Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder (Hardcover)

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(Biography - Memoir)

Staff Reviews

If you are a fan of the Pope of Trash, as am I, this book will be candy to you. Waters follows up his successful hitchhiking volume, with this grab bag of essays and delights. He guides us through his filmography from Polyester to A Dirty Shame, he reflects uproariously on sex, on Brutalist architecture, paintings made by monkeys. At 70 he carefully plans one last LSD trip, tells us about his realistic baby doll, and imagines a John Waters style restaurant full of the worst waiters and worse food. He’d call it Gristle.

Dafydd Wood


No one knows more about everything—especially everything rude, clever, and offensively compelling—than John Waters. The man in the pencil-thin mustache, auteur of the transgressive movie classics Pink Flamingos, Polyester, Hairspray, Cry-Baby, and A Dirty Shame, is one of the world’s great sophisticates, and in Mr. Know-It-All he serves it up raw: how to fail upward in Hollywood; how to develop musical taste, from Nervous Norvus to Maria Callas; how to build a home so ugly and trendy that no one but you would dare live in it; more important, how to tell someone you love them without emotional risk; and yes, how to cheat death itself. Through it all, Waters swears by one undeniable truth: “Whatever you might have heard, there is absolutely no downside to being famous. None at all.”

Studded with cameos, from Divine and Mink Stole to Johnny Depp, Kathleen Turner, Patricia Hearst, and Tracey Ullman, and illustrated with unseen photos from the author's personal collection, Mr. Know-It-All is Waters’ most hypnotically readable, upsetting, revelatory book—another instant Waters classic.

“Waters doesn’t kowtow to the received wisdom, he flips it the bird . . . [Waters] has the ability to show humanity at its most ridiculous and make that funny rather than repellent.” —Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

Carsick becomes a portrait not just of America’s desolate freeway nodes—though they’re brilliantly evoked—but of American fame itself.” —Lawrence Osborne, The New York Times Book Review

About the Author

John Waters is an American filmmaker, actor, writer, and visual artist best known for his cult films, including Hairspray, Pink Flamingos, and Cecil B. DeMented. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Praise For…

“That John Waters is a national treasure is a surety. Period. Thank you and good night . . . [Mr. Know-It-All] shows a vulnerability and an honesty and an almost frantic desire to impart to us, before he can no longer, his manic mantras, his obsessive treatises and his biting and blisteringly honest bons mots that are actually really enlightening life lessons.” —Alan Cumming, The New York Times Book Review

“[Waters is] an indefatigable coiner of droll one-liners . . . Whether he likes it or not, [Waters] is a Great American Institution. Or maybe he belongs in an institution. Either way, we wouldn’t want to be without him.” —Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times

“In Mr. Know-It-All, the curtain is pulled back and Waters’ life, a multi-decade exercise in adaptability, perseverance and ceaseless hustle, is revealed. The essays are hyper-driven with the caloric burn of nervous energy . . . Full of insight and scrappy, hard-earned smarts.” —Henry Rollins, Los Angeles Times

“That this Prince of Puke has become an accidental darling of American cinema and letters—an institution, however depraved—may be a dirty shame to [Waters], but it’s a blessing for the rest of us.” —Charles Arrowsmith, The Washington Post

“On a line-by-line basis, [Mr. Know-It-All] always sparkles” —Katie Rife, The A.V. Club

“[Mr. Know-It-All] is outrageous and, in ways that only the man who unleashed Pink Flamingos on an unsuspecting public could get away with, sentimental. It peers into the future with eyes both delightful and decadent, and looks backward with a nostalgia for things many of us never knew we missed . . . A delicious, deranged blend that may not be for everybody, and that’s just fine with [Waters].” —Chris Kaltenbach, The Baltimore Sun

“There’s no denying that Waters is a whip-smart . . . , funny, multitalented and unique cultural icon.” —Alice Cary, Bookpage

"An exuberantly transgressive American filmmaker gets down, dirty, and weird about life, art, and career . . . Comic and rude but always compulsively readable, Waters demonstrates that he is not only first among Filth Elders; he is also a keen observer of American culture. Wickedly smart and consistently laugh-out-loud funny." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Nothing can squelch [John Waters'] outrageous imagination . . . If you don't laugh loud and often, check your pulse, then your breath on a mirror." —Ray Olson, Booklist

"Endlessly entertaining . . . Waters’s musings are as funny and eccentric as his films; longtime fans will be delighted with the treasure trove of insights into his brilliant oeuvre." —Publishers Weekly

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780374214968
ISBN-10: 0374214964
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: May 21st, 2019
Pages: 384
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