I’ve just finished reading Quentin Crisp’s The Naked Civil Servant for the first time and enjoyed it, as I’d always imagined, tremendously. Towards the end of the memoir, Crisp relates a time he held a job at a publishing firm before leaving to write a novel.
For those of us who’ve struggled to fulfill a contract among people seemingly better adapted to the daily grind (and then being ashamed by their utmost kindness at the end of the ordeal), these choice quotes will resonate:
The other members of the staff adopted the ruse of filling in the hours by doing the work well. This device never occurred to me. Even when I saw from their example the endless time-consuming possibilities of attention to detail, I could not bring myself to try it.
When the day was fixed for my departure, I received a present from the members of the firm who knew me best. I thanked them with unfeigned amazement. They were the people who had suffered most from the annoyance of having me sit on the corners of their desks screaming with laughter when I could find nothing better to do.
I had been teasingly asked if I’d intended to go round to every department and shake hands with the entire firm. I had said that I did not but that I would like to see the boss himself before I left … I wanted to thank him for being so long-suffering. As I stepped into his office, he said, “I just wanted to say how tolerant I think you’ve been.”
I left work partly in order not to be doing it and partly because I wanted to write a novel. Until now I had never had the time. I had never been able to collect enough money to live for a year without a job. Now this was possible.
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