I only want to be sure that I say the words you wish to hear.” alluringly wraps up An Evening with Quentin Crisp’s lecture sequence. After an interval audience questions would then be answered. The cultural icon performed his popular one-man show internationally from the 1970’s until 1999 before his death at the age of 90. Its script is included in the engaging new collection, And One More Thing.
In 2017 Crisp’s close friend and executor Phillip Ward and co-editor Laurence Watts released The Last Word, the final volume of Crisp’s autobiography. It was derived from interviews Mr. Ward conducted and recorded with Crisp during his later years. The overflow of this material instigated this welcome project which is filled out with choice existing selections. To Crisp fans it should be a delightful assortment of familiarities and surprises and to the uninitiated an illustrative primer.
I never say no,
I can’t say no,
I never say no to anything
Because I am told that, as I lie dying
On an iron bedstead in a rented room,
I shall not regret anything I did,
I shall regret what I didn’t do, so I do
Anything so as to regret very little,
Like Madame Piaf,
I shall have no regrets.
I don’t remember my poems very well, but lately I have been trying to remember them… there are only a small number of them I can remember… There were a lot more, but alas I can’t remember them all.
This is the language I was born to speak, The words that I am doomed to say;
I am defenseless, I am weak,
And I am gay.
I am the harm for which you’re not insured
Whatever premium you pay;
I am the ill of which you can’t be cured,
And I am gay.
I am the fissure through the bone, I am the flaw within the stone,
I am the tiny cloud across the sky of evolution’s perfect day;
I am the great mistake,
But I am here to stay.
One More Thing’s most fascinating portion is the compendium of 18 poems virtually unseen before. These exhibit Crisp’s command of the form combined with powerful emotion. A rarely experienced serious facet of his personality is revealed by them, particularly in baring his inner thoughts. Joining them is All This and Bevin Too, a striking parable about a kangaroo published in 1943 with Mervyn Peake’s illustrations. It’s an enticing sample of his literary efforts pre-1968’s landmark The Naked Civil Servant.
“My advice to the British is pack tonight, set out tomorrow like the Portuguese explorers of old for the land of the blessed. We are waiting for you.” was Crisp’s sardonic plea to his countrymen to join him in the United States. Thus concludes “The Alternative Christmas Message” which was a cheeky speech recorded in New York City where Crisp parodied Queen Elizabeth II’s annual holiday address to the nation. It was broadcast Christmas Day 1993 on British television which was his 85th birthday.
Princess Diana thought she mattered. What gave her that idea? And she could have learned to be the Queen of England if she’d stayed with it, but she mucked it up. She was a middle-aged woman complaining about not being loved? I mean, it’s absolute rubbish.
The bulk of And One More Thing is comprised of witty free-form “vignettes” usually totaling about five pages with titles such as ”The Royal Family,” “Children,” “Homosexuals,” “Australians,” “People Who Work” and “Married Couples.” Crisp’s quintessential pithy observations on these subjects are here set in print for posterity.
I don’t mean to get involved in politics, but sometimes I get dragged into them, and if that is the case, again, I apologize if my old age has caused me to be inarticulate in my attempts to avoid causing pain to others.
“Apology” is a sincere catchall expressing deep regret for a number of remarks he casually tossed off and some that were mistakenly attributed to him. Saying in the 1980’s that AIDS was “a fad” caused much controversy.
Invaluable is the definitive text of An Evening with Quentin Crisp. Ward made a transcript of a 1999 New York City performance and then Crisp edited and rewrote it. His philosophy and beliefs are eloquently imparted through his distinctive rythmic elegance with the focus on theatrical concision. Intertwined are his hilarious insights on Sarah Bernhardt, Eva Perón, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.
With passion, industriousness and eclecticism, Phillip Ward and Laurence Watts have masterfully compiled a veritable “Portable Quentin Crisp” in And One More Thing’s 189 pages.
And One More Thing by Quentin Crisp
Edited by Phillip Ward and Laurence Watts
Published by MB Books
Paperback $14.99 (189 pages)
For information and to purchase visit http://www.crisperanto.org