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The Decadent Handbook

Author: James Doyle, Amelia Hodsdon, Rowan Pelling

Cover design: Jonathan Barker   Cover illustration: Aubrey Beardsley  

Pelling marshals the filth and depravity with a firm hand, and ensures that this collection of louche immorality, dry intelligence and really excellent breakfast suggestions entertains and stimulates throughout its purple pages.

Alexander Larman in The New Statesman

Hedonism, debauchery, and lust for the outrageous exude their captivating depravity in this heady collection of works on the decadent lifestyle. Heralded as 'the bible for the modern libertine,' Pelling draws together essays and stories from the world's leading decadents in a manner that avoids doctrine but instead offers a feast of inspirationl titillation; a gentle nod to a more charismatic world.

BL in Buzz Magazine

A one-stop louche shop for those looking to tune out, turn on, and cop off. With all the luxury life has to offer mind, not just other decadents. And this is serious stuff; former Erotic Review editor Rowan Pelling is a co-editor in this odyssey which includes thoughts and directions on the lifestyle from authors such as Belle de Jour and Helen Walsh. Tasty.

Kelly Salter in The Big Issue

Rowan Pelling has compiled a fascinating and varied collection of writings, old but mainly new, on the theme of decadence, It is entitled with elegant simplicity, The Decadent Handbook.

Joe Cushley in What's On in London

Much concern about the onset of blindness after Tuesday’s (7th November )launch party for The Decadent Handbook, produced by the former Erotic Review editrix Rowan Pelling.The dungeonesque club Hedges & Butler was a cross between the flea market in Rome and Purgatory. Filthy poets and a burlesque dancer(vigorously shaking her strategic tassles)wowed the gin-sodden throng. Pelling attacked the Daily Telegraph’s reviewer Duncan Fallowell, who criticised the Handbook as not being decadent enough.
'When I started on the Erotic Review, Duncan wrote two articles, which I did not print,' says Pelling.'They weren’t that erotic. It wasn’t because it was gay – we ran blindingly rude stuff about cottaging on Hampstead Heath, which had my colonels harrumphing.'
She adds:'Duncan called me ''as erotic as a darning mushroom'' – which is wonderful;. I might have it tattooed on my bottom'.

Oliver Duff in The Independent

'The Decadent Traveller' by Medlar Lucan and Durian Gray is a pastiche of pornography circa 1900, but also a parody of Edgar Allan Poe –and wonderfully original too. 'El Hombre Indelible' by Dickon Edwards seems to send up rock journalism by accompanying Shane MacGowan of the Pogues to Tangier, but the piece has a wonky charm of its own, with sentences such as, 'He re-reads Finnegans Wake every day.' There's generally a lot of sex, drugs and rock and roll in this collection ,i.e. the Beats laced with English eccentricity. Pelling's own 'The Decadent Mother' plays with more sulphur than most, but you know she doesn’t mean it(she is about as decadent as a darning mushroom). There is one totally brilliant piece of writing -'Forbidden Fruit' by Elizabeth Speller - about a young girl's first kiss with a mature male. Gays get a brief look-in, in the 'Death' section, with a short piece on Aids victims. Otherwise there is no homosexuality, which is surprising given that, in a brilliant Further Reading list at the back, half the authors cited are belle époque queers.

Duncan Fallowell in The Daily Telegraph

With page after page of anecdotal guidance on the preferred theory, lifestyle, drinking habits, heroes, culture and gastronomy of experts in the field, few hedonologists could fail to titter with delight or guffaw in admiration when confronted with this well crafted collection of superlative scribblings from such literary heavyweights as Wilde, Huysmans and de Mandiargues. Add to this spectacular tips on the most decadent ways to fuck, and to die, from some of the more visionary free spirits of our age, and one is left with the distinct feeling that life would not be worth living were we not able to throw caution to the wind, go on as absinthe bender, fuck an invertebrate, skin-up in Bonnington square, accept a clergyman’s BJ and throw up on a poodle, at least once in a while. Superb!

