by Quentin Crisp

This is the section of a massive tome that no one ever reads, not even a conscientious member of the book club. It begins, "I would like to thank…." The eyes glaze. The heart sinks. Fortunately, in my case, this is just a few short paragraphs.

First, I wish to thank Mr. David Rosen of Quality Paperback Book Club/Triangle Classics, who has made it possible for me to produce a book with very little work. And I must say, work is a four-letter word that I never use in mixed company.

I also wish to thank my agent, Mr. Stedman Mays. He is a very kind and gracious gentleman who rules the Clausen, Mays & Tahan literary agency with consummate skill and humor. Certainly, I must owe him an amazing lot, because I am sure it is he who convinced Mr. Rosen to print this book. And I must praise Miss Mary Tahan for her diligent handling of my chaotic affairs.

I also thank Mr. Phillip Ward for all his kind help and friendship. In my waning years, he has made it all very easy for me. Mr. Ward has helped me rewrite my one-man show, An Evening With Quentin Crisp, and is helping me prepare the manuscript of my next book. He is like your friendly innkeeper, adroitly steering me through much of life’s chaos and complexities.

This volume of my collected memoirs is the story of my life, from the time I was born to the present moment. The pages you are about to read might frighten you, but I hope not. This is not my intention. I vacated the solemnity of a private life, and stopped frightening the horses, many years ago. Do, however, read these words with some caution.

The first part of what follows is called The Naked Civil Servant, which is a bad title because everywhere I go I have to explain that I was never a civil servant. It was a joke on how boring being a model had become. For nearly thirty years, I worked as a life model, posing nude, in an English art school. I earned sufficient money for a living, but it did grow tiresome. As a young man, I could sit perfectly still while students studying to be artists would paint me or sculpt me. But thirty years on, my bones began to creak. It was time to make a move. The book was written about 1966, before I ever knew I would reach the Big Time, and is the story of my life before moving to America when I was seventy-two years old.

The second part of this collection is called How to Become a Virgin, which refers to my own re-virgination—my own fresh rebirth as a new persona—through television when I reached America. I was so overwhelmed by America, where everyone is your friend, that I could have wept for joy in the streets! I am now busy trying to become an American citizen. I have always been an American in my heart.

The third part is called Resident Alien, another bad title, referring to my status as a foreign citizen living in New York. I have not had very good luck with titles. The book is a compilation of my diaries printed in the New York Native, a newspaper published by a charming man called Mr. Thomas Steele. His courage to print my diary is to be rewarded by being mentioned in this book.

So, dear reader, enjoy traveling through the pages ahead. You should let Miss Bette Davis be your guide. To paraphrase her, Miss Davis said, "Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride." Once you have made it through all the rough edges, or all the curious misadventures of this book, I’ll catch you at the other end. There I will bring you up to date from where Resident Alien left off. Have a fine read!

Thank you,
Quentin Crisp

Now read the Afterword.

Copyright © 1999–2009 by Quentin Crisp and Phillip Ward,
from Dusty Answers (forthcoming), Mr. Crisp's final book.
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