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Published in: November-December 2022 issue.

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A Feel-Bad Romance: A Novel
by John Waters
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 256 pages. $26.


Sleaze is oozing out of every page of Liarmouth, but if you’re a John Waters freak (and I count myself among them), then that’s a very good thing. There’s a talking penis, a couple who steal suitcases from airports for a living, and an illicit trampoline-enthusiast cult. Liarmouth is a hilarious ride, surprisingly the first novel from the legendary countercultural filmmaker. It’s at once entirely otherworldly and intimately familiar. The plot involves three intertwined generations of women, all gunning for each other. The characters are new but could well be the not-so-distant cousins of Dawn Davenport, the protagonist (played by Divine) in the 1974 classic Female Trouble. The scenes are set in gloriously lurid detail. Waters is especially good at having his characters vent their irritation at how inept and out-of-it are all the other characters populating the book.

            It has been perplexing and frustrating to realize how long it’s been since Waters has made a film (2004’s A Dirty Shame). Those of us yearning for those joyous big-screen moments will have some of their thirst quenched with this rambunctious book. The “Sultan of Sleaze” does not disappoint. If any of the streaming services had any guts, they’d order this up as a series immediately.

Matthew Hays

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