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Role Models Paperback – April 26, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Waters waxes poetic about the books, artists, and individuals who have influenced him in this desultory memoir, and his selections have a fascinating range, from the novels of Ivy Compton-Burnett to Leslie Van Houten (of Charles Manson fame). His choice to narrate may have seemed a given; after all, fans would appreciate hearing his delivery and distinctive high-pitched voice. However, his projection is inconsistent from word to word, and listeners will have to continually adjust the volume to better hear him. He does convey a certain charm and rhythm with his narration, but it's not enough to compensate for the challenging soundscape. A Farrar, Straus, and Giroux hardcover (Reviews, May 3).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

As familiar as Waters' obsessions have become over the years, writes the Onion AV Club, "he remains an affable, enthusiastic tour guide to the sort of beauty found only at the edges of good taste." Such beauty includes the profane, the violent, and the shocking, but it's par for the course for this once transgressive filmmaker and his insightful, obnoxious, and entertaining essays. Only the essay "Leslie," about Waters's friendship with Manson follower Leslie Van Houten, serving a life sentence for murder, raised debate. A few reviewers found the essay reflective, while others condemned Waters for dodging "the murky moral issues of her story" (Los Angeles Times). Role Models isn't for everyone--but even "dilettantes at liberty to skip around will find a lot to charm them" (New York Times Book Review). --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (April 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374532869
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374532864
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #566,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Amanda J. Henning on July 8, 2010
Format: MP3 CD
Waters is a fantastic narrator and his new book is absolutely hilarious (but also very touching at points). I've honestly been forcing anybody who rides in my car this week to listen to the section about Lady Zorro and I'll start forcing everybody to listen to the section on Esther Martin next week. Honestly, despite other reviews that talk about his trashy side, I'm amazed how sweet and kind he comes across. From one bleeding heart liberal to another, I absolutely love this book :)
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Format: Hardcover
John Waters always has elicited strong opinions from people and that seems evident here in the early reviews. Anyone who has seen or heard Waters being interviewed or seen him emcee a show will recognize the tone and style here. He rambles entertainingly through the book, with on-target observations that integrate references that range from the absurd to the refined. The chapters vary in their quality. Some passages are laugh out loud funny, but some sections drag. The chapter on Leslie Van Houten becomes rather tedious and didactic, in places, although Waters raises worthwhile questions about rehabilitation and the grandstanding of prosecutors. The section on his art collection betrayed perhaps a need to be taken seriously even as he collects pieces that most people who find academically interesting, at most. Waters' parents do not get their own chapter, but they are always present and come across as people who supported Waters' development and work in surprising ways while remaining very much the conventional parents of their time. At the same time, Waters confronts the problems and limitations of some of the eccentric Baltimore characters he had idolized, like Zorro, the lesbian stripper whose daughter somehow thrived despite a chaotic, problem-ridden environment. Despite focusing on role models, Waters creates a world where neither nature nor nurture seem to triumph. His conservative, conventional parents wound up with "The Pope of Filth" for a son, while Zorro winds up with an apparently very conventional, well-adjusted daughter. Waters lives in a world where the classic 1950s songs of Johnny Mathis co-exist with a fringe gay pornographer like Bobby Garcia, and Leslie Van Houten of the Manson Family. Somehow the only really discordant note was the repeated mention of Elton John who seems neither fringe nor conventional, nor particularly interesting.
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Format: Hardcover
Role Models is John Waters's tribute to those who have influenced him throughout his life. I had already read two of his earlier books, Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters and Shock Value: A Tasteful Book About Bad Taste, so I knew what I was in for: I was ready to laugh myself silly.

Waters describes himself as "a cult filmmaker whose core audience, no matter how much I've crossed over, consists of minorities who can't even fit in with their own minorities.". One can see how the people who have influenced him the most fit in with this self-assessment.

The first major influence on John as a little boy was "Clarabell, the psychotic clown on The Howdy Doody Show, whose makeup later inspired Divine's, had been my role model.". One can't miss the similarities when comparing the two:

The chapter entitled Leslie is perhaps the most serious piece of work Waters has ever written. In it, he talks about his twenty-five-year friendship with Leslie Van Houten, the member of the Manson family who was sentenced to death for her role in the LaBianca murders in 1969. Waters makes a very convincing case for the parole of Van Houten, who has been incarcerated for over forty years. He also apologizes for exploiting the Manson family murders in his early film career:

"I am guilty, too. Guilty of using the Manson murders in a jokey, smart-ass way in my earlier films without the slightest feeling for the victims' families or the lives of the brainwashed Manson killer kids who were also victims in this sad and terrible case."

This was quite a revelation from Waters: that of guilt.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wow. Where to start. This book was seriously whack-a-doodle. On the face of it, it is a semi-autobiographical story of the people that influenced, and still do influence, John Waters when growing up and beyond. It gives you a real insight into the inner workings of the man, where his ideas come from, and who he is. It sheds light on the fact that most of the world is far more screwed up than most people realize, and there is a dark, seedy underbelly that lies underneath the one that we all think we already know about, and suggests, strongly, that there are more layers of filth underneath that. I am also convinced, now more than ever, that Baltimore is the filthiest place in the United States, which, I believe, is Mr. Waters point. Casual readers should be warned: this book delves into some pretty dark places. While far from the worst stuff I've ever read, Waters does take the reader to some graphically filthy places, with language, imagery and ideals that many people might find objectionable. However, even at his worst, he manages to turn the subject around and bring out a laugh, forcing you to embrace the absurd filth and laugh with him at the absurdity of it all. Mr Waters writing style is eclectic - he jumps from topic to topic in a seemingly random, if energetic fashion, often raising a point, jumping to another idea or two, then circling back around to the original subject, which makes him a little hard to read, especially when he wanders off topic for a long time. I do believe that he went a little off the rails in the final chapter, in which, I guess, he was casting himself as a role model. And while that certainly fit the theme of the book, hardly matched the style. A slightly tighter editing would have resulted in five stars. If you are a hardcore Waters fan, then this book is a must. If you are an average Waters cultist, then read it. If you are a fan of his most popular works and not a homophobe, then go ahead and read it, it will be enlightening.
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