literature http://culturecatch.com/taxonomy/term/439 en Cartoon by Ken Krimstein http://culturecatch.com/node/3737 <span>Cartoon by Ken Krimstein</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/steveholtje" lang="" about="/users/steveholtje" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Steve Holtje</a></span> <span>July 15, 2018 - 15:46</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/96" hreflang="en">cartoon</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/439" hreflang="en">literature</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2018/2018-07/k-krimstein-cartoon-7-18_0.jpg?itok=O2U-rnJc" width="1200" height="1200" alt="Thumbnail" title="k-krimstein-cartoon-7-18.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>Ken's new hardcover book <a href="http://www.kenkrimstein.com" target="_blank"><em>The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth</em></a> (Bloomsbury Publishing) will be released on September 25, 2018. Pre-order it or his previous book, the very astute <i><a href="http://www.afishwithlegs.com/" target="_blank">Kvetch as Kvetch Can</a>, </i>through his <a href="http://www.kenkrimstein.com" target="_blank">website</a> link.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=3737&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="lqrBfxK3C1RuQVIybkGdaeibdfGsiLsicBnvu2bNu-Q"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sun, 15 Jul 2018 19:46:15 +0000 Steve Holtje 3737 at http://culturecatch.com Life Isn't Good, It's Excellent http://culturecatch.com/literary/david-robilliard-artist-poet <span>Life Isn&#039;t Good, It&#039;s Excellent</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/user/460" lang="" about="/user/460" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Robert Cochrane</a></span> <span>October 28, 2017 - 08:44</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/332" hreflang="en">poetry</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/374" hreflang="en">poems</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/439" hreflang="en">literature</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2018/2018-06/david-r-dream.jpg?itok=Z82WSwx2" width="1200" height="542" alt="Thumbnail" title="david-r-dream.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>David Robilliard was a poet and painter who lived from 1952 to 1988.</p> <div><em>EATING OUT</em></div> <div><em>You're like a potato.</em></div> <div><em>You'd go with anything.</em></div> <div> </div> <blockquote> <p>"David Robilliard was the sweetest, kindest, most infuriating, artistic foul-mouthed, witty, charming, handsome, thoughtful, unhappy, loving and friendly person we ever met. Over the nine years of our friendship David came closer to us than any other person. He will live forever in our hearts and minds."</p> </blockquote> <p>Gilbert and George wrote the above on July 7, 1990.</p> <blockquote> <p>"Starting with pockets filled with disorganised writings and sketches, he went on to produce highly original poetry, drawings and paintings. His truthfulness, sadness desperation and love of people gave his work a brilliance and beauty that stands out a mile."</p> </blockquote> <!--break--> <div><em>WAITING FOR NOTHING</em></div> <div><em>We're all waiting for</em></div> <div><em>Someone who never arrives</em></div> <div><em>to brighten up our lives.</em></div> <div> </div> <p>As poets come and go, David Robilliard arrived all too quickly, and went all too soon. He was discovered, promoted, and praised by the artists Gilbert and George (they described him as "the new master of the modern person"); their involvement alerts even the most casual reader to the presence, now twenty years absent, of a unique and unsettling talent. His poetry and art flabbergasted those in the establishment, since he had no formal training and cared little for tradition. Doing what he did with supreme panache, he felt no need to capitulate to their entrenched expectations.</p> <div><em>FASHION </em></div> <div><em>Is just a flash in the pan </em></div> <div><em>When you're standing next to a naked man. </em></div> <div> </div> <p>Robilliard's work was funny, ironic and sad, a cross between Jean Cocteau and Andy Warhol in the line of art, and Stevie Smith and Edward Lear in written ones. He, however, detested the comparison to "that dead French artist' (although it was a justified, if lazy compliment), his nature and wit being more closely aligned to the swagger and swerve of the playwright Joe Orton. His short, pithy poems have an air of irreverent Zen.</p> <div><em>TIME OUT </em></div> <div><em>The end of the day </em></div> <div><em>the end of the night </em></div> <div><em>the tap drips </em></div> <div><em>the clock ticks. </em></div> <div> </div> <p>Were he American, David Robilliard would be revered like Basquiat or Kerouac; as it stands his fame is now largely European. In 1995 he was the subject of a massive retrospective of the kind afforded the likes of Cezanne and Turner, <i>A Roomful of Hungry Lookd Looks</i> at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, but since then his reputation has faded. His work, however, remains freshly arch and supremely funny. His approach was unique. He sent out postcards of his poems on a monthly basis, his envelopes stamped in distinctive red with his trademark phrase "Life isn't Good Its Excellent." He contributed to magazines, now sadly defunct, such as <i>The Fred</i> and <i>Square Peg</i>, but was roundly ignored by the mainstream poetry press.