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~生まれた町で夢見てきた...~
"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
The Naked Civil Servant by Quentin Crisp 
1st-Apr-2006 11:59 pm
Winter
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 printing
Rating: 5/10 - Worth checking out for those interested in memoirs, the time period, the subject matter (homosexuality and prejudice/tolerance), and/or dry British wit.
Comments 
2nd-Apr-2006 04:19 pm (UTC)
Have you seen the movie?
I saw it more than a decade ago and found it very sweet.

2nd-Apr-2006 04:20 pm (UTC)
There's a movie, too? The author bio said that there was a TV dramatization...
2nd-Apr-2006 04:24 pm (UTC) - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073438/
With John Hurt.

2nd-Apr-2006 04:29 pm (UTC) - Re: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073438/
Hmm. If I'm not mistaken, it'll prove to be positively unobtainable in the US. ^^;
2nd-Apr-2006 04:39 pm (UTC) - Re: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073438/
Aw, crap.

Let me see if it's in Netflix.

Most likely not. Anyway, you won't really miss much, unless you love John Hurt. (I do.)
2nd-Apr-2006 04:41 pm (UTC) - Re: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073438/
Well, I'm curious to know how what I read on paper would've translated into real life. As I said in my comments, I was having trouble envisioning it. >_< Since Crisp was still alive when that adaptation was made, you'd THINK it would be relatively realistic.
2nd-Apr-2006 05:07 pm (UTC) - Re: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073438/
It had quite a bit of a TV-cheesy-moralistic tinge to it, but John got him down pat.

Nothing on NetFlix.

I saw it by renting at Video Avenue. I'm not sure if there are any of those in the continental US.
2nd-Apr-2006 06:47 pm (UTC) - Re: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073438/
when i found out my friend ben hadn't seen this, i actually said, "and you call yourself a homosexual?" it's a historical document, in its own way. (i'm a big john hurt fan, too - he's always been underused, if you ask me.)

crisp himself was wonderful as elizabeth I in orlando...
2nd-Apr-2006 06:58 pm (UTC) - Re: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073438/
That's one of my nicknames, actually.

Orlando, I mean, not Crisp.

2nd-Apr-2006 07:36 pm (UTC) - Re: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073438/
are you from florida, or do you change sexes as you move randomly back and forth between centuries? *grin*
2nd-Apr-2006 07:56 pm (UTC) - Re: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073438/
Right now I'm an old man.

Whataboutyou?
2nd-Apr-2006 08:02 pm (UTC) - Re: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073438/
i'm a potential old man. a future old man. *laughs and pictures it*
2nd-Apr-2006 08:11 pm (UTC) - Re: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073438/
in the future i'll be a petite young lady-woman
so believe me
I'm in no hurry
2nd-Apr-2006 08:20 pm (UTC) - Re: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073438/
i don't blame you. i don't think i'd like being a petite young lady-woman. being a petit young coffeepimp is bad enough. in the future i'd like to be something along the lines of a norwegian ice-hockey player. just for contrast. and to be able to reach high shelves. *grin*
2nd-Apr-2006 04:32 pm (UTC)
I love that book! But I think I loved his book How to Become a Virgin the most.

He also wrote fiction, but the only valid reason for reading his fiction is if you want to laugh your head off about how unbelievably atrocious it is. For that purpose, it's truly exceptional.
2nd-Apr-2006 05:02 pm (UTC)
He also wrote fiction, but the only valid reason for reading his fiction is if you want to laugh your head off about how unbelievably atrocious it is.

It's not actually in-print anymore, is it? I could tell, even from his memoir, how much trouble he has keeping a strong narrative line going, so I can only imagine how out-of-control the fiction must've been!
2nd-Apr-2006 05:09 pm (UTC)
I bough Chog about three years ago, and it seemed to be in print then. It's probably in print now too, but even if it isn't, I doubt it's very hard to obtain.

It wasn't just the narrative style that was atrocious; it was also the plot. Chog is a story that appears to be very realistically told, until all of a sudden a female character becomes pregnant with a child whose father is a dog. ("Chog" is a word made by combining the words "child" and "dog." It's the name of the half-dog child.) There was no clue that this was the sort of story that such things could happen in, until it happened.
2nd-Apr-2006 06:28 pm (UTC)
Err...well. So much for writing things as they are, as he put it. Is this one of the books he wrote before Naked Civil Servant, or after?
2nd-Apr-2006 06:33 pm (UTC)
He wrote Chog 11 years later.
2nd-Apr-2006 07:12 pm (UTC)
Sounds interesting. If only for the pic on the cover^^
2nd-Apr-2006 09:44 pm (UTC)
I saw him being interviewed on TV once, I don't remember much except I was fascinated ^_^;;
2nd-Apr-2006 11:51 pm (UTC)
That's the current UK edition, only. The American edition has "art" on it. ^_^;
3rd-Apr-2006 01:03 am (UTC)
Not fair^^
3rd-Apr-2006 02:28 am (UTC)
His book is probably less easy for younger readers to appreciate. You really need to be able to remember a time when the mere existence of someone like Crisp shocked people deeply. A time when it was taken for granted that if you weren't "normal" then you did everything you could to disguise that fact. Crisp's courage in living a completely out-of-the-closet gay life in a time when that was not only unacceptble but positively dangerous was extraordinary. When the book was published gay liberation was still a very new idea, homosexuality had only been legalised a few years before in Britain, and here in Australia it was still illegal.
3rd-Apr-2006 02:52 am (UTC)
It's not so much in the respect of the historical context/memoir elements that it doesn't age well. In addition to his life story, Crisp presents certain "insights" that have been proven to be particular to a specific time period as universal and does not distinguish them from insights that might actually BE universal. When he tries to talk about more than himself, he loses a lot of his authorial authority.
28th-Apr-2006 11:08 am (UTC)
Review archived.
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