reading it is like taking crack...really addictive and gives you a high. He is so self-deprecating that you can't really call him a preten ...more
Joe Romaninsky
Mar 10, 2009 Joe Romaninsky rated it really liked it
Sebastian Horsley is unique. His memoir will appeal to anyone
with a voueuristic streak and a taste for the bizarre. This wild
man is in his various manifestations consummate dandy, writer,
alcoholic, druggie, thief, and whore chaser. He has packed about six lifetimes worth of action into his 40 odd years. Were this all
there is to the tale, one could easily forego the seedy pleasures
it offers in favor of well written whodunit. But Horsely, for all
his exhibitionistic hubris, is both honest and insig
Nov 04, 2012 Hannah rated it it was ok
The last time I was in London, I saw an exhibit of some of Horsley's personal affects at the Last Tuesday Society, including the video footage of his crucifixion. Having never before realized that a person could BE crucified in this day and age (and certainly not by choice), I decided I needed to read this book. Sadly, Horsley is so wrapped up in self-loathing that he masks any vulnerability with humor, which really keeps the reader from feeling sympathetic to him. I found myself skimming throug ...more
Nov 23, 2008 Alan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: the faithful
Recommended to Alan by: Horsley
Horsely is the bad breath of fresh air that the world needs.
The best memoir I've ever read.

"Writing a book is, of course, a form of failure." Sebastian Horsley.

Here's what some of the reviewers said, "Horsley is a pervert who stands for everything that is wrong with British society today."

"An emotionally infantile spolied brat, a vapid poser, he has less talent than a used condom."

Horsley is Wilde reborn.
Oct 01, 2008 Sunitha rated it it was amazing
"When mother found out that she was pregnant with me she took an overdose. Father gave her the pills...Had she known I would turn out like this she would have taken cyanide." This is how the story begins and it promises to leave you in stitches in the end. I think I am already left with stitches and I am only in pg13.

Need I say more...*_*
A.F. Henley
Dec 12, 2015 A.F. Henley rated it really liked it
I spent this entire novel floundering between "what the f*ck am I reading?" and "perhaps this man was brilliant." I believe approximately 60% of the history that he's written and 15% of the emotion that he's told it with. He came across as a narcissistic, self-obsessed, traitorous man, but I have no doubt that is exactly what he wanted to leave his reader thinking. While I can say that I was left thinking that he was just a sad empty man I can't hold that as an excuse for his racist, sexist, pre ...more
George Ilsley
Oct 21, 2010 George Ilsley rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir, addiction
Horsley's polished phrases and witticisms are sprinkled here and there, but in between is a slog of a book. I was disappointed, and knowing he died in 2010 from a drug overdose makes all the suicide fetishism all the more creepy.
Clayton Littlewood
Mar 25, 2011 Clayton Littlewood rated it it was amazing
Sebastian was a genius. He will be read about for years to come. His autobiography is the most honest I have ever read. I was fortunate enough to be a friend of his. I miss him so much.
Branden William
Jan 15, 2014 Branden William rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dandyism
Sebastian's Horsley's memoir detailing Dandyism, sex, drugs, hookers, women, crack, cock, quims, and art is an intense affair full of quips, gags, aphorisms, and epigrams. By the time you finish reading the book, you begin unintentionally quoting Mr. Horsley on anything from relationship advice to the philosophy of art-- or non-art in Sebastian's case. One of the true last-standing dandies before his recent and unexpected death in June of 2010, life for Sebastian Horsley was a great big canvas, ...more
Dec 28, 2011 Alex rated it did not like it
Goodreads mark 2 stars as 'ok', hence why it only got one. By my internal barometer, it should probably have been two - it wasn't completely unredeemable!

Having said that, I didn't like this book. I found the narrator/author (Sebastian Horsley) a thoroughly unlikeable character. At the end of the book he says (I'm paraphrasing) - 'there comes a time in everybody's life when they realise they love me. Your time has come.' Well, it didn't for me. Apart from this, the graphic drug and sex descripti
Jul 12, 2010 Brian rated it really liked it
tty turns of phrase to describe very ugly events, memories and thoughts. He is a multi-sexual (bisexual is too limiting), narcissistic drug addict. Some parts are laugh aloud funny not for content but for the style of writing. One reviewer called it “a masterpiece of filth.”

Describing Sid Vicious: “he went to the university of life and graduated with extinction.” Himself: “A solipsist basically mean someone with no friends.” His diet: “Homoeopathies for pathetic homos.” His friend’s father: “He
- Have I failed you as a mother, Sylvester?
- It's Sebastian, Mother.