Timon in The Erotic Review

The Decadent Handbook is a jaunty introduction to the world of literary wickedness. There are interesting pieces on those English poets and essayists whose writing and behaviour had a massive on the rock star mentality. In a piece entitled Decadent Outcasts, Nick Broom discusses Chatterton, Coleridge and De Quincey, who specialised in debauched behaviour, copious drug and alcohol abuse and, of course, that most romantic of all activities, early death. If you are looking for actual examples of decadent writing, there is a wonderfully wicked poem by the wonderfully wicked, John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester. In the X-rated ditty, The Debauchee, the lusty Lord takes us through a typical day.
Wake up after snooze.
Grope floozy.
Gargle alcohol.
Fall unconscious.
Have wallet nabbed by floozy.
Wake in rage.
Whip servants.
Make sexual advances on page boy.
Not exactly the romantic life according to Mills& Boons, is it?
Best of all, though, is a selection of modern pieces from relatively unknown modern authors. Of course, decadent behaviour isn’t always connected to sexual shenanigans. Which is why the Handbook also has segments on drinking, eating, travel and the right and proper decadent death. This is an excellent book for anyone determined to say vamoose to the vacuum cleaner, kick over the iron board and slip free of suburbanite shackles. Clearly there is a nastier, niftier world out there, waiting to be gulped down like a devilish sip of absinthe. Which is why the Decadent Handbook will make an excellent stocking filler this Christmas.

Lorne Jackson in The Sunday Mercury

No amount of absinthe will make you decadent unless you’ve taken to heart the philosophy at the movement’s core, ie. It's OK to be a pisshead as long as you're a poet too. For more details, turn to The Decadent Handbook for the Modern Libertine, edited by Rowan Pelling. With chapters on sex, death, gastronomy, drinking, lifestyle and anti-heroes, this is a treasure-trove of decadent writing and advice, including poet Alan Jenkins' A Brief History, orientalist (and inline skater) Robert Irwin's The Wheeled Dance of Death and pornographic blogger Belle du Jour on a very bloodthirsty lover. Funny, filthy, lyrical and enlightening by turn.

Laura Tennant in The FirstPost

The Decadent Handbook is a compendium of wayward and debauched advice from the bad, dangerous and louche from Oscar Wilde to Michael Bywater, via the seductive Belle de Jour. So come, bring your absinthe and your chaise longue and...Oh, who am I kidding? Let's just learn from those who do it best.

The Oldie

This book could have been atrocious, because everyone wants to be decadent at sometimes, and scarcely anything can be as dull or as selfish as the accounts of their efforts. When, 19 and impressionable, I met my friend Katherine for the first times, I was utterly delighted at having met a person who drank wine before lunchtime –and at over £3 a bottle, too! - and knew songs about bestiality. In fact, this lovely volume is a delight. By any standards, but particularly for a collection of essays, the standard of writing is consistently high. It starts with an exploration of the definition and theory of decadence, and goes on to describe its manifestations in the realms of art, sex, food, and in (in a particularly heroic paean), music. Sometimes alluring, sometimes repellent, its other great strength is its acknowledgement of the dark side of decadence - for every binge is a hangover, for every Byron a Glitter. As honest as it's heartfelt, only those who don’t read it carefully would accuse it of glorifying immorality; but it does glorify the seizure of the day.

James Sebright in The Crack

Rowan Pelling –erstwhile editor of the Erotic Review, self-confessed 'armchair sybarite' and the guiding hand behind The Decadent Handbook - playfully suggests that the decadence movement began in the Garden of Eden when Eve spurned the word of God and succumbed to temptation. Taking decadence to mean a kind of colourfully reckless nonconformism, she traces the heritage of Eve through the lives and (invariably messy) deaths of the Earl of Rochester, Thomas Chatterton, Byron, Rimbaud, Wilde and D.H. Lawrence; her contemporary subjects include the rock star Peter Doherty and comic Russell Brand.
A compilation of essays, poems, spoofs, sketches, shards of autobiography and kinky travelogues, The Decadent Handbook features work from a handful of these luminaries but is mostly filled by contributions from the living, typified by a pair of wilfully offensive letters from the artist Sebastian Horsley that bookend the volume. Wriggling free of the anthologist's curse - that, while the interesting pieces are too short, the rest have a tendency to outstay their welcome - the majority of these articles have at least one moment of diversion to offer. If Nick Groom's essay on Decadent Outcasts, in which he demonstrates how the image of the decadent poet has been appropriated by the modern rock star, is not to your taste, then there is always Louise Welsh planning her own funeral to savour and enjoy - or Mick Brown's analysis of the film Performance, William Napier's guide to Roman Decadence in which he relates that the Emperor Heliogabulus's favourite foods were 'flamingos' brains and the head of parakeets', or Nicholas Royle’s noirish short story 'The Child', about a man sucked into a Mancunian underworld of cinephiles, sex parties and bent coppers.
There is no shortage of swagger and bravado in these pages, no dearth of compulsive and self-destructive behaviour, but perhaps it is the essayist Maria Alvarez who proves the most daring of all in her suggestion that decadence may turn out to be a little dull. In the end, she says, it becomes ' a state of aestheticised satiety '– a proposition with which it is interesting to wonder if Eve would agree.

Jon Barnes in The Times Literary Supplement

Handsomely packaged, it has passages of striking, dark beauty, notably the opening poem by Alan Jenkins, Steve Boyd's memoir of drug-addled New York Doll Johnny Thunders and an excerpt from Octave Mirbeau's Torture Garden.

Carrie O'Grady in The Guardian's Christmas Books

Naughty but nice: a perversely perky cabaret. Rowan Pelling has signed up 50-odd of her courtiers to contribute essays, stories, poems, reminiscences, and advice on decadent themes in an anti-lifestyle guide. The result is a farrago of effortful wickedness rather than an embracing of enervation. Belle de Jour, the online sex blogger, explains the delight of being whipped and buggered; Helen Walsh celebrates Mad Mondays in Liverpool when everyone got sloshed, David Madsen lovingly describes sexual intercourse with a side of beef from a cold-store. Robert Irwin hymns the joys of reckless skating; Vanora Bennett revels in the fascinatingly expensive caviar. William Napier retells old stories from Suetonius about the emperor Tiberius employing small boys to swim beside him nibbling his testicles. Phil Baker offers a vignette of the effect upon Musset and Baudelaire of drinking absinthe. Louise Welsh plans her own state funeral with gangster wreaths, drum majorettes and Hell Angels.. Medlar Lucan and Durian Gray, seasoned Dedalus authors, offer a De Sadean pastiche of voyeurism and defecation that turns its priapic narrator off sex completely. Pelling herself contributes ‘The Decadent Mother’, a pungent tale of extreme uncaringness. Hari Kunzru’s is the most intelligent piece, a triumphant evocation of boredom at its most exquisite; in his hands, decadence becomes a succession of nonsensical fads and weary enthusiasms, sex gives way to extreme fetishism, knowledge begets randomness, which declines into superstition, boredom itself becomes dull and is replaced by idealism.

John Walsh in The Independent

The perfect present for your sister. Nothing succeeds like excess. In this tour of the world of fleshly pleasures, a host of writers explain why. Breathe deeply, pour a large glass of of absinthe and enjoy.

Alex Clark in Red Magazine, Christmas Issue

In recent years, the noble and rakish art of decadence has been traduced by those who would associate its name with the Asbo brigade. To counter these slurs, I recently compiled and edited The Decadent Handbook, a rallying call for modern libertines.
Our mission statement was as follows:' The Handbook is for all those who seek respite from the worst banalities of modern existence: property ladders, yummy mummies, loyalty cards, friendly bacteria, Glade air freshener, decking, Coldplay, The Da Vinci Code and Natasha Kaplinsky.'
I like to think luminaries of the Decadent movement during the second half of the 19th would have approved. The Decadents were writers, artists, philosophers and dandies whose guiding mantra was 'Art for Art's Sake'.
They abhorred the relentless grind of industrialism and sought refuge in beauty, sensuality and extreme sensations – often at the expense of their health, safety or sanity.
It is no surprise their drink of choice was absinthe, the 'green fairy' that led to many an artist’s ruin. The Decadents preferred life to burn with one brilliant flame rather than to smoulder slowly and dimly.

Rowan Pelling in The Daily Mail

This utterly debaucherous anti-lifestyle guide offers readers a hedonistic, depraved and often humorous antidote to all the banalities of our 'Big Brother' society. Covering decadent sex, gastronomy and culture to name but a few, this guide for the modern libertine features contributions from some of the most controversial of contemporary writers as well as gems of wisdom from the daddies of decadence – Wilde and Wilmot. Expect Roman orgies, pony girls, fornicating lobsters and lots of absinthe.

Rosie Birkett in Leeds Guide Books of the Year

The Decadent Handbook For the Modern Libertine is a racier and somewhat more classier read. Rowan Pelling notes that her book is envisaged as an anti lifestyle guide for those who wish to transform the spirit of the age, or, failing that ignore it altogether. What follows –essays, parables, fantasies and memoirs on the nature of decadence – is presented as a guidebook that refreshes the parts that others cannot reach. Some of the chapters are a little pretentious. But some stand out as gobbets of great writing. Erich Kuersten rhapsodises on 'The Art of the Bender', and Mick Brown writes a magnificent eulogy to Donald Cammell and Nic Roeg’s 1970 film Performance. Not to be outdone, William Napier finds inspiration in history.' To truly achieve Roman levels of decadence,' he informs the reader,'you will need a great deal of money and no scruples. You will also want a menagerie of wild animals, some obedient slaves with no appreciation of their human rights, and amorous inclinations towards at least one other member of your immediate family.' To read The Decadent Handbook is to intrude on the private daydreams of an army of louche and charming fantasists.

James Harkin in The Financial Times

Some of the stand out moments for me are Hari Kunzru's 'Memories of the Decadence', and Robert Irwin, as always, is a joy to read, Phil Baker, who else, contributes a fine essay on absinthe. Nichols Royle's tale, 'The Child' hints of strange mysteries in the street of Manchester in a quest for a lost film. Philip Langeskov's essay discusses the vital importance of illness to the decadent condition. Paul Bowles, a Machen devotee, makes an appearance in a charming essay by Dickon Edwards on a trip to Tangier which reveals Shane MacGowan of The Pogues as being rather well read, not something you might expect. Steve Boyd's recollection of Johnny Thunders' of the New York Dolls adventures in Leeds are good example of the debauched rock n' roll lifestyle which may be the modern equivalent to the decadents. His ability to still perform considering his lifestyle sounds similar to Dowson's versifying despite his absinthe intake. An essay on 'Scotland and Decadence' by Stuart Kelly concludes that Scotland has not much of a decadent tradition. Let us hope the book will encourage a wider interest in the nature of decadence and provide a silken lifeline leding readers onto other works in the decadent canon. It definitely provides some amusement to banish ennui and perhaps this is the best we can hope for in today's world.


This handsome guide and anthology will cover everything you need to know, with its exemplary choice of selections.

Judas Angels in QX International

From the stable of the ever-excellent Dedalus, The Decadent Handbook (for the Modern Libertine) was published last autumn - in time for the Christmas market, providing a welcome refuge for those of us of a mind to curl up and turn our backs on all the braying festive bonhomie - a cornucopia of offerings for the spiritually diseased, with something for every jaded palate. The paperback is due out shortly, and the Dedalus bandwagon is on tour of literary festivals and bookshops as we speak, promoting its delicious poisoning of the soul…

Editor Rowan Pelling in the Introduction rightly links Decadence to its sister movements Aestheticism and Symbolism, but it has to be said that the collection itself does betray a slight haziness of sensibility and shakiness of editorial hand, and is on occasion apt to wander into less interesting waters.

