Horsley, U.K.’s Incorrigible Memoirist, Finds Advocates at PEN
Sebastian Horsley, the British bad-boy memoirist accused of moral turpitude and possible fashion crimes, hopes to participate next month in the PEN American Center’s World Voices Festival in New York.
First, however, his advocates must convince U.S. authorities that he represents no threat to the common good.
On March 18 Horsley, 45, arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport to promote the American publication of his autobiography, “Dandy in the Underworld.” He was interrogated for eight hours by U.S. Customs agents about his self-proclaimed affection for illegal drugs, his patronage of prostitutes and his possible link with supermodel Kate Moss, a link that remains fuzzy.
He was also questioned about the stovepipe hat he wore and which, according to reports, he had been unable to fit in his suitcase.
The government agents returned him to the U.K., citing “moral turpitude” as the reason he was deemed unfit to personally promote his book on American shores.
Francine Prose, an author and the president of the PEN American Center, said in an interview Friday that she has written to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff requesting a waiver of the ruling. For PEN, an international organization of writers and editors, free expression trumps any fear that Horsley might displace certain musicians, sports stars and politicians as role models of debauchery.
‘About His Writing’
“It’s all about his writing,” Prose said. “PEN has repeatedly interceded on behalf of writers all over the world. This, sadly, is our own government.”
Prose pointed out that Horsley has never been convicted of any crime, and that knowledge of his drug use and other activities “comes directly from his own writing.” Horsley has also insisted that his wild days are mostly behind him.
Prose said that if Horsley is allowed entry into the U.S., he will participate in a literary evening hosted by The Moth, a storytelling collective, on May 1, and the PEN Cabaret, which will take place May 3 at the popular new-music venue, Webster Hall. Both events are part of the World Voices Festival of International Literature, which runs from April 29 through May 4.
“He has said he would be honored to participate,” Caro Llewellyn, director of the festival, said in an interview.
Other writers taking part include Ian McEwan, Joyce Carol Oates, Bernard-Henri Levy and A.B. Yehoshua.
“Dandy in the Underworld,” published in the U.S. by Harper Perennial and in the U.K. by Sceptre, has been compared to memoirs by Oscar Wilde and Quentin Crisp. Horsley’s adventures are not limited to the U.K., or even the $200,000 he claims to have spent securing the services of prostitutes. In 2000, he had himself nailed to a cross in the Philippines and, not surprisingly, passed out.
The Sunday Times of London described “Dandy,” according to Horsley’s Web site, as “one of the funniest, strangest and most revolting memoirs ever written.”
(Jeremy Gerard is an editor for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)