The following review appeared on Amazon on November 10 2011.
Read the review on the website here.
‘When watching a recent maudlin T.V. movie about Quentin Crisp I was reminded of how badly a biography of him was needed, and yet none was available. The crimes of humanity seem never to end. The image of Crisp which prevails, evidently, is of a kooky old gay aunt who once in a while stuck his foot in his mouth, but was still cute & helped usher in the halcyon days of gay liberation. This is a gross affront. Crisp is, first of all, a difficult & central figure of 20th century culture who created a powerful field of personality (Harold Pinter became a playwright just by walking into his room), and who reigned for years as a media oracle, dispensing advice on manners to society even as he’d savage it. His aphorisms, finely honed, have the effect of bombs. His withering put-downs of teenagers, gay culture, love, feminism, pornography, and nearly every other staple of modern life, are breathtaking in scope, the more so for being hilarious. As a literary critic he has been especially poorly appreciated. His brutal take-down of Oscar Wilde in “How to Have a Lifestyle” still leaves one shaking. Any of his books can be opened at random to find a startling insight. (I just did: “Here once again we see the strong connection between crime and sport.”) My favorite of his aphorisms: “If we got what we deserved, we would all starve.” After years of seeking out scraps of biographical facts in scattered books, hoping the last of his collections will be published (someday?), this entertaining & thoughtful read by Nigel Kelly comes along, fully justifying its price. The narrative of Crisp’s life is outlined, as many fascinating facts which greatly amplify one’s reading of Crisp’s own books, are to be found on every page. The love story with ‘Barndoor’ is especially poignant, as one puts the book down & reflects on a man who, on the most painful day of his life, set aside his fantasies of love & willed himself into a state of “being.” You should do the same.’