Kirkus Star


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Punctiliously polite and urbanely offensive, Crisp's singular vita induces a desolate shudder. A fabulously plumed and heavily mascara-ed ostrich, Quentin Crisp recounts a life spent as homosexual provocateur in the streets of London where he walked with the infinite care of a man deliberately adorned to attract the taunts, kicks, and blows of the uncomprehending. And in the 1920s, when Crisp first took to flaunting his sins, the uncomprehending included just about everyone. Once begun, ""exhibition is like a drug""--the life could not be dropped despite the penury to which his frequently jobless condition reduced him. When he worked, it was as a commercial artist and artist's model, living in a series of rooms-to-let, cultivating by degrees the advantages of squalor (""after the first four years the dirt doesn't get any worse""), finding friends among those sufficiently reckless, curious, or down-and-out to accept his company. In fact Crisp, by his own telling, was the mildest of men who suffered from the certain knowledge that he was in every way inferior to any heterosexual. That such convictions produced an odd inversion of values--as cheerless as Genet's, if as blithely expressed as Wilde's--should surprise no one. Here is a man who despised flowers, except when artificial, disliked animals because people were bad enough, and came to conclude that anything done for money was sacred, while anything done for love was probably balderdash. Crisp's closing reflections--he is now approaching 70--on how changing sexual mores have deprived him of his propaganda value, fitting him only for extinction--are suitably ironic, though Michael Holroyd in an invaluable introduction assures us that Crisp has reached his prime in the television age and is now enshrined as one of London's favorite eccentrics. It's hard to gauge the readership for this--but they will surely find one another.

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 1977
ISBN: 0141180536
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston