Recently, John Waters was asked to give a commencement speech at The Rhode Island School of Design. He turned that speech into a book, which I heard about on NPR. I rarely listen to it, but my family does, and I join in when they do it in the house.
The interview was interesting, but I was most interested in getting my grubby little hands on this book. My family also likes lounging in Barnes and Noble, and we did so today. I ended up picking up Make Trouble and reading it in ten minutes; this wasn't a long speech, and it didn't make a long book. That, however, made it no less self-aware and charming. John Waters is not only aware of his own faults, he is unabashedly honest about them, injecting some self-deprecating humor into this book. He talks about wealth, but never in terms of money: he talks about wealth in terms of being his own boss, living life on his own terms, and finding ways to avoid assholes in all walks of life, personal and professional.
He talks about what it takes to be an artist, without crushing dreams, nor with a false promise of success. Try. Know you have talent, work at it, and stir things up: look at what was done before, and do something that spits in the eye of that, just to see where it gets you. Question everything. Read, watch movies, learn about culture not just by doing but by inhaling that culture.
Also, he talks about parents and their children. How children can be brats, and how parents can close themselves off to their children's eccentricities. But be patient, try, and he tells the parents to accept the children as they are, and for the children not to blame their parents for everything. Everyone is dealt a hand in life, and we deal with it, he says. (In this context, I think it's about just that: not blaming your parents for absolutely everything and getting on with your life.)
And if the text, and the amazing amount that Waters conveys in such a short time, isn't enough to convince anyone to read this, the illustrations - done in the grotesque style when illustrating Waters, or the world ,and otherwise abstract to mimic the words on the page - are just absolutely gorgeous - and again, charming. I'd loved Waters, even if I wasn't a devotee. I had a healthy appreciation for his movies, and more than that, I loved the way he just completely accepted himself, while tipping his hat to the little weirdo he was. (And being a little weirdo myself, I say that with much warmth.) This, though, this was breathtaking. And, yeah, I love him a little more for giving this speech and writing this book.