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Posts Tagged ‘John Waters’

Jane Austen Sells, and Other News

December 11, 2013 | by

Rare Austen portrait up for auction

  • A portrait of Jane Austen—you know, the portrait, based on her sister’s sketch—has sold at auction for £135,000, which is actually somewhat below the estimate.
  • “I started to write books in 1982 because I thought I was everywoman,” (all evidence to the contrary) Martha Stewart says at Art Basel.
  • “Colin Wilson, the writer, who has died at eighty-two, suspected he was a genius; and there were some who agreed with him when in 1956, aged twenty-four, he published The Outsider, a somewhat portentous overview of existentialism and alienation.” Because no one does an obit like the Brits. 
  • John Waters on Christmas shopping: “I always give books. And I always ask for books. I think you should reward people sexually for getting you books. Don’t send a thank-you note, repay them with sexual activity. If the book is rare or by your favorite author or one you didn’t know about, reward them with the most perverted sex act you can think of. Otherwise, you can just make out.”


    Zagat, Library Science, Cheap Thrills

    October 5, 2012 | by

  • The Library of Unborrowed Books.
  • In the new Halloween-ready Horrible Hauntings, a book of classic ghost stories is paired with an app, which allows you to summon Bloody Mary, sail with the Flying Dutchman, and otherwise terrify any child in your life.
  • Sick of stereotypes, one group of librarians shows what the real thing looks like.
  • A Bay Area 2013 Zagat guide was recalled after it was discovered that San Francisco was misspelled on the spine.
  • If you want to hear John Waters read a steamy scene from oft-banned Lady Chatterley’s Lover, well, you’ve come to the right place.
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    Through a Cloud

    July 16, 2012 | by

    Self portrait by (Maurice) Denton Welch, oil on hardboard, circa 1940-1942, National Portrait Gallery.

    When I was twenty, I traveled to London to study for a year at University College. It was shortly after 9/11 and the flight was so empty that I was able to lie down across four seats and sleep. My dorm turned out to be a dreary, brutalist, self-catered affair in Camden Town, and it would take me a while to work out that the pervasive gloom that dogged me day in and out was a product not of my environs but of the onset of the clinical depression which I would not have diagnosed and treated for another two years.

    I’m sure I romanticized my former self during this time, but I knew I had changed. I had always taken pleasure in a thousand small things every day: a good cup of coffee, a furious baby, a funny typo, a teenager who couldn’t smoke a cigarette properly, a bizarre exchange on the subway, the fact that neck ties serve no practical function. Read More »


    Lamb Chop in Search of a Martini

    January 9, 2012 | by

    When recently asked his opinion of monogamy, John Waters said, “I don’t need another person to make me feel whole. I feel crowded.” The line immediately reminded me of ventriloquist Shari Lewis. Lewis wasn’t crowded, exactly, with only three enduring creations—Lamb Chop, Charlie Horse, and Hush Puppy—but to me her career is emblematic of the simultaneously crowded and lonely nature of puppeteering. By Lewis’s own admission, Lamb Chop’s Play-Along, which I grew up watching during its run on PBS from 1992 to 1997, had no educational content. (“My show is not organized to educate,” she said. “Sesame Street does that brilliantly.”) Instead, Play-Along was a serialized sock-puppet soap opera (“At Home with Lamb Chop”) which kept being interrupted by knock-knock jokes, songs, and gags (including an ingenious method of preslicing a banana so that it would tumble to pieces, Jenga-style, when unpeeled). The show was like Borscht Belt boot camp: a toolbox for kids who desperately wanted to be liked, full of little tricks to spruce up their personalities. Even Lamb Chop’s laugh—a hesitant, schmoozy laugh that usually comes in response to jokes she doesn’t quite understand—hints at her desire to fit in.