</p> <div><em>INTENSE DESIRE </em></div> <div><em>The thing that thrilled them </em></div> <div><em>Was the thing that killed them. </em></div> <div> </div> <p>Yet this enfant terrible of British art was born in the Channel Islands in 1952. He gravitated to London in the Seventies, worked on building sites, but was always writing and drawing. He met the painter Andrew Heard (1958-1993), with whom he shared a studio around the corner from Old Street Tube, now fashionable and expensive apartments. They were pioneers of the now trendy art district, London's equivalent of New York's Soho. Heard, in turn, led him to Gilbert and George. They recognized his unique talents and nurtured them, publishing his first poetry collection, <i>Inevitable</i>, in 1984. His paintings were bold and brash, a perfect combination of text and color. He had a New York retrospective at Hirsch and Adler in 1990. It proved a sell-out show.</p> <div><em>FUCK OFF </em></div> <div><em>Waking up next morning </em></div> <div><em>By a sad and lonely person </em></div> <div><em>Clawing at you </em></div> <div><em>Oh how could I have? And the discomfort of the hangover </em></div> <div><em>Makes you want to say </em></div> <div><em>Please leave immediately </em></div> <div><em>Give me a break </em></div> <div><em>Don't stay for breakfast </em></div> <div><em>You're irritating </em></div> <div><em>My search for... Isn't loneliness a bore. </em></div> <div> </div> <p>Like many gay men of the Eighties, Robilliard fell foul of HIV. Such a diagnosis was, in those days, terminal. He made no bones about his condition, and would introduce himself to strangers as "David Robilliaids." His work, which dealt previously with crushes, fun, and disappointment, took on a darker edge. He died November 3, 1988, Gilbert and George at his bedside.</p> <div><em>MEMORY OF A FRIEND </em></div> <div><em>A burst of tears </em></div> <div><em>From all your friends </em></div> <div><em>The end. </em></div> <div> </div> <p>Robilliard still has a freshness which astounds. His friend, the painter and singer Holly Johnson, reflected recently, "It's important to remember David Robilliard as a pioneer, although inextricably linked to Gilbert and George by merit of their friendship and support of his work, he was one of the few artists living in the now Artist Disneyland of Hoxton before it was a glimmer in the eye of the Trendy White Cube Generation. The draw to the area was as much G&amp;G as it was The London Apprentice, a louche gay pub with dark room tendencies, not photographic dark rooms as could be found in his friend and photographer Alistair Thane's studio but a sexual dungeon of desire. "Expectations," a leather fetish wear shop, was the only commercial premises I can remember operating in Hoxton Square. The streets of cheap warehouse studio space before the boom echoed with a silent emptiness. This was the backdrop to David's daily life and times. A place where the quick witted and charming -- without gushing -- David could recruit or procure the urban male models for G&amp;G'S feverish camera. Living together with the naughty cherub of Andrew Heard, a prolific painter of Dream Cityscapes and childhood memories, there were shared obsessions with pop music and culture, obscure vinyl was pondered over from Agnes Bertaille to Nightmares In Wax. It was "Black Leather" by the latter that they asked me to identify when I visited them circa 1988 after a pop star photo session with Alistair Thane just around the corner. I had earlier purchased <i>Inevitable</i> in a bookshop on The King's Road and became an instant fan of the intensely modern and unique poems and line drawings within. Andrew was working on a large painting of <i>The Munsters</i> and a cast of <i>Carry On</i> characters, David wore jeans and a blue sweatshirt silk screened with Andrew's figures, a relaxed bohemianism in the bright white space. David pissed into the toilet while continuing the conversation in plain view from the waist up in the open plan kitchen cum bathroom cum studio with an awareness that was part openness, part shock tactic. I felt immediately Andrew's optimism and David's wry cynicism were two sides of a coin that would be well thumbed. Sadly, as is the way of the art world, it has taken their untimely deaths, works lost to European art dealers and hidden in archives, for it to be unearthed by the cultural metal detector."</p> <p>Robilliard deserves the final word on his own brief sojourn. His work deserves to be better known, and though much has been lost to legal wrangling, the inevitable legacy of many artists, there is enough out there to illustrate his talent, unique and irreplaceable.</p> <div><em>THE PEOPLE OF THE '90s WILL BE JUST THE SAME </em></div> <div><em>It's funny isn't it </em></div> <div><em>all you've got is the natural urge </em></div> <div><em>to lay down with someone </em></div> <div><em>and say hello </em></div> <div><em>in a very personal way </em></div> <div><em>and yet life seems to offer </em></div> <div><em>many other alternatives.