Review by New York Times Review
THAT JOHN WATERS is a national treasure is a surety. Period. Thank you and good night. The studies of American film history from the mid-60s onward, and of countercultural ideas and ideals from then up to the very present moment, are infused and imbued with and by his great, weirdo, contrary specter. His latest book is cleverly entitled "Mr. Know-It-All." Clever because, duh, the guy is in his 70s, he has done it all, he is as cool as anyone could ever hope to be and he is still rocking: touring with his speeches and books and art shows and generally imparting his pervy yet utterly sensible (mostly) wisdom to generations of people who were not even born when he first shot to fame like some indie, scatological P. T. Barnum who captured on film the indelible cultural phenomenon of an overweight drag queen on the streets of Baltimore eating actual dog feces. But so much more clever is the revelation that "knowing it all" inevitably means truly knowing himself, and this book - more than any of the author's others 1 have read - shows a vulnerability and an honesty and an almost frantic desire to impart to us, before he can no longer, his manic mantras, his obsessive treatises and his biting and blisteringly honest bons mots that are actually really enlightening life lessons. Watersian palimpsests, if you will! "You never make much money on the projects you think up when you're young - the ones that are the most original, the ones that get you noticed. No, you cash in later, once you've made a name for yourself and begin to fail." He tells us this early on, and his book is surely an example of that. "Mr. Know-ft-All" is not, by any means, Waters's finest work, but it is perhaps his most revealing, his most authentic. A shadow of impending death hangs over this tome, like a recurring guest in a psycho sitcom. But unlike authors who in their later works allow a sober knell of perception to ring through their prose, Waters instead manages to impart his wily wisdom like some giddy, gurgling, bratty child waiting to be caught and brought back home to clean up his soiled bedroom and do his homework. "Remember when you are trying to cash in on a successful previous work, the concept must change or the Xerox copy gets weaker and weaker until you can't read it at all." Indeed. Early on, while taking us on a whistle-stop tour of his cinematic career and the maddening mores of Hollywood, he speaks to us not as the enfant terrible, the Pope of Trash or the Prince of Puke we might expect, but as a canny and wizened realist who has been able to work the system, even when it has failed him. He now understands that perhaps the original Xerox was not necessarily the best one for all concerned. John Waters - the brand as well as the man - has aged well. He and his work are seasoned; they are the gifts that keep on giving, to him as well as us. The last two-thirds of the book are a compendium of rants on topics that both fascinate and confound the author. Brutálist architecture is lauded. Andy Warhol is paid homage to and parodied at the same time. Chimpanzee art is used as a means to illuminate the insanity of the contemporary art market. The music of Waters's youth is delved into at length and with tender detail, and yet another life lesson is imparted: He contends that we all need to have good taste in music, and 1 concur. For isn't taste merely having opinions and being willing to defend them? In this current environment that constantly encourages us to stay afloat on the winds of influences and #trending, how refreshing and necessary to hear that sticking to your guns is the essential route to a healthy psyche. If you consider Waters's psyche to be healthy, as 1 indubitably do. He also dismisses protesting ("Don't act up, ACT BAD!"), fantasizes about a culinary version of his aesthetic in a restaurant named Gristle and makes observations about travel ("Why is everybody ugly in first class?"). Though here, again, a revealing and inspiring detail is slipped into the bountiful list of Waters wisdom: " 'The day you stop touring, your career is over,' Elton John once told me, and he's right." Please note the extensive schedule of public events and appearances that now fill this auteur's calendar. He intends to be with us for quite a while. Waters understands that we need some real filth from him, and so there is an unashamedly sensationalist chapter on sex, with some classic, hilarious zingers: "Militant rimmers are the Jehovah's Witnesses of anilingus. Always knocking on the door... but accepting if turned away." And while we're on the subject of the anus, here for me came the book's biggest shock, a rectum-related remark that genuinely made me gasp and wonder if, in the same way people's voting habits have a tendency to conservatize with age, Waters's views on sex have been primped and neutered. Are you ready, readers? Here it comes: John Waters does not believe in penetrative anal sex! But then 1 read on, and when 1 got to the bit where he states that peeing on a man in the bathroom of a sex club broadened him intellectually 1 realized that, of course, conventional old anal sex would be likely to be pooh-poohed by this scribe. In the final third of the book, Waters lets slip that it was sold to his publisher partly on the idea that, at 70, he would take LSD again and write about it. Here, if anywhere in this great, rambling literary shrine to the author's idiosyncrasies, we learn the very essence of John Waters. He begins with a sensational idea, he arrests us, but then the actual execution of it is marred with anxiety and doubt - much like the experiences he relates from his filmmaking days. When the moment finally arrives and he drops the drug with two friends, the shocking truth emerges that they all just had a really lovely time. When it's over he texts his assistants, his boyfriend, even his drug dealer, to tell them he's fine. And life goes on. ft wasn't that big a deal. But that's what 1 loved aboutthis book: its honesty, even in its flaws. As the man himself says, and this is a mantra 1 think every artist who feels the pressure to keep delivering should heed and pass on (1 know 1 will): "Learn to milk whatever success you've had. You can keep doing the same thing over and over as long as you have a sense of humor about not having a new idea." ALAN CUMMING is an actor and the author of five books, most recently "Honey and Leon Take the High Road."
