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CR3 #92: Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters by John Waters

The works of John Waters are not for everyone. Most people can figure out whether they are fans or not after a mere ten minutes of one of his films. I find his gleeful devotion to raunch, camp, and blatant bad taste hilarious, but even I find it a bit overwhelming at times. I think the thing I most enjoy about John Waters is the sense that underneath the determinedly trashy exterior, he's actually a very sweet person. He can say things that--coming from anyone else--would probably be horrifying.

This book is a collection of essays he wrote over the years for various publications, and this particular edition has some extras that he wrote later on. He discusses his love for the National Enquirer, Baltimore public television, Christmas, and things that hates. My favorite essays were "Going to Jail", "John Waters's Tour of LA," and one he wrote about bringing "Hairspray!" to Broadway. "Going to Jail" is about time he spent teaching classes in prison. It's very funny, because Waters and the prisoners are equally bewildered and starstruck by one another (as a crime aficionado, Waters recognizes some of his students and is fascinated by their crimes). He teaches them a little about film theory, as well as scripting and improv, coming away feeling as though he's contributed at least a tiny bit to society. Plus, he finds the whole experience of going to the prison and dealing with the prisoners all great fun. In "John Waters's Tour of LA," he gives a detailed explanation of the best tourist sights in town (hint: most normal people would NOT be interested, as a lot of them are morbid/creepy/bizarre).

On the whole, I really enjoyed this book. It was hilarious, but also occasionally poignant. Waters's voice comes through very clearly, and it's easy to picture him sitting in an ostentatious chair, smoking a cigarette and reading it all to you. Definitely good for those who enjoy his films. (For those who don't, I'd probably skip it.)

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