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November 22, 2010, 6:20pm

Photo: Greg Gorman

If you were around during the 70s or the 80s, and especially if you have a taste for trash films set in Baltimore, odds are John Waters is one of your favorite directors. Now the man with the sleaziest mustache in Hollywood has written a book about the people who have inspired him.To celebrate (promote), he's let us publish the chapter on literature.

John Waters - Role Models

- Part One.


I've jitterbugged with Richard Serra, eaten Thanksgiving dinner with Lana Turner, had tea with Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, gone out drinking with Clint Eastwood, and spent several New Year's Eve parties in Valentino's chalet in Gstaad, but what I like best is staying home and reading. Being rich is not about how much money you have or how many homes you own; it's the freedom to buy any book you want without looking at the price and wondering if you can afford it. Of course, you have to read the books, too. Nothing is more impotent than an unread library.

I have, as of the day of this writing, 8,425 books, all cataloged but no longer in complete order on my shelves. Each week I read Publishers Weekly not so much for the business news but to see what books are coming out and when I can buy them. Like all avid readers, I sob about the death of my favorite bookshops in each city I visit, but I'm secretly thrilled at how easy and cheap it is to order from But couldn't they at least reward us with frequent reading points like the airlines? I'm always amazed at friends who say they try to read at night in bed but always end up falling asleep. I have the opposite problem. If a book is good I can't go to sleep, and stay up way past my bedtime, hooked on the writing. Is anything better than waking up after a late-night read and diving right back into the plot before you even get out of bed to brush your teeth?

You should never just read for "enjoyment." Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends' insane behavior, or better yet, your own. Pick "hard books." Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for God's sake, don't let me ever hear you say, "I can't read fiction. I only have time for the truth." Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of "literature"? That means fiction, too, stupid.

Okay, everybody likes to hear about a good book. Oprah has made book lists a middle-class phenomenon. So what about the rest of us? The outcasts who have no desire to assimilate and love to read about the "little horror stories in other people's lives," as Mary Vivian Pearce said in Female Trouble. What should we read? Not to escape but to dwell on all the delicious insanity we are still learning to embrace? Well, I've got a list for you, and believe me, it was hard to narrow down. From thousands and thousands and thousands of twisted volumes, here goes – John Waters's "Five Books You Should Read to Live a Happy Life If Something Is Basically the Matter with You."

Check back tomorrow for part two - "Denton Welch"

Role Models, by John Waters, is available now in the US and will be released on December 2nd by Beautiful Books in the UK. You can buy it here. John will be signing copies of Role Models at Waterstones, Piccadilly, London at 1pm on Saturday December 4th.