January 26, 2023


John Waters

Review:  Eric Page

John Waters‘ new novel, based in Baltimore (where else), features three generations of wicked, morally degenerate women. If you’re a fan of Mr Waters’ work then you’ll know where this is going, if not then be prepared to be shocked, outraged, titillated, perplexed, challenged, and possibly more than once disgusted.

Waters takes us swiftly into the life of Marsha Sprinkle who is, amongst other things, a rather sophisticated suitcase thief, raiding airports with her fake chauffeur – she’s also a proficient scammer. Becoming anyone she wishes, she’s a master of disguise but it’s not all fun and games, dogs and children hate her. Her own family wants her dead. She’s smart, she’s desperate, she’s disturbed, and she’s on the run with a big chip on her shoulder.

They call her ‘Liarmouth’. Marsha is big on the untruths and practices telling lies to get them right, like a fibbing workout. She adores telling lies, lives for lying, delights in deceit, triumphs in treachery – until one insane man makes her tell the truth. But she’s a loathsome person. She does terrible things.

Wrap the incredible eye popping life of Marsha in with compulsive, addicted trampolinists, a Cult of the Bounce, called ‘Tramps’ in the book, which is an extended skit on diverse identities and the ways that people have created spaces which suit and protect them. Of course, Waters approaches this from the most oblique angle possible, but with his heart in the right place. These Tramps have their own underground world, bouncing lexicons, goals, dreams and mythologies – all deeply woven into the elastic rebounding possibilities of the trampoline.

Waters then sends her mother Adora, who performs plastic surgery on pets; Marsha’s daughter Poppy, the head of a band of renegade trampoline bouncers; Marsha’s partner-in-crime, Daryl, a delightful collection of incredible deviants on a riotous road trip of revenge to Queer Mecca, Provincetown.

John Waters, the writer and director of legendary films which occupy their own niche in cinema history, doesn’t disappoint here, his mind is twisted in ways which makes rococo baroque look straight, so you kinda know what you’re gonna get from him.

This fun exploration of more Baltimore lives is a shock-o-rama of his favourite themes, celebrating debauchery, delighting in deviance, relishing the absurd and savouring nonconformity. Throw in plenty of wanking, a talking penis (called Richard) and lots of ear frottage and what you have here is a perfect example of American Gothic Camp.

Out now in hardback, £20

For more info or to order the book see the publisher’s website here: