Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder. John Waters. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019. 384 pages.
John Waters, filmmaker, actor, writer, & visual artist, is one of those cultural institutions that people either get or don’t get and never the twain shall meet. Or shall they? Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder may just be what converts the unconverted.
From the director of such cult films as Hairspray, Pink Flamingos, and Cecil B. DeMented, this book is cleverly written, deeply insightful, immensely funny — and quintessential John Waters: outrageous, truthful, and trashy. Here the reader will find a campy, dingy wit drawn from one of the most fascinating lives in modern pop culture history.
The book’s opening sets the tone: “Somehow I became respectable.” Looking back on his remarkable, and sometimes not-so-remarkable, life, Waters reflects and occasionally pontificates on his journey to “respectability.” Along the way he delights, surprises, amuses, and entertains. Every paragraph drips with wit and sarcasm and the dry sense of humor that has come to mark Waters. Who knew such vim and vigor could be found in the gutter?
I suspect people who have never heard of John Waters or who have never seen his movies or read any of his other books, will read Mr. Know-It-All and immediately want to consume the entire Waters canon. Or they might just let out a sigh of satisfaction and say to themselves, “How Divine!”
Waters’ books Role Models (2010) and Carsick (2014) were national bestsellers, and his one-man shows This Filthy World and A John Waters Christmas continue to be performed around the world. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.