</em></div> <div> </div> <p>Blessings.<i> - Robert Cochrane</i></p> <p><i>Mr. Cochrane is a poet and writer living in Manchester, England. His work has appeared in </i>Mojo<i>, </i>Attitude<i>, and </i>Dazed &amp; Confused<i>. He has published three collections of poems, and </i>Gone Tomorrow<i>.</i></p> </div> <section> </section> Sat, 28 Oct 2017 12:44:47 +0000 Robert Cochrane 939 at http://culturecatch.com 90 Playwrights and a Nikon: Susan Johann’s “Focus on Playwrights” http://culturecatch.com/literary/susan-johann-focus-on-playwrights <span>90 Playwrights and a Nikon: Susan Johann’s “Focus on Playwrights”</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/users/brandon-judell" lang="" about="/users/brandon-judell" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Brandon Judell</a></span> <span>January 19, 2017 - 22:16</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/112" hreflang="en">book review</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/439" hreflang="en">literature</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/449" hreflang="en">Arthur Miller</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2018/2018-06/arthur_miller-johann_book_cover.jpg?itok=6vuzxoju" width="1200" height="1075" alt="Thumbnail" title="arthur_miller-johann_book_cover.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>"I'm the end of the line," Arthur Miller once asserted. "Absurd and appalling as it may seem, serious New York theater has died in my lifetime."</p> <p>Many might argue otherwise. In fact, the best proof that theatre is still alive and kicking is Focus on Playwrights, the new coffee-table book, the cover of which showcases the life-crinkled face that once overlooked the birth of <i>A View from the Bridge</i>, <i>All My Sons</i>, and <i>The Crucible</i>. Yes, photographer Susan Johann’s scintillating collection of over 90 playwrights, whom she’s shot over 20 years -- and the inclusion of sharply revealing interviews with some of the same, is the best retort to anyone ready to cremate modern drama.</p> <!--break--> <p>Some of those captured for publications such as <i>Vogue</i> and the <i>New Yorker</i> are now deceased (e.g. August Wilson, Edward Albee, and Joe Chaikin) while others are very much functioning (e.g. David Henry Hwang, Lisa Kron, and Nicky Silver).</p> <style type="text/css"> <!--/*--><![CDATA[/* ><!--*/ <!--/*--><![CDATA[/* ><!--*/ p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; color: #1b1a1a; -webkit-text-stroke: #1b1a1a} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} /*--><!]]]]><![CDATA[>*/ /*--><!]]>*/ </style><p>Johann notes in her text that Tennessee Williams once avowed that photography was "frozen literature." Does she agree with that assumption, and does it apply to her portraits of the likes of William Finn and Tina Howe?</p> <p>"I hope. I hope," Johann laughs during a recent phone chat. "I was actually waitressing in a restaurant on 42nd Street, the West Bank Café, and Tennessee Williams came in. Now this was ten years before I started this series, and I hadn't even become a photographer, but I remember that day. It was so frightening to me because I've always loved the idea of these playwrights, all of the playwrights. They are the center of it all, whether it's Euripides or Shakespeare or Albee or Miller.</p> <p><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/images/Edward Albee%3AJohann.jpg" style="width:276px; height:183px; float:left" />"So Williams walked into the restaurant, and I remember the day. I mean I know what the light was like, and how he was sitting at the front window at a circular table, and how there was somebody who took and made a copy of his credit card bill so he could have Tennessee Williams’s signature because that was so cool. I wish I had known. I wish I had known. I would have followed him around and made sure I got a picture. I think he would have been acceptable to that because he was an accessible kind of person as most of these people have been."</p> <p>Years later, the very first playwright Johann targeted her lens on was the Tony-winning Christopher Durang, America's most sardonic wit. The author of <i>Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike</i> has noted that folks are always surprised when they first meet him because he looks neither "wild nor angry."</p> <p>"That's what propelled me. Yes. Yes," Johann enthuses. "Because I read his plays and was laughing so hard, I expected a really outrageous kind of person. And, of course, Chris is very soft-spoken and easy going. You don't see any of that [Durangian outrageousness] on the surface. It comes out in the plays he does, and I guess he’s not really crazy; it's just his ability to see that the world is crazy. Afterwards, I wondered if other playwrights were like that. Do they look like you think they would look like? Or are they all very different from that? That's why I took the pictures."