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [June 2, 2019]
Review by Booklist Review
Waters may not be making any more movies (the last few flopped), but he's a hot stand-up act, and nothing can squelch his outrageous imagination. In a third of this collection, he recalls making Polyester, Hairspray, Cry-Baby, Serial Mom, Pecker, Cecil B. Demented, and A Dirty Shame. These tales are packed with anecdotes about Waters' stock company of eccentrics, beginning with transvestite bombshell Divine and including what amounted to that old gang of his from the 1960s as well as Hollywoodians Tab Hunter, Ricki Lake, Johnny Depp, Kathleen Turner, and many others in supporting roles and cameos added to all seven later films. This is great stuff for fans, many of whom may shiver with in-group delight on reading that Waters' favorites are Polyester (Yes!) and Serial Mom (Yes, yes!). The rest of the contents are rants and memoirs on, to cite a handful, Brutalist architecture, acting up, weird pop songs, My Son, Bill (a lifelike baby sculpture), indiscriminate sex, and death (his own). If you don't laugh loud and often, check your pulse, then your breath on a mirror.--Ray Olson Copyright 2019 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In this delightful hybrid memoir/advice book, film director Waters shares highlights from his 40-year career and musings on a random assortment of subjects, including music, architecture, and the best vacation spots. Waters, a self-described "garbage guru," begins by providing a wealth of tips for aspiring filmmakers and other artists, such as "Believe your own grandiosity and go wrong to make your career go right." He also dishes on some of his most memorable acting hires, including Serial Mom's Kathleen Turner, who taught him to "pay attention to your stars as if your life depended on it," and Cry-Baby's Joey Heatherton, who, while auditioning, "spoke in tongues convincingly as the script called, but seemed unable to stop." The book's second half gives Waters more freedom to riff, with endlessly entertaining results, whether he is ruminating on his favorite music (including 1960s "car-accident teen novelty records") or imagining opening a restaurant that serves kittens. In a punctuationless ode to Andy Warhol styled after Warhol's "novel" A, Waters asserts provocatively that, as a filmmaker, "Andy was more important than Thomas Alva Edison and D.W. Griffith." Though not quite as surreal, Waters's musings are as funny and eccentric as his films; longtime fans will be delighted with the treasure trove of insights into his brilliant oeuvre. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Movie director/artist/lecture circuit speaker/all-around trash-talking raconteur Waters has aged, but he hasn't lost his power to provoke. Now in his 70s, Waters still dishes the dirt, outrages and offends, and snarks wonderfully. This collection of essays and musings (after his hitchhiking memoir Carsick) goes on a somewhat chronological path from well-polished tales of cult filmmaking and trashy indulgence to mainstream success, infamy to fame, reminiscences of a pre-AIDS sex and drugs era, even a fantasy of his death and burial. Interspersed are chapters calling for filth activism, gossiping about on-set behavior, serving up sex tips, throwing Hollywood bouquets and bombs, hectoring a malformed baby doll, and considering an acid trip. Some of the longer pieces read more like movie storyboards and get bogged down in excess-Waters even manages to make his own death into an extended zombie apocalypse movie. But the man in the Maybelline mustache will have readers laughing one minute and gagging the next, all while rejoicing that this "filth elder" still walks (or crawls) the earth. VERDICT For once and future Waters fans. [See Prepub Alert, 12/6/18; "Editors' Spring Picks," LJ 2/1/19.]-Liz French, Library Journal © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
An exuberantly transgressive American filmmaker gets down, dirty, and weird about life, art, and career.In this collection of loosely connected, photo-illustrated essays, Waters (Make Trouble, 2017, etc.) ponders his improbable state of respectability after years on the artistic fringe. He begins by reflecting on his first major Hollywood success, Hairspray (1988). The film catapulted Waters, along with such colorful actors as Divine and Mink Stole, from the world of underground filmmaking to at least the edges of the mainstream. The author's newfound status as Hollywood insider allowed him to direct such A-list celebrities as Johnny Depp and Kathleen Turner and make films that enjoyed marginal success in the 1990s. After several box office failures that included Cecil B. Demented (2000), a film about an insane movie director who kidnaps an A-list actress to star in an underground film, and A Dirty Shame (2004), a "sexploitation satire" that he "was amazed got made at all," Waters cheerfully slid back into the gutter to cash in on his fall from mainstream grace. Waters discusses everything from his wide-ranging musical tastes, which include the Nutty Squirrels, jazz vocalists who predated Alvin and the Chipmunks, to his latter-day yippie political leanings. He also shares his fantasies of his perfect "Stalinist chic" home and dispenses remarkably sound advice on how to invest in art made by monkeys. A lifelong "drug enthusiast," Waters tells the story of an LSD trip he took at age 70. Aware ofand perhaps reveling inthe gruesomeness of his own mortality, he includes a letter to his "son," a plastic baby doll named Bill, and a meditation on a "lunatic resurrection" after death as the "Duke of Dirt." Comic and rude but always compulsively readable, Waters' book demonstrates that he is not only first among Filth Elders; he is also a keen observer of American culture.Wickedly smart and consistently laugh-out-loud funny. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.