Talking about the effects of drugs is boring. A person talking about the effects of drugs while they’re ON drugs is worse. Wilting eyelids and some truly unstoppable bouncing knee-action paired with romantic musings of a blurry night at Lovebox, or a hyper time at the Covent Garden Hotel with the cast of an increasingly-irrelevant TV show for teenagers; it’s bad social etiquette, even if you ARE high.
Saying that, most people are forgiven for anything if they rub you the right way; Soho King Sebastian Horsley and indestructible chanteuse Marianne Faithfull both know how to play the fiddle.
Dandy in the Underworld, Horsley’s opus on his colourful life, is a relentless ride of prying and posing through an existence of careless expenditure, addiction, and louchely transgressive behaviour and wit; a glamorous take on the grotesque. Each page has at least three lines you want to remember and use in front of your friends, pretending they were a result of your own caustic brain mechanisms, while quietly sour that they are not (even if Horsley freely admits that his repertoire is a largely borrowed affair).
His progression from boarding school through to marriage and separation, the occasional attempt at an art career, huge crack and smack habits, along with a mind-boggling amount of prostitutes is written with all the grace of a perverted Peter Pan riding a great white shark at 200 m.p.h.
If you watch his youtube videos, you’ll see that he’s one of the few people who write the way they talk, which even with autobiographies isn’t as common as it may seem. The humour is consistent, dry and striking, and highlights why most junkies are cripplingly boring. They don’t know enough jokes.
Marianne Faithfull’s autobiography lives up to pretty much every aspect that built her reputation over the last few decades, the salacious as well as the triumphant.
Making the exponential transition from the 60’s, virginal, sacrificial pop-lamb to a homeless waif that was wasted 24/7, to an eventual recovery, important music and a voice like a chemical peel, Faithfull is candid and lovely throughout. Anyone who isn’t afraid to be ugly is always appealing, especially if they’re initially renowned for being the opposite.
Her casual reminiscing of how, on the steps of her Doctor’s office, she would run into Eric Clapton, also waiting for prescribed jacks of heroin, emphasises the ridiculousness of it all. She can’t help but sprinkle a ladylike dusting over the squalor.
If you’re a socially conscious person, probably the biggest benefit of having a job you don’t care about is that you care about the people even less. Horsley and Faithfull communicate their lazy attitudes towards art and pop music, along with anyone else that may care about their addictions, with an undeniable likeability that carries each book above anything that believes itself more sincere.
Both books portray lives that we find easy to forgive for being so primarily privileged, because if we wanted to know the real tragedies of urban poverty and drug addiction, we’d offer the homeless girl who lives near Somerfield by Walkers Court ten quid to tell us her life story.
If you want to read about drugs, whether it’s an acclaimed Bullshit-Bible by James Frey or Poppy Z Brite’s cloyingly sugar-coated biography of Courtney Love, both Dandy in the Underworld and Faithfull will tie your arm for you, and both are more effective than watching Tara Palmer-Tomkinson whizzing her tits off on the Frank Skinner show.
Both Books are available now on Amazon
Words: Ryan Child