</p> <p>Perusing <i>Focus</i> on and off again for several weeks, I realize I might never have seen an image of Tom Stoppard before or one of Lanford Wilson or Paula Vogel, or I have and they just haven’t registered. Playwrights are an invisible breed, possibly by choice. Of course, a few break that mold like Sam Shepard or Everett Quinton who both act on stage, in film, or get involved with Jessica Lange.</p> <p>But what do these first-rate, beautifully reproduced, black-and-white shots actually reveal?</p> <p>Take David Drake, best known for <i>The Night I Kissed Larry Kramer</i>, who was photographed in 1992 at the age of 29, in a motorcycle jacket, with his right hand reaching out. He’s highly attractive with a strong chin. His eyes, which might be blue, seem to begging the viewer for something of immediate, deep value. His lips are parted as in mid-speech. "What?" you want to respond.</p> <p><img alt="" src="/sites/default/files/images/Susan Johann and Camera.jpg" style="width:195px; height:258px; float:left" />Duane Michals, a fellow photographer, has noted that his art "does deal with 'truth' or a kind of superficial reality better than any of the other arts, but it never questions the nature of reality -- it simply reproduces reality. And what good is that when the things of real value in life are invisible?"</p> <p>Well, the task of the playwright is to make the invisible visible on stage, and the aim of Johann’s imagery seems to desire to capture the physical dimension of that ability.</p> <p>As Susan Sontag once avowed, "To take a photograph is to participate in another person's mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time's relentless melt." Yes, if you meet up with some of Johann's subjects now and compare them to the portraits of their earlier selves, you can clearly see how they've weathered life in the theatre. But also, these pictures are indelibly connected to the memories of the plays you've read and seen, works that quite possibly supplied you with insights into their times of presentation and your own once youthful soul. Like the playbills in your closet, these shots help recall productions that bit or soothed: Jonathan Harvey’s <i>Beautiful Thing</i>. Wendy Wasserstein's <i>The Heidi Chronicles</i>. John Guare's <i>Six Degrees of Separation</i>.</p> <p>When Johann first started photographing professionally, she did so for magazines or for individuals with specific needs. "But with this playwrights series," Johann recalls, "I could investigate for myself completely. I didn't have to answer to anyone. I could form the shots the way you would form a piece of literature because I was basically going into myself to get a connection with somebody else. So from individual to individual, I was trying to figure out their lives. And, of course, it was a wonderful opportunity to follow a dream, to do something that somebody else wasn't doing at the time.</p> <p>"When I talk to the playwrights about how they write," she continues, "they often talk about how the plays come out. They don’t know what the next line is going to be, and the characters tell them. And that's what happens in the photo sessions. They tell me what the picture is going to be. I don’t necessarily know at the start . . . . That's the exciting thing for me, to show you how dynamic and wonderfully expressive these people are both in their public and private lives."</p> <p>If that's Johann's mission, she has succeeded superbly. - <em>Brandon Judell</em></p> <p><em>Mr. <span data-scayt_word="Judell" data-scaytid="9">Judell</span> has written on film for </em>The Village Voice<em>, </em>indieWire.com<em>, the </em>New York Daily News,<em> </em>Soho Style<em>, and </em>The Advocate<em>, and is anthologized in Cynthia <span data-scayt_word="Fuchs's" data-scaytid="10">Fuchs's</span> </em>Spike Lee Interviews<em> (University Press of Mississippi) and John Preston's </em>A Member of the Family <em>(Dutton). He is also a member of the performance/writing group <span data-scayt_word="FlashPoint" data-scaytid="11">FlashPoint</span>.</em></p> </div> <section> </section> Fri, 20 Jan 2017 03:16:54 +0000 Brandon Judell 3530 at http://culturecatch.com Merry Chrispmas, Mr. Crisp http://culturecatch.com/literary/quentin-crisp <span>Merry Chrispmas, Mr. Crisp </span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/user/460" lang="" about="/user/460" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Robert Cochrane</a></span> <span>December 24, 2016 - 23:14</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/literary" hreflang="en">Literary Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/439" hreflang="en">literature</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/112" hreflang="en">book review</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/taxonomy/term/450" hreflang="en">Quentin Crisp</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p> </p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="602" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2018/2018-06/crisp-best.jpg?itok=CkuCSesz" title="crisp-best.jpg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="800" /></article><figcaption>Photograph by Angus McBean, 1941, National Portrait Gallery</figcaption></figure><p>England is viewed by the wider world as a nation of eccentrics. This is considered a genetic characteristic, and something to be celebrated. Like most assumptions, the truth lies somewhat wide of the remark. <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&amp;location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2Fs%3Furl%3Dsearch-alias%253Daps%26field-keywords%3Dquentin%2Bcrisp%26x%3D0%26y%3D0&amp;tag=cultcatc-20&amp;linkCode=ur2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325" target="_blank">Quentin Crisp</a>, one such "National Treasure," is now rightly revered as one, but his journey from pariah nuisance to that of sage-like venerability was a long and winding affair. He migrated to New York, remaining vital till the end, an amalgam of defiance and disappointment worn as wit.