Thursday, March 20, 2008

Literature=Moral Turpitude

Customs and Border Protection in Newark detained British author Sebastian Horsley for eight hours before telling him that he was not welcome in the U.S. under the visa waiver program. The reason for this determination is that Horsely purports to be a drug user who has employed the services of prostitutes and also has worked as an "escort." According to the U.S., this amounts to moral turpitude and makes him inadmissible without a visa. Read the New York Times story on Horsley's blog.

Among the interesting questions this raises is who in CBP gets to decide what constitutes a moral failing? Is it based on community standards or do we know moral turpitude when we see it?

A somewhat more interesting question is what happens to Horsley and to CBP if it turns out that his literary persona is, in fact, more fiction than fact? Although the quotes in the article are coy in an Oscar Wilde sort of way, the clear implication is that his memoir is embellished. Consequently, Horsley might also need to worry about being grilled by Oprah.


Anonymous said...

What a fantastic press coup for Harper Collins!

So, right before Easter they manage to get Sebastian Horsley denied entry into the U.S. for being an admitted and convicted criminal and person of "moral turpitude." A bit ironic for someone who once got crucified on a lark...

Harper Collins and editor Carrie Kania didn't waste a moment to get this story into the press, the widely repeated Reuters piece reads curiously like a press release. Maybe it's because it's based on this PR piece?

So, is this just a ploy for making sure Sebastian Horsley's book is noticed? Pretty desperate I'd say, especially after the spate of fake misery memoirs that have been exposed lately. There's an interesting piece in the New York Times about this event, which also casts doubt on the truth of Mr. Horsley's memoir:

"In interviews, though, he has been repeatedly coy about what is real and what is contrived. 'It’s better to be quotable than honest,' he told Time Out London in February. In an interview with The Independent last September, he said: 'I don’t speak, I quote. I am a fraud. I have cobbled together my personality from hundreds of little bits. I am simultaneously the most genuine and the most artificial person you will ever meet."

During the party last night, the upshot of Sebastian being detained and refused entry for being a sleazeball, wasn't lost on the publishers:

"Of course, the silver lining of the incident did not escape Ms. Kania. A big piece in The New York Times, the kind of Internet buzz money can’t buy …"

Harper Collins PR flacks certainly outdid themselves to promote this miserable dandy and his abhorrent views!

Larry said...

What a fantastic anonymous comment! It sounds like it might have been written by Harper Collins' PR department, or even Mr. Horsley.

Am I the unwitting tool of big media?

If so, at least send me an autographed copy of the book.

Nick said...

maybe by the PR people? horsley himself doesn't write so well. has stolen most of his lines.

Binky said...

I have the book. It's actually not that good. I don't know how they would have sold it at all if it hadn't been for this immigration scandal.