Lady Divine's cavalcade of perversions, the sleaziest show on earth! Not actors, not paid impostors, but real actual filth who have been carefully screened in order to present to you the most flagrant violation of natural law known to man! These assorted sluts, fags, dykes and pimps know no bounds! They have committed acts against God and nature, acts that by their mere existence would make any decent person recoil in disgust!”
Or, in other words, abandon hope all ye who enter here, John Waters has finally given us a novel.
It's hard to believe that the man who started his career filming a six foot drag queen having rosary beads shoved up his arse, forced insemination, chicken murder and self-loathing lesbians looking gender reassignment surgery is now 76. And those ground-breaking early films now occupy an unusual terrain: being somewhere between historically approved fare and weird exploitation fare that paved the way for stuff like Jackass.
With it looking increasingly unlikely that he’ll ever direct another film again, he has turned his attention to his first love, books. While some (like Carsick) have incorporated fiction into the main narrative, this is his debut novel.
Liarmouth tells the tale of Marsha Sprinkle. A hideously self-centred type who scams her way through life (airports are her particular favourite source for pickings), things go wrong for her when a scam goes wrong, forcing her to escape and kill her way to her much-loathed mother’s house. Meanwhile, her subordinate, has suffered a most unfortunate incident involving his old chap (ahem) which requires a splint. Soon, his member begins to talk to him and helps him track down Marsha to collect his payment (an arrangement of the libidinous type).
Oh, and Marsha’s deranged daughter, Poppy (who may or may not have lost a few lawsuits over trampolines) is after her as well, accompanied by her clientele who endlessly bounce, seeing it as a radical movement. All very typical John Waters. Film critic Rex Reed asked: "where do these people come from? Where do they go when the sun goes down? Isn't there a law or something?" And you’ll certainly be saying the same when you read about people like the guy with a fetish for tickling.
While certainly enjoyable due to the swift pace, Waters’ penchant for deranged characters and peculiar scenarios, it’s not the home run it should be. This is due to a certain amount of padding, especially in the middle of the tale, and a little too much attention paid to the bouncers (which is one joke stretched out too far). Also, those not au fait wit his style will find the characters one dimensional, particularly Marsha.
One very much for fans but, for such a widely read guy, it’s a shame that this isn’t an exemplary read.
John Waters, 2022, Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance. Corsair, ISBN-13: 978-1472157553
🔖 Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.