The non-fiction contributions fare very well: Philip Langeskov on decadent illness, Phil Baker on Absinthe, and Isabelle McNeill on cinema are especially fine. The section on classic anti-heroes is a delight - you can't go wrong with Rochester, Wilde and Huysmans. There are some engaging memoirs of the rock'n'roll lifestyle - notably Dickon Edwards on Shane McGowan in Tangier, and Stevie Boyd's quixotic attempt to put Leeds on the decadent map. And some of the gastronomic contributions show a darkly sparkling wit - Malcolm Eggs' Brekadence and Andrew Crumey's Eats for example (although some others, regrettably, seem content to simply reach for the emetic button).

The fiction is, sadly, a more hit and miss affair. Some pieces sacrifice artifice, imagination and style (always superior to mere Nature in Oscar Wilde's view of course) to sweaty physicality and bodily excess. Some are self indulgent, some crass (surely 17 pages on watching people defecate is OTT in anyone's book?), some manage to be dull, and one or two are even loutish (anyone for a big drinky?). Fortunately, there are some real gems in there too: Robert Irwin's Prayer Cushions of the Flesh has an exotic panache, Hari Kunzru's Memories of the Decadence is an inspired and brilliant flight, and the cool, cruel sexiness of Helene Lavelle's The Gallery captures a truly Decadent stylishness.

An unexpectedly delicious (and quite hilarious) addition to the collection is Sebastian Horsley's 'anti-contribution', an ill-tempered 'more decadent than thou' rant, dismissing Rowan Pelling, contributors and readers alike as mere paddlers in the shallow end. Ms. Pelling retaliates more than effectively by publishing his tantrum.

Overall then, something of a mixed bag. Well worth a read, and no flâneur's library should be without it, but the fact remains that clearer vision and firmer editorial hand could have concentrated the collection into richer veins of true decadence, aestheticism and imagination, and fermented an even headier vintage.

The Flaneur

Dedalus's triumphant Decadent Handbook...

Rosie Birkett in The Leeds Guide

Some are born to decadence, some achieve it and some have it thrust upon them; the writers in this amusing anthology include all three. Hari Kunzru is pleasantly arch. Belle de Jour does bad things with Bailey’s. Sebastian Horsley’s rant-' reading about decadence is like dancing about architecture'-has a point.

Katy Guest in The Independent

Decadence, we are told by Stuart Kelly, is "like most artistic phenomena.. easy to recognise and hard to define." From the Latin de-cadere, and an aesthetic that flourished in the late 19th century best embodied by French poet Charles Baudelaire and other like-minded "bards of pessimism, disease and the grave", decadence involves "a falling down or falling off." What rogue publishers Dedalus offer here, is "a useful companion for anyone hoping to embark on a life of debauchery, aesthetic refinement and their constant shadow companion, terminal ennui." Edited by Rowan Pelling (of the Erotic Review), The Decadent Handbook, is "an anti-lifestyle guide for people who wish to transform the spirit of the age, or, failing that, ignore it altogether. It's for all those who seek respite from the worst banalities of modern existence: property ladders, yummy mummies, footie daddies, loyalty cards, friendly bacteria, Glade air freshener, decking,
Coldplay, The Da Vinci Code and Natasha Kaplinksy. The Handbook seeks not to instruct, but to offer diverse inspirations."

"What the fuck does a mummy from Cambridge know about decadence?" barks artist Sebastian Horsely in his Anti-Contribution. "You pose as outré but you are about as decadent as the St Trinian's hockey team.. Middleweight, middlebrow, middle-aged, middle-income, middle-class, middle-of-the-road, middle-England, middling twats."

Despite such protests from His Royal Lowness -- remember, this from a man who crucified himself in the Philippines for art -- Rowan Pelling has done a fine job. She acknowledges her short-comings, saying she "would doubtless fail the practical examination but might score a few points in the appreciation and theory papers. What would-be hedonist doesn't enjoy the vicarious pleasures and perversions of the decadent movement of the arts?"

