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by Quentin Crisp

In this autobiography, Quentin Crisp describes his unhappy childhood and the stresses of adolescence that led him to London. There in bedsits and cafes he found a world of brutality and comedy, of shortlived jobs and precarious relationships. All of which he faced with humour and intelligence.
Download The Naked Civil Servant (Flamingo) epub
ISBN: 0006540449
ISBN13: 978-0006540441
Category: Biographies
Author: Quentin Crisp
Language: English
Publisher: Harpercollins Pub Ltd; (Reissue) edition (May 31, 1996)
Pages: 224 pages
ePUB size: 1357 kb
FB2 size: 1369 kb
Rating: 4.3
Votes: 195
Other Formats: doc lit lrf mbr

There's an anecdote in this charming and astringent memoir that epitomizes THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT for me: in the 1930s, Quentin Crisp worked as an assistant in an office and was sent out at lunchtime to buy a pair of scissors for that office. Instead of going to Woolworth's and picking up a cheap pair for sixpence (about fifteen cents U.S. then; perhaps a couple of bucks today), he went to a good stationer's and spent two shillings sixpence for a nice pair (five times what the Woolie's model cost). The secretary to whom he brought the scissors was aghast at the high price, until Crisp facetiously suggested calling the new acquisition "paper shears" rather than scissors. THAT made the purchase okay, to Crisp's surprise and chagrin.

Quentin Crisp just wasn't constructed to live in "straight" society, and sexuality only sometimes has anything to do with it. He did decide, as a young man, to "brazen it out" and live as an effeminate gay man, on the theory that he would never pass for straight. He took the lumps (physical and metaphorical) associated with such out-ness, but he had a lot of fun, too. Anyone who can refer to gilt-edged payments from his mother (roughly, U.K. for "blue-chip") as "GUILT-edged" has something to say. This witty and insightful bio should be on anyone's reading list for Interwar England (1919-1939), gay or straight.
In The Naked Civil Servant Quentin Crisp introduces us to quite the character - himself.

"From the dawn of my history I was so disfigured by the characteristics of a certain kind of homosexual person that, when I grew up, I realized that I could not ignore my predicament."

The Naked Civil Servant is the autobiography of Quentin Crisp, a gay man who came out in 1931 and lived his life with a flamboyance defiant of the time. The book is filled with tales, spanning many decades, of his various careers (despite lack of skill), and friends who "were anyone who could put up with the disgrace".

Spanning decades, and thus changes in times, attitudes, fashions, and degrees of acceptance, Crisp paints the picture of his life, lived in vibrant color, with a unique wit that has not been seen elsewhere, and may not be ever again.

The Naked Civil Servant is a masterwork in the genres of autobiography and humor, and an important piece of queer literature - It is an important read for anyone who finds their identity in opposition to the world at large.
I think this is Quentin Crisp's best autobiography dating back to his birth of 1908. He was more fortunate than most gays of that time period. At least he never suffered the same punishment as Allan Turing who took his own life in 1954 because of chemical castration. The charge was gross indecency. Euphemism for homosexuality. The story of Quentin Crisp is just as colorful. A life beset with challenges if you were openly effeminate. Most gays tried to keep their sexuality secret.
I do feel that this review may be out of place here but here goes. In the mid 1980's I was lucky enough to meet Quentin as he was performing at the Donmar Theatre in London. I was introduced to him through a close friend of mine who was a leading light in the 'alternative theatre' world. Being a photographer I was able to photograph Quentin and he was very gracious. A few months later I was in NY and telephoned him and invited him to lunch which he agreed to and we had an enjoyable lunch and I photographed him yet again. I asked him this question -: 'How did he feel about being so inspirational to so many people both homosexual and heterosexual? I do not recall his precise words but he responded in a bemused manner as if it had never occurred to him before. I told him that I was a heterosexual man and had admired him for his courage and honesty in being just who he wanted to be and that he was an icon for many of my students. He thanked me and later sent me a short letter which I was able to read out to my students in Sydney. Many of them were very appreciative on hearing his words and they eventually bought the above book. When the play, based on his life and written by Tim Fountain toured Australia, I was able to contribute a few photographs for that book. The pics were cropped but nonetheless I admired Quentin and the play was well received. The book is called 'Quentin Crisp by Tim Fountain. The play toured during the last year of Quentin's life and describes that last year. Unfortunately Quentin never got to see the play which I felt so sad about. He was a courageous man and I felt very fortunate that I got to meet him. He inspired me to be a better person and I cherish the photographs I have of him.