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The Naked Civil Servant (1968)

by Quentin Crisp

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7151022,777 (3.97)20
Quentin Crisp's delivery of his classic autobiography is vivid & full of candor. A comic masterpiece & a unique testament to the resilience of the human spirit
Recently added bytaytayblablabla, private library, Renabur, jrademaker, STLreader, slugmanor, UNC_LGBTQ, chloec, kavc

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
This is a practical guide on how to write a living eulogy of your Self, as though it is a martyr pretending to something else.

Crisp's wit and intelligence is his saving grace in this, his autobiography written in the middle of his life, but his despondent attitude constantly leaned me to think him a whiner. His seemingly inadvertent bravery in coming out as homosexual in the 1920s is more than remarkable, and he even stood up for in a court case where policemen accused him for attempting to prostitute himself; the case was dismissed.

Crisp's writing is at times essential and a great example of intelligence and humor intertwined, e.g.:

For about twenty years I lived in a state of intoxication with my own existence and, perhaps for that very reason, excess of alcohol was one of the extremes to which I felt no urge to fly. I asked many people why they drank so much but never received an explanation that I fully understood. It was the tales of their escapades while under the influence of drink that brought me nearest to comprehending their need for it. It seemed to give them a few hours of freedom from rates which, during the rest of their lives, they reluctantly obeyed. If this was true, then in the example of my life lay a cure for drunkenness, though it was hardly an answer which Harley Street would have approved. The prophylactic is, never to conform at all.

In short, a mostly interesting, saddening and self-made tragedy made by a man who transformed himself into a work of art and shed himself of music and love. Do see the documentary "Resident Alien" on Crisp, made as Crisp was turning 80 years of age. He moved to New York at the age of 74 and the documentary does give a few very different views on his life, at least as it was lived during the latter part, which shows this autobiography as a work of art onto itself, but knowing Crisp - and most people - how could it be anything else? ( )
1 vote pivic | Mar 20, 2020 |
To Barbara
Quentin Crisp
  chestergap | Jul 29, 2017 |
Gives us some insight into how truly revolutionary we can become by *just* being funny. There's camp, but Crisp IS camp personified! ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
There are many people famous for doing nothing or very little, who command high salaries for their appearances. Some have done nothing at all, like the entire money and fame-mad Kardashian family (but in this time of recession they are definitely doing their bit to keep the cosmetics industry afloat). Some have done just a little but their train-wreck life style continues to fascinate, like Lindsey Lohan. When interviewed they fall flat, they have nothing to say that hasn't been scripted, they have no personalities and no ambitions other than to be famous, rich, beautiful and young forever and ever. Such is their empty philosophy. What they do all have in common is spin doctors, PR companies paid to tirelessly promote these nonenties as products they can make a percentage from.

Quentin Crisp had done absolutely nothing at all (other than being a naked life-class model) to deserve fame, but the force of his personality and his immense moral values brought him fame on the stage, in print and on film. It takes a huge personality to have done nothing and achieve all that. No publicity machine for him.

What he had done is what we would all love to do but don't have the courage. He lived his life exactly as he wanted to, making concessions only where he had to, and then was totally honest about what he had done and why. He hid nothing, not even the sleazy times of prostitution, or worse perhaps. He didn't even hide his filthy ways - he rarely washed and never, ever cleaned his house. He did say it didn't get any worse after the first four years, but later he said he'd been wrong, and in fact it did.

In real life and on the stage he was just himself - he spoke from his heart and not from a script. The script that John Hurt followed when playing Quentin Crisp in two films had been approved by him. No script, but he did have an agenda.

He had been charged with importuning in the street. He wasn't guilty, that time, but was the victim of some nasty, homophobic policemen's stitch-up. His defence was magnificent. He laid his entire life on the line and was acquitted by a judge who had started out not just unsympathetic but actively despising this ageing queer with makeup and pastel-coloured hair. Quentin Crisp's message to the court was that morals have nothing to do with the law, if you haven't broken the law you are innocent no matter how you want to live your life. Find your own moral compass and be true to it. Help others be true to theirs.

The world was less colourful, less moral and less witty the day Quentin Crisp passed away. Read his book AND see the films to see this man and admire his strength, personality and rather witty, gay turn of phrase. ( )
1 vote Petra.Xs | Apr 2, 2013 |
This depressingly self-loathing and affected memoir had me nearly throwing the book out several times in the first 50 pages. Had I not been reading it for a bookclub, I would never have gotten that far.

Despite the historical interest of reading about the life and times of an openly homosexual man before the gay-rights movement, Crisp's writing style was extremely hard for me to bear: full of internalised homophobia, ugly and un-funny humour, and the sort of petty cattiness which he himself explains as trying to be 'feminine.' In his quest to confront the world as an overt homosexual (his word, not mine), Crisp goes out of his way to be provocative, and denigrates anyone who chooses not to.

In the end, however, I found the book to be deeply saddening, as beneath the façade there only appears to be a hurt, angry, self-hating little man who is by his own admission deeply incapable of feeling love for the very men he is attracted to. ( )
1 vote monarchi | Apr 6, 2009 |
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From the dawn of my history I was so disfigured by the characteristics of a certain kind of a homosexual person that, when I grew up, I realized that I could not ignore my predicament.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Quentin Crisp's delivery of his classic autobiography is vivid & full of candor. A comic masterpiece & a unique testament to the resilience of the human spirit

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