Wickedly smart and consistently laugh-out-loud funny.

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 of—and perhaps reveling in—the 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.

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-21496-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview