In his new memoir, Waters, once infamous for pushing past the limits of taste on film and now famous for originating a kitschy aesthetic that is firmly entrenched in the mainstream, writes about people he has met and admired, from popular stars to the marginalized to the down and out.
In the New York Times, Tom Carson writes:
Unlike some other Nixon-era provocateurs [. . .] — the late Hunter S. Thompson comes to mind — Waters hasn’t been undone by the realization that he’s not outrageous anymore. Effectively inventing a second career as a droll curator of his first, he’s the best funny uncle America has had since Paul Lynde’s cackle on The Hollywood Squares was confusing innocents in less wised-up times.
He goes on to say that Role Models is the “best of [Waters'] cobbled-together exercises in autobiography at one remove.”
In Bookforum, Liz Brown calls the book “splendid,” and concludes: “Happily, for all the reflective and tender moments, Waters never suppresses his radiant pervert self.” In Time Out New York, Catherine Lacey judges the book, “a self-aware and thought-provoking work for anyone interested in why depressing plays, acidic novels and provocative films might actually make you a happier person.”
Derek Donovan writes:
When John Waters was creating his “celluloid atrocities” in 1970s Baltimore — directing the 300-pound drag queen Divine to commit some of the most nauseating acts ever caught on film — he probably never dreamed that he would one day see two of his movies transformed into big-budget Broadway musicals or that he’d serve as a juror at prestigious European film festivals.
I bet he also never dreamed that his work would be reviewed positively (if at all) in the Kansas City Star, which is where Donovan’s review appears, and where Donovan calls Role Models “a deeply compassionate, insightful book about real-life characters living on the margins of society, both at the pinnacle of achievement and deep in the gutter. . . . William S. Burroughs once pronounced him ‘the pope of trash,’ but John Waters has matured into a thoughtful, often astute essayist.”
Role Models by John Waters
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 pp., $25.00