"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."
Such is the wisdom of John Waters, culled from his 2010 book Role Models, which I am enjoying so much that I know I will flip back to page one as soon as page 294 rolls around. Waters is a American treasure ( though he'd hate to be described as such), and I truly hope he's willed his brain to the Smithsonian. In my parallel universe, John Waters is on the Supreme Court and a pencil-mustachioed Antonin Scalia is skulking around Baltimore in a Comme des Garcons ensemble, Super-8 camera in hand.
The only addition I would make to the above observations is that nonfiction (the category which includes Role Models, as it is a collection of essays, all of them GREAT) can be just as fake as fiction is true. Stories are how we make sense of this filthy world of ours. Even a "nonfiction" "political memoir" like The Radical Housewife has a few, er, moments of inspired creativity--though the story about Michele Bachmann yelling at my son and nephew is as horrifyingly true as it is truly horrifying. Bachmann, the real person, is so outrageously bizarre that if she didn't exist, Waters would have invented her. As long as a loony like Bachmann wields power, Waters' declaration that "fiction is the truth" will hold....well, true.
May you create a few tales of your own this new year--the taller the better. Onward to 2011!