(Out commercial culture profits by making the masses feel they are special outsiders, but that is another bigger topic that I’m not going into right now.) Not a bit troubled by his “gay” thing either. That males had sexual activity with one another was not news to me or outside of my direct experience.
The people who post The Quentin Crisp Archives began posting quotes from this book and I got interested enough to buy a copy, which I had to do because it was not available in my local library system since I no longer live in New York City. I don’t like to buy books. I read them and don’t look at them again. After moving from New York I got rid of the books that I had collected. This did not particularly grieve me. But I do like the books I want to read to be available from the library rather than have to be purchased, from Amazon no less. In the past year there have been three book buys by me. That is plenty. There is another like this, an indie project created with love. I’m happy that they get my money. Another was a graphic book. I was interested in the subject, but graphic novels, or biographies, as in this case are high on pictures and low on information. I’m more interested in information than pictures so they feel like less than.(I have little doubt that there will soon be a Quentin Crisp graphic biography if there is not one already, he is perfect for that.) In the book Quentin talks about money and it is revealed that he behaved toward it like a Great Depression kid. They don’t spend it for fear it will not be replenished, but forever gone. I’m not a depression kid, I just don’t like to collect stuff and kind of stayed working class so I don’t have a lot of extra money.
The character who inhabits The Last Word is 90 years old and has had about enough of that. She is ready to let it go without looking back. And why should he. The Naked Civil Servant appeared in 1968 and the fame and all that went with that came to Quentin in his late 60s and early 70s. Prior to that life was more of a struggle and she really seemed to bloom in NYC. One of the best things about The Last Word is that it is the work of a 90 year old. We don’t hear that much out of the very elderly. Many celebrities vanish at a certain point, maybe around age 70, for men anyway, and go into a sort of twilight period until we read that they have finally died at 85 or whatever. So it is interesting to see what this odd old man had to say.
He talks about shutting down some, stopping sex at 30. Did he really say 30? Well, other than masturbation, which went on until around 60. Thanks for the info, Quentin, it is really rather interesting and I’m not a bit squeamish about that stuff.
I’m not one who sees sex or money as these big private things that must remain hidden. The thing is I get the feeling that these sexual things were very unsatisfactorily explored, he writes of quicky encounters in city street doorways. In Quentin it appears that the tunnel to love remained undiscovered and there was a turning in from the hostel outer world to the world of the mind rather than that of human sensuality. I don’t really know what kind of sex he would have appreciated, but the setup, looking for money because that's what the others did doesn’t seem promising from my out of context view. But I really don’t get the male/male action world of some of these writers from that generation. Same with Gore Vidal with his “trade”. I guess Quentin, much less the “boy” Gore was and from a lower class, fell into the category of “trade” or at least wannabe trade. I assume there is more on this in other writings which I haven’t gotten to yet. I can understand the wannabe trade thing. I can understand being adored with a nice bit of dough attached to that, the ones who pay these lower class boys I don’t quite get. I want to be wanted, not temporarily tolerated for a toll. (I just got The Naked Civil Servant from the local library yesterday and will read that shortly.) Her attitude toward nature is also indicative of the sensual withdrawal into the mind. But there could be a bit of English princess in there, not wishing to get dirty or whatever.
What we seem to be left with is an acute observing mind, alert, from decades of danger, now calm and safe in relatively new public acceptance which revealed to the observer the absurdity of the whole game.
Our delight is his lack of fear in telling us what he sees in glorious articulation.
Oh, by the way, it turns out that Crisp was not really “gay”, but something else. I think The Naked Civil Servant came out at basically the same time as The Stonewall Riots, which are a marker of the beginning of the gay liberation movement. Since then there has been much more thought into the endless variations in gender and sexual orientation. This caused elderly Crisp, along with many others to revision the long held views of themselves and their position in the scheme of things. You can read the book for more on this. I welcomed this part because I’m not gay but certainly not straight at all and I’m less boyish than many others. I welcome the death of this sexual dualism.
For many years I lived two blocks away from Quentin Crisp. I would see him almost daily sitting for lunch in his favorite diner on second avenue. Then that place closed and he moved across the street to another lunch place and eventually vanished. I went into the old place one day and bought Crisp his brunch. I didn’t bother to ask him to work for his lunch by giving me audience. He had paid already by being on the Dick Cavett Show decades earlier.
Crisp was socially promiscuous. He was allegedly willing to give anyone a go at lunch or street conversation. He would avoid second encounters.
He was a keen observer of people. This is something I assume one picks up as a protective mechanism being an odd one in a hostile world. There is a fear and distrust of others, and not without good reason. He did excellently with that and the promiscuity seemed to work out well for him. In the end. The community protected and honored the oddball.
He was a big winner.
I was interested in the art model angle because I am an art model. He mentions the peripheral benefits to this work. It can develop patience and alter one's view of time. I like the think that this work which involves really being an outsider in the scene with the painters and the art teachers, with the silent meditation being part of the bargain, as potentially spiritually uplifting or helping with some type of transcendence. One wants to be in on something special.
Reading The Last Word brings one up close to a very special old man