Friend, publisher and professor

"A memoir is how we remember our own lives . . ."
Gore Vidal

I remember reading The Naked Civil Servant for the first time at Foyles on Charing Cross Road in London in 1968. That memory often leads me to sense the wonderful connection I felt as a young American university student sitting in a book-lined room at Foyles on a damp and cold winter day 40 years ago reading about the birth of Denis Charles Pratt (aka Quentin Crisp) on December 25, 1908.

Reading The Naked Civil Servant on that day in 1968 led me to be interested in what the young Denis Pratt and the older Quentin Crisp saw as the sin of being an effeminate homosexual. I became interested in how the language of sin and guilt shapes and defines our sexual selves. And, I became interested in how Christianity and other religions teach us that our sexuality is sinful.

When I read Phillip Ward’s E-mail last week—asking me to write a statement about Quentin Crisp at 100 for crisperanto.org—I was taking note of what Rachel Maddow said about Rick Warren, “America’s Pastor,” on her MSNBC show. Responding to President-elect Barack Obama’s choice of Warren to give the invocation on January 20, 2009, Maddow seemed to speak for all of us who are upset, troubled, confused and frustrated with Obama’s choice of “Pastor” Warren to be the “spiritual clarion that gives us the next President of the United States.”

Thinking about Maddow’s description of Warren’s powerful and influential Saddleback Church having recovery groups for those whose “sin” is being “homosexual,” I remembered that moment of connection with Denis Charles Pratt and Quentin Crisp, and The Naked Civil Servant 40 years ago.

I thought about the centuries of systematically reinforced Christian sin and guilt related to sexuality. I thought about all the Christian “spiritual clarions” who have spoken for the nations of the world, while teaching that homosexuality is a sin.

I remembered this Quentin Crisp quotation:

“I was born on Christmas day.
I think we have to regard it as mere coincidence.”
And, I wondered . . .

Happy 100th Birthday and Merry Crisp-mas, Mr. Crisp!

Read what Richard Connolly wrote for the tribute booklet
An Evening for Quentin Crisp: The Memorial.

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