    The show’s emphasis on showmanship stressed me out as a kid, and I preferred the “At Home with Lamb Chop” sequences. They were absorbingly plotted but also had none of the perils of interaction, of trying to woo friends, of trying to follow along at home with your own banana. “At Home with Lamb Chop” offered the comforting suggestion that friends weren’t necessary, that one could simply chop one’s own personality to bits, and, earthworm-style, the pieces would all sprout heads and start bickering.

    Read More »


    John Waters

    August 9, 2010 | by

    Filmmaker John Waters is the author of Role Models, which was published this May by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. I caught up with him recently while he was in Provincetown.

    Waters in his summer rental with a sign he made for hitchhiking to a beach.

    I saw your appearance on The Colbert Report and I was impressed that you didn’t laugh.

    You have to give the totally straight face with him because he is such a good straight man. It was so funny, right before we went on, backstage, it was me and the kid who wrote the article about General McChrystal that toppled the government [Michael Hastings], and I loved the journalist, and we were talking because I used to write for Rolling Stone. So I was showing him my Rolling Stone press card, and right before we go on, Colbert looks at us, because he’s always in character, right, even before, and he says, “I like one of you.”

    No way!

    Which is really funny and I knew it was funny; but I think the young author was horrified. I knew it was part of the act, but what a terrible thing to say!

    So you’re in Provincetown for the summer?

    This is my forty-sixth summer here. I came here for the first time when I was seventeen. I hitchhiked and then stayed two weeks and lived in a tree fort.

    Wow, a tree fort!

    A guy named Prescott Townsend owned it. The first gay radical I had ever met. He was from a wealthy family from Cambridge and he seemed completely insane, in a great way. Part of the tree fort was a submarine. He had to like you to let you live there and it was free and he gave you free hot dogs and eventually the town burned it and then they cut the tree down.

    How sad.

    It was a magical time in my life. I worked in the bookshop. First I worked in the East End Bookshop that was run by Molly Malone Cook and her girlfriend, Mary Oliver, the poet, who was not famous yet. And then I worked at the Provincetown Bookshop for many, many years. And it’s still there. Elloyd Hansen, one of the owners, was the guy who really gave me my complete education about books. I didn’t go to school, so he’s the one who told me about Ronald Firbank, Jane Bowles; I learned everything working there.

    And when I worked there they said, “you can have free books—whatever you want, but you have to read ’em and you have to sell ’em.” So I read everything and would get obsessed by a book and sell tons of copies—

    Because you would talk enthusiastically about it—

    Yes! Same thing I did in the chapter in this book. But now you go into a bookshop, and they don’t even know the books. It’s a gift shop! Not all are like that, but many. So, it was a great job. It was my college, really. They’ve only had about four other employees. Jane, who works there now, has worked there since I did. That was forty years ago. I worked there every summer and then I would go get unemployment in the winter, because it closed in the winter (it doesn’t anymore, but it used to). So I could go to San Francisco, I would make my movies and everything and it saved my life, that bookshop. It was really, really important to me. And I still love it. The rest of Provincetown; everyone else says, “it’s changed, blah, blah, blah.” I don’t think it has, I feel like if I dropped a piece of gum there in 1971 it would still be there.

    What are you reading right now?

    I’m on the last chapter of a book called, Denial: A Memoir of Terror by Jessica Stern. The author has always written about terrorists and in the book she goes back and she investigates her own rape, which happened to her when she was young, and she writes about that and explains why it got her interested in terror.

    Coming up next, I’ve really been obsessed by Robert Walser. I was stupid and didn’t know about his career, and New Directions is publishing all of his old stuff; I think he is absolutely, amazingly brilliant.

    What else do I have on my reading list… I’ve got The Scandal of Susan Sontag. I just love the title. I’m not sure what it is, but I bought it. It’s all articles, “essays by well-known critics who bring pertinent areas of expertise to bear on this iconic figure.”

    Then there’s Three Chords for Beauty’s Sake: The Life of Artie Shaw. That’s my next three books to read.

