THE BOOK REPORT: The Naked Civil Servant
“Even hooligans marry, though they know that marriage is for a little while. It is alimony that is forever.” Witticisms such as this can be found on just about every page of Quentin Crisp’s classic autobiography The Naked Civil Servant. Beginning with his birth (“as soon as I stepped out of my mother’s womb…I realized that I had made a mistake”) to his cynical reflections on old(er) age (he was 60 at the time of writing and lived to be 90), Crisp’s writing is unflaggingly lively, at times outright hilarious.
Crisp came out as a gay man in 1931 in a virulently homophobic England. His autobiography chronicles his struggles to pursue his own way of life and remain fiscally solvent throughout the tumultuous years of the early twentieth century. Ultimately, between the lines of self-deprecating humor, The Naked Civil Servant is a testament to a brave life lived deeply for the causes of personal dignity and self-expression.