A tale of sex, crime, and family dysfunction in John Waters' hilarious new novel

john waters
John Waters' first novel "Liarmouth" was released May 3. (Greg Gorman)

Leave it to John Waters to make the protagonist of his first novel someone dogs and children hate and whose own family wants her dead. She’s known as “Liarmouth” which is also the title of this hilarious new book. The legendary filmmaker and writer joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to introduce his novel and its brassy misanthrope hero, Marsha Sprinkle.

Interview highlights:

Marsha Sprinkles’ predilection for thievery:

“What she likes to do is steal luggage at airports because it’s easy. It used to be hard when they checked your tags. For some reason, they don’t anymore,” said Waters. “So she goes to airports. Every possible way you can commit a crime in an airport is in this book. I think some of it comes from just watching people. Some of it is common sense.”

He continued, “I have a friend that used to steal the flight attendant’s purse on every flight. And it really is always in the same space, that first bend a little bit when you walk in, so they should really move it. They should put it somewhere else because word of mouth is out in the suitcase thief community; that’s where you get it.”

How Marsha encounters her unlikely love interest:

“Daryl is … just a guy that realizes he gets turned on by stealing, and then he meets his match, Marsha because she steals from him. So they have this erotic thing with each other, and then he becomes her slave. He works for her, and his salary is he can have sex with her once a year,” Waters elaborated. “But Marsha is ‘no man’s used-up calendar,’ as she puts it. So on the day that he is supposed to collect the year anniversary, she ditches him, and everything goes wrong in the airport when they’re stealing suitcases. And then the road trip begins.”

John Waters, how do you come up with this stuff?

“I don’t know. I just write in the morning. That’s my job. I get out of bed, I read seven newspapers, drink five cups of tea and go in that room and pick up my Bic pen and my yellow legal pads, and I just start at 8:01 every day. And that’s my job, to think up this stuff. So the main person I’m trying to make laugh is myself. And once in a while, I do it, and then I know I’ve gotten a really good joke if I can laugh out loud when I read it back.”

Why Waters lives in and loves the city of Baltimore:

“Because everybody that lives here has a sense of humor about themselves, and they can make fun of their city first, ‘But you can’t,’” Waters mused. “I think it’s where my real friends live. Everybody I know here isn’t in show business. I don’t trust people that don’t have old friends, ‘cause old friends last longer than family. I think that gives me a feeling of safety to live here, even in a city that isn’t so safe.”

John Waters’ new novel “Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance” is out now and available to purchase here