Book Review: Carsick

Filmmaker John Waters hitchhikes from Baltimore to San Francisco



by John Waters
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 336pp., $26

In 2012, America's finest cult-film director inked a book deal on the following premise: "I, John Waters, will hitchhike alone from the front of my Baltimore house to my co-op apartment in San Francisco and see what happens." Now consider that he was 66 that year and it had been 50 years since he last hitched.

The resulting travelogue, Carsick, is typical of most Waters art: 1) completely unique; 2) celebrating the sordid, making it heartwarming and hilarious; and 3) ultimately a positive reflection of America and its culture.

Carsick's three-part construction yields two-thirds a hysterical fiction work. First, Waters imagines the best possible roadside encounters, including his favorite gay porn star and a film-buff drug dealer who gladly finances Waters' dormant A Dirty Shame follow-up, Fruitcake. The second third, the worst case scenarios, is funnier: Only Waters could imagine getting picked up by a truck-driving serial killer after all cult-film directors! But his trip's reality proved more wondrous than anything he could imagine. Besides a touring indie rock band, Waters found himself driven most of his trip by a 20-year-old Republican councilman – twice! The politician eventually drove 48 hours to catch up with Waters in Denver and deliver him to San Francisco! The resultant bromance is the heart of a book that manages to make hitchhiking seem like a fun way to see the U.S.A.

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