    Do you read a lot during the summer?

    Yes, I always read a lot. I read the same amount. no matter what season it is. I read every night. When I’m on book tour, I’m on airplanes all the time, so I’m always reading. People say, “How do you have time to read?” Oh, come on, it’s simple! You’re single and you don’t watch television. If you’re married it’s hard to read unless you married another total bookworm. If you watch TV, and I’m not saying there isn’t good TV, but if you watch TV you can’t read and watch TV. You can read and watch bad TV, but what’s the point? Good TV you’ve got to pay attention.

    In Role Models, I love when you say, “Fiction is the truth, fool!” Read More »


    A Week in Culture: Caitlin Roper, Editor, Part 2

    July 15, 2010 | by

    This is the second installment of Roper's culture diary. Click here to read part 1.


    11:30 A.M. John Waters interview. He’s in Provincetown for the summer, so we have to talk on the phone. I’m disappointed not to meet him in person, but still excited to talk. Waters is a charmer. I’m instantly enthralled and never want to hang up1.

    1:00 P.M. My friend Max sent me some images of paintings by Walton Ford2, whom we both admire. I think Ford is my favorite contemporary painter. He paints gigantic, detailed watercolors. There’re sort of Audobon, naturalist illustration-inspired, with a dark, anti-colonial, anti-industrialist twist. I spend about fifteen minutes looking at all the Ford paintings I can find online. This is an example of a kind of culture that is not best delivered via computer screen. I long to see some Ford paintings at full size.

    4:15 P.M. "Puritan, Inc.," a review of Making Haste From Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History on TNR’s The Book written by my friend and colleague David Wallace-Wells3.

    5:00 P.M. Max sent me this video, probably captured by a security camera, of a guy strolling down the street in a track suit and a pair of sunglasses. He does a double-take, and nearly gets hit by a car careening down the sidewalk. He leaps to safety, missing death by inches. I find it so alarming I watch it over and over again. The way the guy looks up, jukes to one side, then leaps expertly out of the way—I cannot believe it.

    6:45 P.M. The Kids Are All Right at the Loews Village 7. I liked Lisa Cholodenko’s High Art. I saw it in college. I know little about this one, which is my ideal4 movie-going scenario. As soon as the movie starts, I’m engaged5. This is the best movie I have seen in a theater since Joon-ho Bong’s Mother. Also, Mark Ruffalo is hot.

    9:15 P.M. Kickstarter and Rooftop Films teamed up for a film festival. The roof in Park Slope is vast. We slink in during a film and settle in folding chairs. The film shorts are projected on a screen hung on a brick wall. It’s a warm night, but there is a gentle, steady breeze. I watch two shorts and find my eyes drifting back to the horizon, where a herd of clouds makes its way across the plains of the blue-black sky. Read More »


    1. We talk for about twenty minutes and the transcript of our conversation is twenty-four pages long. Waters: “I am astounded by the behavior of people that think they’re completely normal, and can act so insane and not realize it.”
    2. I first saw Ford’s work in person at the Brooklyn Museum in 2006. I was there to see Ron Mueck’s impressive, wacky hyperrealist sculptures, but it was the last day of the Annie Leibovitz show, and the place was mobbed. I snuck away from the masses and found myself in an empty room, each wall had just one vast Ford painting. I spent about an hour in there staring at the detail in a painting of a tiger.
    3. He didn’t show me this piece, but I came across it myself (I was looking for Philip Roth’s 1958 review of The Bridge On the River Kwai). I’m impressed, as usual, with David’s intellect. I’m lucky to know and work with someone I genuinely admire. When I tell him I liked it, he says, “I should've cut the second paragraph."
    4. I never read reviews before I see a movie if I can help it.
    5. It’s set in California, and the characters are appealing and real in a way I have rarely seen on film. Most important: the writing is excellent. Lisa Cholodenko, wow.