CRACKPOT: The Obsessions of John Waters by John Waters

CRACKPOT: The Obsessions of John Waters

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KIRKUS REVIEW

To call Waters an imp of the perverse is the right idea, but too small. He's more like a troll. In this collection of essays and magazine pieces, he emerges from his cave--a gummy-floored schlock revival house--to hilariously maul such peeves as Walkathons, the Amish, and Katharine Hepburn; and growl ardently over such personal icons as Pia Zadora, the National Enquirer, and criminals. The author of Shock Value, Waters is best known as the director of such cult-trash films as Pink Flamingos and Polyester. In these essays, he displays his unrivalled ability to celebrate the sick, the lowbrow, and the violent with both abandon and critical intelligence. The most thoughtful piece recounts his experience teaching a film course to inmates, all of whom are guilty of ""doozies"" (i.e., rapists and murderers with sentences averaging 30 years). The reality of his audience's past forces him to address the meaning and function of his own ""celluloid atrocities."" He also admits uneasiness with his zealous fans and imitators, unsure if their attitudes are informed with the same self-consciousness. Another of the essays is atypically sentimental, a recollection of Baltimore's original version of ""American Bandstand."" However, Waters' memory lane is just a block over from death row. He admits that he takes daily inspiration from an enlarged news photograph on his wall of a terrified woman being chased by a giant ostrich escaped from a zoo. The questionable obsessions of his persona are more than made up for by the mordant originality of his observations. To Waters, Liberace is perfect for the killer's role in the next Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie. He likes the blind spot in rear view mirrors and the inchoate mumbling underlying pianist Glenn Gould's recordings, and he admits to being a closet intellectual, even enjoying the films of Marquerite Duras. The strangest thing here is that the humor--strange and aggressive--is informed with pathos. He may see Christmas caroling as a free opportunity to ring someone's doorbell and screech at them, but he also unabashedly loves Christmas gifts. This book maps out the further reaches of Waters' world, where fake is better than real, fame is better than anything, and the weird and wonderful are one.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1986
ISBN: 0743246276
Publisher: Macmillan