Waters talks about Hollywood and the film business with the candid attitude of someone who truly does not give a shit if his phone ever rings again, and Waters speaks with the same frankness on subjects ranging from 'teen tragedy' novelty records to the racial politics of the Yippie movement in his new book, Mr. Know-It-All. Like most of Waters’ books, Mr. Know-It-All is composed of freestanding chapters that are part memoir, part personal essay, and part stand-up comedy routine. They’re a lot like his live shows, which Waters brags he’s done so many times that he can let his mind wander while his mouth keeps moving onstage ... With great clarity of vision, Waters outlines his personal tastes as well as his rules to live by ... Waters’ candid love of what some might call 'sin' also keeps the chapters of Mr. Know-It-All that essentially read like transcribed stand-up comedy routines from veering into Jerry Seinfeld territory ... Hardcore fans may recognize some of his stories, particularly in the memoir chapters, from earlier interviews, and he admits to holding back other anecdotes for the book. And although on a line-by-line basis, the book always sparkles, Waters relies heavily on rhetorical questions as framing devices, particularly in the chapter about his experience taking LSD at 70. Still, it’s practically a dare; you’re going to ding John fucking Waters, who counts William Castle among his many idols, for indulging in a little showbiz artifice?
...this book—more than any of the author’s others I have read—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 ... Mr. Know-It-All is not, by any means, Waters’s finest work, but it is perhaps his most revealing, his most authentic ...unlike authors who in their later works allow a sober knell of perception to ring through their prose, Waters instead manages to impart his wily wisdom like some giddy, gurgling, bratty child waiting to be caught and brought back home to clean up his soiled bedroom and do his homework ... John Waters—the brand as well as the man—has aged well. He and his work are seasoned; they are the gifts that keep on giving, to him as well as us.
[Waters's] roguish charm may be enough to make readers feel 'all warm and scuzzy inside' ... The book’s second half ditches the Hollywood memoir in favor of less structured but equally riotous material. Waters’s extended riffs on architecture, cuisine, Warhol and more are essentially a rebel’s attempt to buck the acceptance he’s accidentally found ... In a chapter guaranteed to delight fans, Baltimore’s filthiest celebrates his 50-year friendship with actress Mink Stole by inviting her to his Provincetown, Mass., home for a carefully planned, LSD-fueled night in ... 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 him, but it’s a blessing for the rest of us.
...there’s no denying that Waters is a whip-smart (he’d no doubt like that description), funny, multitalented and unique cultural icon. He’s also an artist and book collector, and these essays reflect his endless assortment of interests ... His multitude of descriptions never cease to amuse ... While it’s certainly not a book for everyone, Waters’ legion of admirers will be lining up in droves to hop aboard the Mr. Know-It-All bus.
[Waters] is an indefatigable coiner of droll one-liners ... At the same time, in Mr. Know-It-All — more than in his earlier books — Waters seriously reckons with his personal history: his loves and losses, his successes and failures, and his strange metamorphosis from social subversive to national treasure, as he shares his thoughts on sex, architecture, music, travel and death ... He’s generous with his advice (“Always join the unions!”), and he’s surprisingly full of wisdom, especially when it comes to career setbacks ... goes into bountiful detail on what’s involved in pitching, financing, casting, shooting and publicizing a movie ... He can still shock you ... Waters, whether he likes it or not, is a Great American Institution. Or maybe he belongs in an institution. Either way, we wouldn’t want to be without him.
Waters may not be making any more movies (the last few flopped), but he’s a hot stand-up act, and nothing can squelch his outrageous imagination ... This is great stuff for fans ... If you don’t laugh loud and often, check your pulse, then your breath on a mirror.
... unblinking and sometimes laugh-a-minute ... What kind of screwed-up, tasteless world do we live in when a purveyor of reliably filthy trash produces an unexpectedly delightful, entertaining, dare I say knowing book? What have we come to when somebody as vulgar as Waters has his hilarious chapter on business travel, 'Delayed,' excerpted in the Wall Street Journal? True fact ... a how-to manual for ambitious youngsters, a smutty pilgrim’s progress ... Each one is a self-contained set piece kicked off with a low-res, grainy black-and-white photo oozing bad taste ... humane and incongruously inviting.
In many ways, [Mr.-Know-It-All] epitomizes Waters’ pop culture work since the death of his directorial career ... Waters’ charming account of his 'mainstream' film career encompasses most of the book’s hundred ... The other two-thirds of the book is comprised of essays on topics ranging from food to architecture. These vary in quality, largely according to how genuinely engaged Waters is with his subject ... At his best, Waters demonstrates what obscenity is for ... At its best, Mr. Know-It-All is an argument for deviance, performance, and shock. Perhaps if the book were entirely successful, its argument would be undermined. Waters has tried almost everything in his career; only a few fragments have worked, but they’ve elicited genuine cultural change. The pulsating mass of the rest humps across the page, giggling to itself. It is not embarrassed. It knows what it is.
... [a] delightful hybrid memoir/advice book ... Though not quite as surreal, 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.