Shock Value: A Tasteful Book about Bad Taste
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Shock Value: A Tasteful Book about Bad Taste

4.4 of 5 stars 4.40  ·  rating details  ·  1,018 ratings  ·  60 reviews
Softcover Book
Paperback, 243 pages
Published September 1st 1995 by Thunder's Mouth Press (first published January 1st 1989)
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Strange enough I think I almost like John Water's writings better then his films. For sure more than his early films i.e. Pink Flamingos, etc. And I am one of the odd one's that love his later films more than his early work.

Nevertheless this is a mid-life John Waters looking back at his early career and it's hysterical. I think he's a great man. i wished he wrote more articles, essays, reviews, etc. He's a great wit.
Apr 26, 2007 Christopher rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: everyone who's got anything on the ball.
Everyone needs their ultimate flagship book of wisdom and life instruction.

For some, it's the Tao Te Ching. For others, it's The Prophet. I know people who even take solace in that one Jesus book.

On a more asthetic level, I think we all choose one book in our youth that colors how we want to look at the world and how we want to be seen. Think On the Road . The Bell Jar. Catcher in the Rye.

For me, well, John Waters' Shock Value fits the latter requirement, and maybe even a little bit of the forme...more
Phil Overeem
If you have ever watched an early Waters film (pre-HAIRSPRAY) and wondered, "WTF????" this book answers the question. Eminently readable, hilarious and outrageous, full of love for the beast called America and its bizarre offspring named Baltimore, SHOCK VALUE also captures forever the last moment in our culture when we could be shocked. Waters' recent struggles to make a decent film are a testament to a burned-out, numbed audience that has already gone over the edge and doesn't know it. Also, a...more
I finally just bought this; I couldn't put it off any longer because I'm going to see Uncle John give a lecture this Thursday, and there's a book signing afterwards. My goddamned book is getting SIGNED.

ETA: My goddamn book did get signed. :)
We can forgive Waters' horrible stand-up comedian act he's been fronting because this book is entertaining and funny. I liked the pieces on Russ Meyer, Herschell Gordon Lewis, and anything about the late Divine is immensely readable.
He's a dear with a fantastic sense of humor, and it was a pleasure to read this book.
This strange and thoroughly entertaining book was less like a biography of John Waters (how it was initially explained to me) and more like a zine he'd written and turned into a book. There is no real chronology to the stories in the book; instead, it begins with a chapter about the making of "Pink Flamingos", then jumps around from chapter to chapter without any real rhyme or reason. A chapter about Waters's childhood fascination with disasters is followed by chapters about how much he loves Ba...more
Oct 12, 2007 Stephanie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: fellow deviants
You may know John Waters's film work, which includesHairspray, Serial Mom, and Cecil B. Demented. But if you haven't read his books, you don't understand the full extent of his talent.

Shock Value is a series of essays exploring Waters's reverence for everything from serial killers to Russ Meyer movies to bloody amusement park disasters. After reading this book, you'll stop believing there can be such a thing as "guilty pleasures" and start displaying your taped collection of Manson Family parol...more
Nov 12, 2007 Van rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Open-minded types with a respect for unconventional outsiders and free-thinking artists
A few nicknames have been given to John Waters through the years, including "King of Bad Taste", "Sultan of Sleaze", and "Pope of Trash" (which was allegedly coined for him by William S. Burroughs and which Waters prefers most).

Waters' book "Shock Value" is a great place to understand just why he's rightfully earned those nicknames. A longtime John Waters buff, I savored every single page, very happy to submerge myself in his...umm...unique creative mindset.

"Shock Value" is honestly laugh-out-lo...more
This book is great, because it catches John Waters in between subversive anti-social cult hero and famous "Director of Hairspray" cult hero. You get his sharp, dry, off color sense of humor and gritty stories about his unusual, at times disturbing, beginnings. I still tell the story about his friend that went to the doctor for an "ear ache". This guy has been around and he's seen and done some crazy stuff. This book is easy to read because he's hilarious, honest and completely unashamed about al...more
David Ward
Shock Value: A Tasteful Book About Bad Taste by John Waters (Delta Books 1981) (791.430233) is an early book by the master film maker about himself and his approach to life and to film making. The book describes his early life in Baltimore and provides sketches about each of the special breed of actors with whom he has chosen to collaborate. Of special interest to Waters devotees will be the numerous photos from the author's collection of a young Divine and of the lovely and talented Edith Masse...more
Jon Morgan
Easily my go-to book to read when I'm sick. Never gets old.
I enjoyed this book. There were some cool stories from his sets, but I had heard most of the "personal" things before. And I was very disappointed to learn what Mole was like in real life. John Waters is kind of fun, kind of annoying like the uncle who overstays his welcome on his annual visit. You're kind of tired of hearing the same stories, but you stay up to hear them anyway. I have hard that one of his books has really poor screen shots of his television screen, so you could see what TV Joh...more
kaira simmons
John Waters is one individual about whom you cannot say something to the effect of, "he could write a book/make a film about dog crap & I would love it," because, well, yeah. So, I will just say this: John Waters could write about gun totin' homophobic neofascists on their way to the mall to buy a stockpile of American flags, Hickory Farms gift sausages, and M80's (now available at your local GAP), and OF COURSE I would read it! It sounds like something that he would do anyway.

