“In a Year, I Shall Be Unknown Throughout America”

By Neal Comment


So I was on my way into town yesterday to meet Sebastian Horsley at the book party for Dandy in the Underworld when I get an email from Harper Perennial announcing that, when his flight arrived from Heathrow yesterday, he was turned away by U.S. customs officials on grounds of moral turpitude—based, according to Motoko Rich‘s NYT account, “his former drug addiction, use of prostitutes and activity as a male escort,” as recounted in his memoir. “I’ve got good news and bad news,” Horsley is said to have told his publishers when they managed to make contact during his detainment. “The good news is, they all know about the book. The bad news is, they all know about the book.”

This, of course, put rather a different spin on the book party, which continued as planned at Housing Works. The mood throughout the packed room was a mixture of defiance and disbelief; the author had quit doing drugs years ago, ran one typical argument—surely it made no sense to ban him from the country now. (Especially since, according to one source, he’d been to America several times in the last few years.) HarperCollins sales director Nina Olmsted told me she had thought Horsley’s detainment was a publicity stunt when she heard the news yesterday afternoon—which, considering that he arrived at the airport in Newark in a top hat, wasn’t so far-fetched an idea—until she remembered how excited he had been about coming to the States to promote his book.

Halfway into the evening, Harper Perennial publisher Carrie Kania made a brief statement of solidarity for her author. “Sebastian Horsley has written a cautionary tale of a life lived vividly,” she told the crowd. “We turned Sebastian away because he had chosen to live the life that he wanted to lead. We are privileged to know about his life because he published his memoirs. So, living a quiet deviant life, then, is fine. But a loud one, a published one, is not. You can ban Sebastian Horsley, but you can not ban the book.”

She then turned the microphone over to British actor Robert Pereno, one of Horsley’s friends, who read a statement prepared by the author as he was waiting for his forced return flight to London. The video of that statement follows; be advised that it contains several bits of cheeky language, some of which are not at all suitable for the office.

Horsley also shot several short promotional videos for the book from his home, of which this rambling soliloquy sets the tone (and is also utterly NSFW).