by Quentin Crisp

One is never without friends, especially in America, and particularly in Manhattan. I have survived the rigors of New York City life for nearly twenty years and have made it a nesting place for my weary bones and failing body. I have never truly felt my age, at least not until I turned ninety. And now, I am falling apart as I write this for you. Yet, I try always to remain calm.

Since the publication of Resident Alien, I have lost the use of my left hand to carpal tunnel syndrome. Doctors suggested I should have my wrists cut. But I said when I cut my wrists it will be forever! So I have not had the operation and can no longer type. I can write because I am right-handed, but I cannot use both hands to type. My friend Mr. Ward has become my fingers and he types the words I speak.

The papers for which I worked have folded. I worked for the New York Native and for Christopher Street. They were part of the kingdom of a very resourceful man called Tom Steele. His whole empire crumbled because kinkiness is now mainstream. There is no need to read the shocking things they said between brown paper covers, because they are now printed in the Wall Street Journal or the Sunday Times. So there was no need for his papers and they aptly disappeared. It is a pity that all came to nothing.

At the same time, Connie Clausen, my longtime agent in America, died. I took these things as a sign from You-Know-Who that my writing career was ended. Miss Clausen was a wonderful lady. She took care of many of my needs. I miss her very much, but luck has played an enormous part in my survival and I am rarely without work in the speaking and nodding racket. Mr. Mays and Miss Tahan have taken full control of what Miss Clausen left behind. They make sure that I have something to do and a means to earn a living. I owe it all to them, actually. They have been so very kind to me.

Now I go to various places and work in tiny arty theaters, telling the inhabitants how to be happy. I have been to some most extraordinary places. Like Portland, in Oregon. And Seattle, which is a strange city full of lesbians and Christmas trees. I have been to Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta, Key West. I have also been to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and even to Texas. I still enjoy Americans wherever I go. They remain a wonderful people. Americans have always welcomed and even embraced me since my arrival in America.

On my ninetieth birthday, I was put in a theater called the Intar Theater by Mr. Glines. There I performed my act for six weeks. I became ill with a horrible cold and almost died, but I still went on and gave the audience what they came to see and hear. Mr. Ward collected all the questions the audience had asked so that we may make a manuscript of all my dusty answers. The book will also include a transcript of my act and will most likely be published after I am dead. I will rest assured that Mr. Ward will make it all happen.

Now there is a theater and a museum named after me. Why, I just don’t know, but they do exist. The theater is in Los Angeles and the museum is in Kansas City, Missouri. I live in New York City and why these two venues exist, I haven’t any idea. What does it all mean? Also, I have been made immortal by Madame Tussaud! Why they have decided to put me in her museum, I can’t imagine, but they have. When Madame Tussaud flings open the doors to her Times Square museum, my wax image shall hold court, but I shall not be there.

When I was younger and was not ill, I didn’t mind how long I lived. Now that every step of my life is painful, I long for death. Even when I long for it to end, I start to remember other times and other people. I had a difficult and unhappy life in England, but it prepared me for the gold-covered streets of America. My life in America has been a wondrous wealth of joy. I have always lived my life in the profession of being. Living in New York City has prepared me for the glorious state of not-being. In my present condition, I look forward to being extinct.

When asked what it meant to be human, I was very sorry that I was not a scholar and had no philosophical point of view to express. More than not being a scholar, I am not really a human being. I do not seek the company of another person, but only of people. People are my hobby. And I do not mind spending long hours alone, and I never find something to do. Why should I have something to do? This is part of my nature. I have to be excluded from what is human so that I may look at humanity with a sense of detachment. It is then that I guess at its motives and what makes it the way it is. Be assured that when we say a thing is human, we are condoning it, not praising it.

As I have mentioned earlier, my body is falling apart as I write this missive to you. My weary bones speak each time I lift my legs to climb the stairs to my room. I am very ill with prostate cancer, an enlarged heart, and eczema (to mention only a few of my afflictions). So, I don’t expect to live much longer. However, I would hate to leave this world without saying that I have had a good ride of it all. Luck has played an enormous part in my life, I realize looking back. And I have no regrets with my life’s adventures. I made it to the Big Time with an abundance of smiles and I have only you, the reader, to thank for helping make it happen.

I have stood on this planet for nearly a century where people regarded me with amused curiosity, some with open mockery. My tale has not been a happy tale. I hope you have enjoyed reading it. As I have said many times, nothing is more pleasant than reading about other people’s misfortunes.

My life in New York City has been infinitely wonderful. I have been very happy living my winter years here. I remain very busy going here and there telling people everywhere how to be happy. I am always approached to appear in movies, and my agent continues to book me for appearances across the country. Mr. Ward makes it especially easy for me to continue to write articles for various magazines and newspapers. So, despite rambling on about my body’s decline, I’ve gone on living. At least for right now, I am too busy to die! As I approach my ninety-first birthday, I am just as active as I have always been. I am at the age were all the people my age stay home and sit in their rockers. Not me!

Lastly, I hope you have enjoyed reading this book. And I take heart that it hasn’t frightened you away. Instead I hope it has inspired you to live your life as carelessly as I have done. I have lived my life the best way I know how and I regret nothing.

[Please note that Dusty Answers consists of more than answers to the collected questions at Mr. Crisp's shows. It will also contain Mr. Crisp's poetry, as well as the manuscript of An Evening with Quentin Crisp.]

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