What would-be hedonist, indeed? Convincing those contributors who are still alive to accept remuneration in absinthe, there are many varied takes on what decadence constitutes and who, drawn from a veritable ragbag of scruffy dandies, hard-drinking libertines and other dead literary hooligans, makes the ultimate Decadent. For Professor Nicholas Royle, it's Michel Foucault ("a smiling Foucault opened the door: such a scene was revealed, of bodies in action behind the host, that she felt she had no option but immediately to hurry Her Majesty's cousin away. Pressed by others for further details of what exactly she and the other young woman had witnessed that night, she could not be induced to say another word."); while for Nick Groom it is not just the generic Rock Star ("an image of reckless foppishness, a vision of intoxication, a grand carelessness and ritualistic squandering of genius"), but Gary Glitter in particular ("Whether you like it or not, he is a true outcast - and may be the most decadent rock star on the planet."); and Stuart Kelly makes a persuasive argument for Robert Louis Stevenson, a decadent of the Scottish variety, and not as oxymoronic as you would first think ("With more sunlight, a different doctrinal inheritance and more money in his pocket, he might have been a Caledonian Huysman").

Anne Billson's Decadent Career started with the book Dreamers of Decadence, was launched in earnest with Les Fleurs du Mal, stalled for a while with her failed attempts at being a femme fatale ("when I switched to more conventional holly red, I found myself with a devoted following, not of the lovelorn writers and artists I'd envisaged, but of schizophrenics, drug addicts and repressed homosexuals"), before finally flourishing in Paris when she expects it least. Philip Langeskov reckons "there is almost nothing to be said for the decadent who has not been seriously ill, or at least given the appearance of being so." "Life is life," he says, "but a Decadent life is living." As "the decadent has a lust for experience that is all consuming," so " illness. has a lust for bodies whose attentions are elsewhere directed."

Taking refuge in what Charles Baudelaire called les Paradis artificiels of drink, drugs and dreams, musician John Moore gets his rocks off in Bonnigton Square, an essay that probably comes closest to Horsely's own debasement: "To watch your blood swirl up into the brownish mixture you are about to introduce to your body is a glorious negation - Life is not sacred, it is something to be played with, interfered with, by those without medical certificates, altered for amusement and risked for nothing more than selfish pleasure."

Maria Alvarez conjures Snowball, an imaginary butler "required to indulge in all the debaucheries and pleasures we had grown too tired and bored to enjoy ourselves"; Xavior Roide has the most fashionable address in London (Shoredietrich); Helen Walsh extends the weekend and champions Mad Monday (more decadent than deviant sex and Hip Hotels, where drinks are 99p); Erich Kuersten celebrates the bender ("all but forgotten as a legitmate form of self-exploration and abuse"); with its "seductive passivity" and the "communal sensory stimulation," not to mention the "scopophilia, voyeurism, narcissism and masochism," Isabelle McNeill makes watching films truly perverse; and Louise Welsh imagines her own funeral: "There will be no pious requests for no flowers please at my send-off. I want gangster wreaths with tributes spelt in flowers."

Christopher Moore sees no shame in resorting to a guidebook, and what better than Michel Houellebecq's Atomised? In Fast-Food and Fellatio, The Quest for Houellebecq, Moore uses incidents from that fabled book and sets out to see Paris through the eyes of half-brothers Michel and Bruno. The adventure includes visits to Monoprix, sexual encounters in McDonalds, quaffing The Pape and climaxes with some harsh words from a French friend: "Relating my heroic trip, I tell her decadence is in the mind and is all about context anyway. She tells me I am a trenchant loser and that only the English think M.H. is cool."

The decadent travel continues with El Hombre Indelible, in which dandy Dickon Edwards (photographed with the obligatory lobster on a leash in one of the book's few illustrations) fills in the imaginary blanks in a humorous piece on what happened in December 2005 when Pogues front-man Shane MacGowan buggered off to Morocco before the band's re-union. "Often bracketed next to George Best and Ozzy Osbourne, as if all legendary over-indulgers are alike," MacGowan is yin to Edwards' yang, "English and Irish; White Suit and Black Coat; Innocence and Experience." Treading in the footsteps of Paul Bowles and William Burroughs before them, a pleasant time is had by all. Edwards writes that "decades of Decadence have damaged parts of his brain, ..the parts for walking and speaking..have paid the price," a detrimental toll that results in both being refused passage from Tangier airport.