</p> <p>Some considered him a latter-day Oscar Wilde, a comparison he didn't much value, remarking that he'd known many who'd been sent to prison for crimes of the flesh like Wilde's, without being broken or penning such bad verse.</p> <!--break--> <p>Unkind maybe, but Wilde had it all and lost it largely because of his own arrogance. He could have fled to Paris, had the chance to but didn't take it. As someone who'd faced a lifetime's disapproval, Crisp could afford to be short on sympathy. It was a luxury he had often been denied Consider this a fable, a fairy story of an alternative kind. It is a frosty Manhattan on Christmas morning. Imagine the perfect cliche of snow and sentiment. On the Lower East Side in tiny room, a very elderly person is propped up in bed, his normally immaculate confection of blue-rinsed hair has descended in straggly strands around his shoulders. He has the appearance of an even more Dickensian Miss Havisham than the original product of disappointed love. His elderly fingers are slowly opening his cards, good wishes from all over the world sent by people he has never met but whose lives he has influenced and inspired. One in particular is from a rich woman he has never encountered, but who routinely remembers the birthdays of those who have lived one hundred years. He has done so, a Christmas Day baby from 1908. The card is signed by the other Queen of England. She is someone he has been less than flattering about, having bemoaned a certain sadness that the richest lady in England should dress in such a matronly and mundane fashion. He has lived long enough to be recognized as the Queen of Otherness. The Pope of Dissidence. He reads the card, frowns and hisses, "Bitch! What has my century to do with you?" as he rips the expensively monogrammed card into a confetti of disgust with which he showers himself and the room, mirroring the image of winter outside. If it sounds too good to be a true story, it is because that is the case. Quentin Crisp died in suburban Manchester in November 1998. A product of the suburbs, rather befittingly he died in them. If you live long enough, sometimes, and only sometimes, you are forgiven for most of your sins. Dennis Pratt dyed his mane, became Quentin Crisp, maddening his middle-class parents and the other respectable inhabitants of the 1930s. A dandified effeminate with red-varnished toes, he strode through the sea of grey-suited masculinity to a rain of curses and blows. Such blatant a chorus of disapproval only drove him to greater acts of attention seeking. Those he felt he was striking a blow for, the queers, didn't want him in their gang. If their parties got raided, the presence of the gaudy Quentin would blow all their respectable cover, and such cover was essential in those blackmailing days when outing ended in prison or suicide, and sadly all too often, both. In his later years he reflectively admitted that he was somewhat deluded in his crimson-haired crusade. He was really only representing himself. That self became a walking work in progress. An occasional illustrator and full-time artists model, he became a visible postcard of from Bohemia. Gradually his isolation became a source of touchstone curiosity; radio and television interviews led to the publication of his autobiography in 1968. Given that his life modeling meant that he was on the payroll of the Education Department, he called it <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&amp;location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2Fs%3Furl%3Dsearch-alias%253Daps%26field-keywords%3Dquentin%2Bcrisp%26x%3D0%26y%3D0&amp;tag=cultcatc-20&amp;linkCode=ur2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325" target="_blank"><i>The Naked Civil Servant</i></a>. He spent his life in a tiny room in Chelsea which he never cleaned, informing the world that after the first three years you need never dust again, since like snow it drifts into areas you never use. When that book was turned into a television drama in 1976, it transformed him, with a lot of benign brilliance from the actor John Hurt, into an overnight celebrity, delivering his strange life into the homes of those who never considered him a likelihood or possibility. Not that there were many such pensioners like Crisp. Although he wasn't the only pansy of his time, he was the one who bothered to write about his life, and then turned it into a one-man show he introduced archly as a “straight talk from a bent speaker.” He became an agony aunt for the dispossessed, and living proof that breaking the rules hadn't started, as many mistakenly believed, with Elvis, Jagger, or Bowie. He railed against the need for love, the desire to have a significant other, championing the need to develop a personal lifestyle. Just when it seemed that he would content himself with being "the Stately Homo of England," the occasional chat show appearance and another article or book, he decamped to New York in 1982. First to the Chelsea Hotel, and then to a single room in a rough street on Manhattan's Lower East Side, ruled by a chapter of Hell's Angels. He even was celebrated in Sting's song "An Englishman in New York."