The Naked Civil Servant
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Top Customer Reviews
He is full of eccentricities aside from the obvious - his decision to promote his homosexuality in a time when such an activity was unheard of, by his wearing makeup/dying his hair with henna - including never cleaning his flat ("after the first year the dust really doesn't get any worse") and never reading any books, ("books are for writing, not for reading" - actually a quote from another book of his).
He is endlessly quotable and very funny.
Yet for all the humour the tone of this book is sad. Crisp was endlessly abused, beaten-up and victimised because of his appearance.
The book is also a valuble historical document shedding light on the blacked-out seedy streets of wartime Soho.
And what exactly is a naked civil servent? You'll have to read it to find out, won't you?
It's fresh and funny and catty. Despite it reading more like a social history book in places, Crisp is never dull and his prose shimmers on the page and gives a touch of tawdry magic to everything he casts his eye and pen upon. I suspect he would have been an utter nightmare to have known in real life. There are times in the book I found him frustrating and just wanted to slap him, but goodness, when the muse is upon him he can really make you laugh, and some of his lines are absolute gems. I particularly liked his views on Morris Dancing.
In 1931, gay liberation was not a movement—it was simply unthinkable. But in that year, Quentin Crisp made the courageous decision to "come out" as a homosexual. This exhibitionist with the henna-dyed hair was harrassed, ridiculed and beaten. Nevertheless, he claimed his right to be himself—whatever the consequences. The Naked Civil Servant is both a comic masterpiece and a unique testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
Crisp was born in 1908, and while he covers his early years with insight and wit (he declares that those who are thought witty are those who laugh and listen politely to others) the story really gets going when he moves to London.
By this time, Crisp has accepted that he is a homosexual and has decided to confront the world with his existence instead of shading himself in public, his head down. He slathers his face with make-up, styles his hair in dramatic waves and wears flowing, feminine fashions. He monitors every step, one foot precisely in front of the other.
Thus he sets out in 1930’s London, often drawing crowds of people who follow him hurling insults, catcalls and rocks. He is often attacked, and relates in a dispassionate voice the techniques he used to get out of trouble, when possible. Of course, it was often not possible. Several times he is beaten, he often fears for his life and danger is ever-present. His presence inside large buildings would often cause a tumult and shopping is an obstacle course of insults and rude clerks.
But still, he often finds work – in commercial art, publishing houses and even an engineering firm.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have seen the film years ago so decided to buy the book thinking there's always more details & info in a book, nope. Film is better.Published on 21 Jan. 2014 by martin overfield
I love this book mainly because Crisp's use of English is so refreshingly humorous.
He had a difficult start but his self deprecating, sardonic humour got him through.
Have been meaning to read this book for years. Received it on Monday & have nearly read it. Quentin Crisp was obviously a very complex person who was born at the wrong time. Read morePublished on 16 Oct. 2013 by Robert Preece