And yet, despite extracts from the Earl of Rochester, Ocatve Mirbeau, Oscar Wilde, Guillaume Lescable and JK Huysman (and mentions of Verlaine, Rimbaud and the "mad, bad and dangerous to know" Byron and his entourage), and despite the feast of sex, death and subversion between these covers (and the many pieces not mentioned thus far and worth a read), the Romans, as William Napier happily points out, got there first: "To truly achieve Roman levels of decadence you will need a great deal of money and no scruples. You will also want a menagerie of wild animals, some obedient slaves with no appreciation of their human rights, and amourous inclinations towards at least one other member of your immediate family."

Empress Theodora exhausted "as many as thirty lusty young slaveboys in a single night," Tiberius liked to cover his penis in "bread-crumbs so that mullet would come and nibble at it," Nero liked to dress in animal skins and attack the genitals of those who offended him and Heliogabulus dined on the "smallest, most superficial part of the largest or rarest animal and then throw the rest away." Caligula, though, takes the biscuit: "Caligula was so proud of his inamorta that he had a little amphitheatre built specially, where for a denarius or two, the unwashed multitude could come and gawp at
their Divine Emperor buggering his sister on stage. He also liked to have another partner involved, ideally the North African gladiator Superbus, who would bugger him at the same time as he was violating his cherished sibling. Incest, homosexuality, exhibitionism, group sex and even a kind of prostitution all in one. Quite a feat of the decadent imagination." In comparison, Belle de Jour's contribution, The Story of B, is rather tame.


Orgies, absinthe, velvet jackets, drugs and debauchery. Decadence, as Stuart Kelly puts it in this volume, is 'easy to recognise and hard to define'. The Decadent Handbook gets round this problem by dividing the books into sections - including decadent drinking, death and sex - and then by slipping an appropriately excessive amount of examples between its glistening black covers. Its selection range through the old and new, obvious and surprising, and from the divine to the ridiculous. We have the Earl of Rochester's debauched poetry and Oscar Wilde’s barbed aphorisms. Then there are fascinating pieces of social history, notably Joe Boyd's account of opening the UFO club in 1960s psychedelic London. There's also a brilliant incisive analysis by Stuart Kelly of why Scotland isn't the least bit decadent. On the other hand, the conbtributions by contemporary Sloanes and self-styled art school bad boys are tiresome.What emerges is that decadence can take many forms; a gleeful transgression of convention; self-indulgence to the point of cruelty;or simply an unwavering commitment to the pleasure principle.

Jo Littler in The Guardian

This is a collection intended for inspiration rather than instruction: only dedicated hedonists will find something in every chapter to enjoy. Nevertheless, whatever your taboo of choice, you will find it explored in these pages, and the contributions(when they are not gratuitously obscene) are suffused with a welcoming mix of humour and cynicism. Decadence, ironically enough, is pretty hard work, requiring 'talent, aptitude and dedication to perfect'; and the Handbook's mix of advice, reflections and fiction, if you can stomach it, will set you on your way.

Jade Everingham in The Daily Telegraph

Decadence may be, as Rowan Pelling admits, ' easy to recognise but hard to define' but by God the contributors give it a good go. In 375 pages you’ll find decadent food, decadent travel and decadent deaths alongside decadent drinking, decadent lifestyles and decadent sex. There’s even a section on decadent theory.
It is, inevitably, a curate egg, depending not so much on the particular descent into decadence as the talent of the dabbler describing the decadent deed.
Some of the pieces - Joe Boyd on underground culture and his fabled UFO club; Mick Brown on Donald Cammell's film Performance - are well-written and fascinating.

David Sinclair in Tribune

RRP: £9.99

No. of pages: 372

Publication date: 10.10.2007

ISBN numbers:
978 1 903517 64 2
978 1 903517 30 7
978 1 907650 68 0

Rights sold;
Turkey(Okuyan Us).