Why is he NOT...more
I feel like I have a new perspective on John Waters films, and am curious to watch his earlier works over again. I loved how he described his parents and their reaction to his friends and his films and later the criticism of their parenting. This is the first book I've read in a while with multiple pages of photographs, but that just added more interest to his stories- like the one of Divine covered in blood in a bathing suit with a caption that says "Divine was in this outfit when my parents fi...more
Not crazy funny like his book "Crackpot" but still an entertaining and humorous book with stories from Waters' growing up and about making his early films. When I lived in NY, I went to a signing he had at Tower Records when he was promoting the release of "Pink Flamingos" on laser disc (this was 1993--so high tech!), and he autographed my copy of this book. I really wanted to say something witty and clever to him, but I think all I managed was "glurg" or something comparable.
So happy I decided to dig this one out and read it again. Waters' stuff (especially the stuff pre-1980, which is what this book is all about) is really a life-line for me. When I'm feeling low, he picks me right up. There's so much perverse joy to be found here. Buy a copy for you niece. It'll be the best humanitarian effort you put forth all year. And when you're through with it, do yourself a favor: Re-read the Edith Massey chapter. Life's too short not to...
At this point, I think I've heard John Waters tell every one of his anectotes at least twice, but I somehow never get tired of them. This is much of the same material you'll find on commentary tracks to his movies, in interviews, and at one of his talks. His off-kilter sense of humor never gets old (for me, at least), but I have to admit this material is much better when you hear his delivery. What did I expect, really...the guy makes movies, not great literature.
Bryce Wilson
Want to feel like you have led one boring ass life? Read a John Water's autobiography. He offhandly mentions accidently smoking crack in the introduction, and its not even the strangest thing that happens in the introduction, hell its not even the strangest thing that happens in the parenthesis that he mentions it in.

The book is a blast to read, and weirdly inspirational, it's like me version of a Doctor Phil book.
nostalgia! this book made me LOL time & again. I have distinct visions of me reading this wrapped up in my old Andy Warhol sheets (college years). you don't even have to be into John Waters to like it, but you must have a slightly perverse sense of humor, love disaster + chaos + cruel irony, and not take shit seriously. this book is offensive in only the most polite way possible.
A great insight into the early years of John Waters' life and career, with detailed background information about the making of such cult classics as "Pink Flamingos" and "Desperate Living". Mandatory reading for fans of not only Waters, but trash, gore and cult cinema, as it features interviews with Waters' muse, Divine, and influences, filmmakers Hershell Gordon Lewis and Russ Meyer.
I looooooooooooooooooooove trashhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!
and i love insane stories about Divine.

this memoir was great. Waters can really write, too, so it was a breeze to read, unlike some memoirs where it's like walking through a minefield just to get the awesome stories out of it (ahem, that terribly written memoir by dee dee ramone's ex).

I seriously loved this book. I went to the book signing on this one too. It's a funny little easy read about the early days of John Waters and Divine. So many funny laugh out loud stories about his days trying to sneak into the Manson Family trials, dressing Divine up at JAckie O (in drag in high school!) and more
A great collection of wit somewhat dulled by the fact that he's toured on this material for so long that I'd already heard a good portion of it in spoken word format long before I got around to reading the book. Waters for Secretary of...something!
Brilliant and hilarious.If you like his movies, you'll love this.Gives a lot of background and explains the development of Water's skewed attitude toward life,religion, sex and society. No sentimentality,just chuckles and insight.
This book made me laugh out loud on public transit many times :) i was uncomfortable with a couple of parts in the book, but hey, it wouldn't be a john waters' book if i wasn't offended at some point, right?

over all, awesome.
Mike Everleth
One of the best film memoirs ever written. Waters' strength as a filmmaker has always been his writing first, so it would make sense this would be a terrific read. Does any other filmmaker have this much fun making movies?
Eli Warner
i love love LOVE john waters. every word out of his mouth is trashy, elegant, and bizarre all at once. i especially loved all of the one-on-one interviews, and the chapter about where to see the best hairdos in baltimore.
I like to play this game with my mother where we invite people (living or dead, ficitional or real) to an imaginary tea party. John Waters is definitely invited to my tea party, and all his friends, too.
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John Samuel Waters, Jr. is an American filmmaker, actor, writer, personality, visual artist and art collector, who rose to fame in the early 1970s for his transgressive cult films: Pink Flamingos and Hairspray. He is recognizable by his pencil-thin moustache.
More about John Waters...
Role Models Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters Trash Trio: Three Screenplays Art: A Sex Book Three More Screenplays: Hairspray / Female Trouble / Multiple Maniacs

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“My idea of an interesting person is someone who is quite proud of their seemingly abnormal life and turns their disadvantage into a career.” 51 likes
“I would never want to live anywhere but Baltimore. You can look far and wide, but you'll never discover a stranger city with such extreme style. It's as if every eccentric in the South decided to move north, ran out of gas in Baltimore, and decided to stay.” 46 likes
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