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Watch Your Mouth Hardcover – June 7, 2000

4.2 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

So twisted that even its protagonist can't keep up with the perverse turns of plot, this melodramatic satire of family life trembles between virtuosity and utter collapse. Handler (The Basic Eight) sets up the first half of his comically warped novel as a mock opera, complete with stage and orchestra directions. Joseph, self-cast as the young hero, is a college student just finishing his junior year. Urged by his insatiable girlfriend, Cynthia Glass, to spend the summer sleeping by her side, Joseph moves in with her family in Pittsburgh, where the two plan to work as counselors at a Jewish day camp. Dinner at the Glass house the first night clues Joseph in to the family's bizarre fascinationsAincest, science, KabbalahAbut he still has no idea what he's getting into. After closer acquaintance with the creepily rational Dr. Glass (baritone), his high-strung, opera-loving wife, Mimi (soprano) and their precocious young son Stephen (tenor), he continues to be bemused, though unspeakable acts are clearly taking place offstage. Handler's baroque prose curls in elegant arabesques, but his elaborate plotting too often overwhelms his characters. Weakest of all is his portrait of the doomed Cynthia (with the obvious pun of her diminutive "Cyn"), who never quite emerges from Joseph's horny descriptions of their romance. After the opera-melodrama's weird but tantalizing climax, involving death and the golem myth, the novel actually recovers its narrative balance as the psychologically scarred Joseph turns to New Age recovery paperbacks, which replace opera as Handler's satiric model. Layered with coincidences and surprises, Joseph's on-the-lam nine-step self-help program achieves some of the novel's potential as a "Turn of the Screwball" black comedy. (July)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Billed rather tastelessly by the publisher as an "incest comedy," Handler's second novel (following The Basic Eight) is ambitious but flawed. Joseph tells the story of a lust-filled college summer he spent with his Jewish girlfriend, Cyn ("Sin") Glass (think J.D. Salinger), and her "close-knit" family in Pittsburgh. The events in Part 1 of this Bildungsroman are treated as a four-act opera, complete with set and musical directions. The aftermath, Part 2, is packaged as a parody of the AA 12-step program. Sex between Joseph and his lovers (Cyn and those who follow) and Handler's clever writing provide entertainment, but the novel, like the golem in it (Joseph is convinced that Cyn's mother has made one), lacks the requisite soul for longevity. Purchase for comprehensive fiction collections or where there's demand for quirky, offbeat work like this.DRebecca Sturm Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (June 7, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312209401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312209407
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,156,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Daniel Handler's new novel for adults is the highly-anticipated We Are Pirates, which Bloomsbury published in February, and Neil Gaiman says is, "Honest and funny, dark and painful. We Are Pirates reads like the result of a nightmarish mating experiment between Joseph Heller and Captain Jack Sparrow. It's the strangest, most brilliant offering yet from the mind behind Lemony Snicket."

Daniel Handler is also the author of the novels The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth, Adverbs, and, with Maira Kalman, Why We Broke Up, which won the Michael J. Printz Honor. He also worked with Kalman on the book Girls Standing on Lawns and Hurry Up and Wait (May 2015). Handler also edited The Best Nonrequired Reading of 2014, which includes an introduction by Lemony Snicket

As Lemony Snicket, he has written the best-selling series All The Wrong Questions as well as A Series of Unfortunate Events, which has sold more than 60 million copies, was the basis of a feature film starring Jim Carrey and Meryl Streep, with Jude Law as Lemony Snicket. In 2014, Netflix acquired rights to produce an original series based on A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Snicket is also the creator of several picture books, including the Charlotte Zolotow Award-winning The Dark, illustrated by Jon Klassen. His newest picture book is 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy illustrated by Lisa Brown. Other Snicket titles include the picture book 13 Words, in collaboration with Maira Kalman, as well as Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Biography, The Beatrice Letters, Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid, and two books for Christmas: The Lump of Coal and The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: a Christmas Story. He is currently working on the final book in the All the Wrong Questions series; Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights? (Sept. 2015).

His criticism has appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Believer, where he is has a column exploring the Nobel Prize in Literature titled "What The Swedes Read." He recently wrote the inaugural dispatch for the Wall Street Journal's new monthly feature on literary cocktails, "Message in a Bottle," and the foreword for Tin House's reissue of Bernard DeVoto's The Hour. Handler has worked as a screenwriter on the adaptation of A Series Of Unfortunate Events, as well as the independent films Rick, based on Verdi's opera, Rigoletto, and Kill The Poor.

In a recent interview with PEN American Center, he said, "My parents claim that when I was six years old I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, and my answer was that I wanted to be an old man who lived at the top of a mountain giving advice. If this story is true--and my parents are unreliable narrators--then there was a time in my life when I did not want to be a writer. But I do not remember such a time. I do not remember a time when I was not writing things down. I do not remember a time when I was reading without thinking of how I could poach the tricks of my favorite writers. All I have ever wanted was to be in the company of literature."

Last year, Handler established, in partnership with the American Library Association, the Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity, which was awarded in Las Vegas in June.

Handler works extensively in music, serving as the adjunct accordionist for the music group The Magnetic Fields and collaborating with composer Nathaniel Stookey on a piece commissioned and recorded by the San Francisco Symphony, entitled "The Composer Is Dead", which has been performed all over the world and is now a book with CD. He is currently at work on a commission from the Royal Shakespeare Company on a stage musical in collaboration with songwriter Stephin Merritt.

