• The cover of the book The Naked Civil Servant

    The Naked Civil Servant

    The title of Quentin Crisp’s frequently outrageous book comes from his job: he was once a life model posing naked for students in British public schools, and thus a “civil servant” paid by the government. That kind of witty take on a seemingly innocuous situation is classic Crisp, who became famous for his flamboyant exhibitionism and Wilde-like barbs (some of which could be downright lethal). The book is dated, perhaps, but that’s also why it’s worth picking up. Crisp dared to be himself in London at a time (pre-1967) when doing so put him at tremendous physical risk. Reading about his exploits and scrapes is to marvel at how far things have progressed—or not progressed, in some cases.

  • The cover of the book The Scarlet Professor

    The Scarlet Professor

    The story of Newton Arvin is, unfortunately, the story of many closeted gay men in mid-20th-century America. A brilliant literary critic who produced groundbreaking studies on the likes of Herman Melville and Walt Whitman, Arvin had a stunning career laid out ahead of him. Until, that is, the day police raided his apartment and seized some erotica. The fallout from this invasion of privacy—Arvin ended up in a mental institution—is a galling tragedy, and the whole book is a sobering but important read on the effects of McCarthyism and internalized homophobia.