</p> <p>Crisp could be a taxing friend. The novelist Kathleen Farrell (1912-1999), with whom he played chess, found him one day disinterested in their usual pursuit. He wanted to go the pub for a drink, where he had previously displayed no such desire to visit one. Farrell realized she was being thrown a test. Would she be prepared to face the looks of disapproval that their arrival in the local bar would generate? She accompanied him, nothing happen except the usual repressed English consternation, and their friendship remained, the chess playing continued, and the desire for public drinking was never mentioned again.</p> <p>Like all iconoclasts, Crisp eventually became entrapped by his own artifice. His withering views on love and the pointlessness of relationships were the product of an essentially romantic soul who'd been forced to concede that there was going to be no great dark man. When I interviewed him in 1996 he would have happily recited passages from his books, but if pressed, revealed glimpses of the inner man. I was confronted by a resolved but small person who generated a sad serenity. His response to how he felt about the abuse he'd generated in his youth betrayed lasting hurt. "You know they spat at me and said -- 'you disgusting person!'" The grit his voice rallied for those final three words, betrayed an ancient and unresolved hurt. He brightened concerning New York. Standing on the sidewalk one morning, he realized he was being eyed up and down by a very large black gentleman. His sense of impending danger dissolved when he received a large smile and the comment "My oh my, we have got it all on today." He leant across the table and whispered like a conspirator, "Now that would not happen in England!" In the crowded rickety lift at the Chelsea Hotel news was spreading of a stabbing on the premises. Sex Pistol Sid had stabbed his girlfriend Nancy. One resident gasped in horror at this snippet, emitting the immortal lines running ahead of her horror, "But how many times?"</p> <p>John Hurt is currently revisiting the role he completed when Crisp was in his late sixties. <i>The New York Years</i> will be a sequel and a delightful finishing touch, ending in rainy winter Manchester. His cremation took place at Southern Cemetery Chorlton. It was a gathering of seven, the sad practicality of dying on tour, a nationwide "Sold Out" tour of the U.K. As the mourners from the ceremony before left in their sorrow, they were confronted by a strange apparition. Stepping out of a taxi, a gingham-clad cross-dresser, garishly made up in a black wig and trainers, startled their drying tears. It was the performance poet Chloe Poems, who was to have introduced Crisp at his show at the Green Room. Even in death Crisp continued to startle, even in death, even at his own funeral.</p> <p>Quentin Crisp lived against the grain, eventually becoming a shaman for the shamed. He never stopped being a strange and unsettling character. Now, when anything goes, his stance becomes a sepia act of brazen yet vulnerable defiance. He remarked, on the death of Princess Diana, that she was trash and had it coming to her. Like Wilde, dead princesses got short shrift. His would have been a marvelous century, a crowning achievement for a dear old Queen. It is well worth contemplating what might have been, because it very nearly was. Consider this a fable because the whole thing reads as one. Much truth resides in fiction, and the same applies to what we know as the real world. Happy Birthday Mr. Crisp on Christmas Day, and may it snow in both Manhattan and Manchester. - <i>Rob Cochrane</i></p> <p><a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&amp;location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2Fs%3Furl%3Dsearch-alias%253Daps%26field-keywords%3Dquentin%2Bcrisp%26x%3D0%26y%3D0&amp;tag=cultcatc-20&amp;linkCode=ur2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325" target="_blank">Purchase Work thru Amazon</a><img alt="" border="0" height="1" src="http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=cultcatc-20&amp;l=ur2&amp;o=1" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" width="1" /></p> <p><i>Mr. Cochrane is a poet and writer living in Manchester, England. His work has appeared in </i>Mojo<i>, </i>Attitude<i>, and </i>Dazed &amp; Confused<i>. He has published three collections of poems, and </i>Gone Tomorrow<i>, his biography of the rock singer Jobriath will appear soon.</i></p> </div> <section> </section> Sun, 25 Dec 2016 04:14:34 +0000 Robert Cochrane 931 at http://culturecatch.com