He is a graduate of Wesleyan University, and lives in his native San Francisco with his wife, illustrator Lisa Brown, and their son.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In case you haven't heard, Daniel Handler is the mastermind behind Lemony Snicket, author of the unlucky adventures of the three Baudelaire orphans. His success as Snicket seemed to have happened overnight, but he's been writing for a while it seems, with two adult novels (this one and The Basic Eight to his credit, both written before the Snicket books, I believe). In combination, it is quite clear that Handler is well on his way to becoming the 21st century Roald Dahl, who also wrote books for both adults and children that combined both whimsy and perversion.
And if you want perversion, you can't do much better than a comic novel about incest, which is what this book is. The structure of the book begins as an opera (it ties in to some community opera done by one of the characters), then mutates in Act III to be based on a 12-step program. Like Dahl in My Uncle Oswald, Handler isn't afraid of writing about sex, either. I was reading this on the airplane and I kept holding the book open at 90 degrees rather than the normal 180 just in case the fellow sitting next to me travelling with his young child might glance over and then alert the attendent to the pervert on the plane.
I'm not sure I liked this book, but I have to admit it was audacious, quite funny, and always unusual. The ending was disappointing as Handler went in for the more serious ending rather than really ending off as absurd as he began. All in all, this is an adult series of unfortunate events that is recommended for mature minds only.
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Format: Paperback
When I discovered that Lemony Snicket was Daniel Handler I found this
book here. I saw the first few reviews and hoped this book was as unusual as it truly was. I was tired of reading what my book group read (sad women finding themselves and living happily ever after) - I wanted to be shocked and challenged and this book fit the bill! I loved it for being different, taking chances to write in a style of being an opera, to incorporate tough subjects for the pop culture (old Jewish mysiticim and incest). I know I need to read this book a second time to understand all the humor but I loved it for being "OUT" there where most readers won't go. Some parts reminded me of Bee Season and Feast of Love.
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Format: Hardcover
The Basic Eight was a fun first novel, but Handler outdoes himself with this one. Strange, sexy, scary and incredibly smart, this is an unearthly take on desire and family issues. I predict his cult following will only grow with this very weird but absolutely hypnotizing novel.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had no idea what to expect. As a fan of A Series of Unfortunate Events(which you should know by now is Daniel Handler's series under the pseudonym of Lemony Snicket), I was expecting something similar. As a gift to myself for my 17th birthday, I bought a copy off of Amazon. When it finally arrived, I began reading, appaled at the subject matter.

This book is very shocking in it's [...]descriptions of Joseph's encounters with Cyn, Mimi, Lauren, and Allyson. Therefore, discretion is advised when buying this book. Parents, this is an ADULT BOOK and is not suitable for children.

On that note, the book is from Joseph's perspective. He is a senior at Mathers University. His girlfriend, Cyn(short for Cynthia, but the short version is humorous dramatic irony), and him go to Pittsburgh(with an 'H'), Pennsylvania to spend the summer with Cyn's family, the Glasses. Ben Glass and Mimi Glass are Cyn's parents, and Stephen is her brother.

The book is split into two sections. The first section is very sexual and very sane. I chose 'sane' because the second half is when Joseph thinks that he is losing his mind and killing the Glasses.

I would give more details about the two, but it would ruin the book.

To me, I felt like it had a surprise ending. When Joseph thinks that he is a murderer and that he imagined incest within the Glass family, he accidentally stumbles upon an old "friend" who confirms his sanity.

Everywhere that Joseph goes, coincidence follows. He just HAPPENED to go to Pittsburg(without an 'H'-in California?) where Stephen Glass fled to, as well. He just HAPPENED to find Ben Glass doing a New Self seminar in a magazine after calling a disconnected line supposedly connected to Ben. He just HAPPENED to get a job at Vast, where a horror from his past arose.

The book is amazing. I can't wait to read The Basic Eight.
Highly recommended for mature readers.
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Format: Hardcover
I picked this up because of the kid's books Handler writes under the name Lemony Snicket--strange, gothic dark comedies. But this book has them all beat. He's such a good stylist that he almost convinces you that his subject matter is normal--almost. This is a very scary, very sexy and VERY strange book, but it's one of the most rewarding reads I've had in a long time. You'll never look at your family the same way again!
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Format: Paperback
Since reading The Basic Eight almost five years ago, I have been in awe of Daniel Handler's wit, way with words, and knack at making me laugh even when his characters are in the bleakest of situations. Even I had some doubts about Watch Your Mouth, though, and how he could take the subject of incest (something I was wary to read about, for some reason)and work it into a novel that could compare with the wonders that were his other works (The Basic Eight, Adverbs, A Series of Unfortunate Events).

After finishing this novel, my only regret is that I didn't pick it up sooner. I found myself on the verge of laughing aloud at work -- probably not the greatest thing to happen, especially since, with a Handler novel, you can't explain exactly why you're laughing. Reading this book was like being part of a delicious inside joke. The ways in which the author manages to mention a previous phrase or event in such an unexpected way kept me grinning from ear to ear as I turned each page.

All in all, I loved this book. The only thing that I found ever-so-slightly disappointing was the ending. The series of events seemed to dissolve into nothing...which, come to think of it, maybe have been the intent all along. I just would have liked a bit more closure, I suppose.
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