June 17, 2010

sebastian horsley, 1962-2010: a tribute

  • About the author EB

“We can’t all be stars because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as I go by.” Sebastian Horsley

Lately, everyone on twitter’s been talking about books that changed their lives. Some have even been taking it quite literally, naming their own books (because writing a book certainly changes your life) or books by their spouses or books they’ve worked on. Sebastian Horsley’s Dandy in the Underworld is that kind of book for me.

Way back before I worked in marketing for Harper Perennial, I worked in a different, way less cool department here at HarperCollins. I had many duties (talk to me about my days writing back cover copy for romance novels!), but the one I liked best was working on the Harper Perennial catalog. I was already an avid, ferocious reader of Harper Perennial books, and I was eager for any contact with them, even if I was so far removed as to be in another dept. One day, I was dropping off some catalog pages in the office of our publisher, Carrie Kania, when I saw some bound manuscripts of Sebastian’s book, with this incredibly intriguing cover:


Carrie told me to read it and tell her what I thought. It was already bought and slated in for an upcoming season, but she still cared about what I had to say. In my old dept, no one cared what I had to say about books. I’m pretty sure it was this moment, and then reading and loving Dandy in the Underworld, that made me set my sights on joining the Harper Perennial team, a quest that involved a lot of patient waiting, a lot of mentioning how happy I would be to work there, and a lot of blogging here to show what I could do.

This morning we got the news from London that Sebastian died last night. Now, of course he’s not the first Harper Perennial author to die, and not even the first one to die while I’ve been working here. But while we’re always upset, while we always mourn the loss of any of our literary legends, Sebastian was more than just an author to Harper Perennial. His writing and his antics (including being prevented from entering the US for his book party on the grounds of “moral turpitude”) made us think and made us laugh. Carrie had this to say about him:

“Sebastian was a thoughtful, sensitive, caring and genuine person. He would scold me now for calling him genuine, as he always felt that he was a genuine fake. But as an artist, writer, dandy – friend – he left a genuine impact. His book, Dandy in the Underworld, will live on as a benchmark of an artist trying to understand what is truth.

His heart, simply, was too big for this world.

He will be very missed by his family, his friends and all of Soho.”

Though I never met him (see the aforementioned moral turpitude and not being able to enter the US), I’ll be thinking about Sebastian today.