Do you remember that 80s movie – Sid and Nancy? Watching it is a bitter-sweet experience. You try to sympathize with the characters and you do for a fragment of a second there until they do the most shockingly repulsive thing, far beyond anyone’s expectation, leaving you all confused and in disgust. Well, “Dandy in the Underworld” puts you through a similar whirlpool of emotions.

As far as the style of writing is concerned, most
Jun 01, 2013 Emma rated it really liked it
Shelves: autobiography, art
Dandy In the Underworld was written with the same frantic precision with which Sebastian Horsley lived his life. Full of excess, abuse, disgust, self-loathing, self-love and everything in between, it is hard to say if the life that unfolds in its pages is one to envy or pity. For all his posturing and proclamations Sebastian Horsely reveals himself to be a man just as unsure as the rest of us about what life has to offer but trying very hard to make sure that he doesn't find out. The shocking ta ...more
Oct 19, 2008 Kalisa rated it it was ok
Recommended to Kalisa by: NPR
Another book I found via NPR. I heard an interview with this guy and wished he lived in my town so we could be BFFs.

He talked about how he remembered his mother from his childhood and he said that once she was getting ready to go out, putting on make up, fixing her hair, dressing. As she got ready to leave she said to the nanny (in her regal British accent), "Go get one of my children to go with me."

"Which child, ma'am?"

"Well I DON'T KNOW. Whichever one goes with red velvet!"

Aug 22, 2011 Chandra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drugs-are-bad
In the beginning it was so hilariously wrong. I even laughed aloud. However, it starts to grate around page 200.
I finally finished this. Horsely is great with the one-liners, too bad he was a misogynist and a shell of a person. I really had to force myself to get through the last 100 pages or so. He had a grossly distorted egocentricity coupled with a lack of empathy which screamed sociopath. Despite some clever cruel razor edged zingers, the fact remains, he was and is one of the greatest exam
Delphine Pontvieux
Apr 03, 2011 Delphine Pontvieux rated it liked it
Now this is a hard one to review....a disturbing read, but that was to be expected... All i can think of is if that book had been 2/3 of its final length, i think i would have loved it, albeit in a twisted way, but it dragged on towards the end and as such, made me dislike the character more and more (not that i think that it was Mr Horsley's intent to get the reader to like him anyway, even though the last page suggests we should). It is the kind of book that you can't really put down because y ...more
Popnfresh Dudley
Sep 03, 2008 Popnfresh Dudley rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Nobody
I wanted to like this book. Sebastian Horsley seems like an interesting guy, and has a story to tell. Unfortunately, it is how it is told that is the problem. He seems to have a self-conscious "I am writing" style, which is a style that I don't particularly like, and what's more, he seems to have a lot of sound bites that sound good (which contributes to the "I am writing" style) that made this book unreadable. It would be great if he could get past that and just write.

A good substitute for thi
Diana Sandberg
May 25, 2012 Diana Sandberg rated it did not like it
Nope. Not my kind of thing at all. Somebody or other recommended it to me, Autobiography of a seriously screwed-up person. I do tend to find all biogs and autobiogs lose steam after the childhood part, for me anyhow; this one has a sort of offhand panache to its dreadfulness, and the author does have a rather, well, sweet style, but it’s still a recital of a great deal of painful unpleasantness and I only have so many years left to me. Not going to waste any more time and psychic ener ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 40 41 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Cottonmouth Kisses
  • Bad Vibes: Britpop and My Part in Its Downfall
  • Serious Pleasures: the Life of Stephen Tennant
  • The Story of Junk
  • Spilling the Beans
  • The Naked Civil Servant
  • My East End: Memories of Life in Cockney London
  • Eleanor of Castile
  • Rodinsky's Room
  • You Cannot Live as I Have Lived and Not End Up Like This
  • Growing Up Jung: Coming of Age as the Son of Two Shrinks
  • Mishima's Sword: Travels in Search of a Samurai Legend
  • Gimme Shelter
  • Conversations With Scorsese
  • London Lore: The Legends and Traditions of the World's Most Vibrant City
  • Dreamseller
  • Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore's Eastern District
  • London: The Autobiography
Sebastian Horsley was a London artist best known for having undergone a voluntary crucifixion. Horsley's writings often revolve around his dysfunctional family, his drug addictions, sex, and his reliance on prostitutes. He died of a heroin overdose.
More about Sebastian Horsley...

Share This Book

“We can't all be stars because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as I go by.” 48 likes
“[…] life is just the misery left between abortion and euthanasia […]” 15 likes
More quotes…