Some light, err, vacation reading. (Read: What I Grabbed on My Way Out the Door.)Crisp, Quentin. The Naked Civil Servant. 1968. London: Flamingo, 1985.Summary
: Quentin Crisp recounts his life as an ostracized, effeminate homosexual during the first half of the 20th century. Bouncing from flat to flat and job to job, he tries his hand at tracing, writing, commercial art, and theater, but eventually ends up as a nude model for art students--a "naked civil servant."Comments
: A disjointed narrative offering up insights both universal and particular to the time/culture (though the author does not know the difference) with impunity that is occasionally almost unforgivably funny. He was undoubtedly a most interesting character, wearing feminine clothing and makeup and chattering incessantly. Crisp seems to believe that the very fact of his body is instructive to the society, even if he does not actively crusade against its mores. (How casually cruel the English can be--unbelievable!) However, I couldn't quite envision him; lack of personal experience, plus temporal and cultural difference made it nearly impossible for me to "see" or "hear" him in my mind. Even so, this is an excellent document of queer life between the first two world wars, and the ways in which it documents changing English sentiment toward people who are different is invaluable. The one thing that I don't think (or rather hope not) is still true, though, is the fundamental, inherent sense of shame and sense of inferiority that all homosexuals nurture in themselves. Oh yes, and that is indeed the author himself photographed on the cover. Notes
: trade paperback, 17th printingRating
- Worth checking out for those interested in memoirs, the time period, the subject matter (homosexuality and prejudice/tolerance), and/or dry British wit.