RESIDENT ALIEN: The New York Diaries by Quentin Crisp

RESIDENT ALIEN: The New York Diaries

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Placidly whimsical observations by the ever-charming Crisp (Manners from Heaven, 1985, etc.) on his occasion-filled life as ""a free-loader, a dilettante, a butterfly on the wheel."" Crisp writes reviews and essays, attends openings and parties, and entertains anyone who wishes to hear his opinions, from curious strangers to lecture-hall audiences. Here he tells us briefly about the books he read, plays and movies he attended, and other things he was invited to do from 1990 to 1994. These diaries, far from being especially intimate, are culled from a regular column he wrote for the New York Native. The 86-year-old author, an expatriate Briton, would have it that his urbane facade is all there is, that no unknown quirks of personality lurk beneath his flamboyantly gay, superhumanly gracious, and baroquely eloquent public persona. When a stranger calls him at his Manhattan rooming house to request a meeting, says Crisp, ""Whenever possible, I comply with his or her request on the principle that we should never say no to anything except an appeal for money."" (He's listed in the phone book, so this happens rather often.) He acted as an extra in the film Philadelphia and played Queen Elizabeth I in Orlando, an experience he describes entirely as a war of endurance against his unwieldy costume. He made numerous trips around the country in order to give lectures and to promote a documentary about himself, Resident Alien; the author's pronouncements on the virtues of his adopted compatriots suggest that he is among the most generous-minded people alive. His wit is often mordant, which saves him from utter preciosity: ""I have always liked death, especially other people's death, but have recently been contemplating my own with a certain amount of relish."" Admirers of the trademark Crisp style will be delighted, but it's difficult to fathom how he endures the relentless superficiality of much of his existence.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Alyson