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Watch Your Mouth

3.32  ·  Rating Details ·  1,178 Ratings  ·  133 Reviews
Joseph goes to stay with his girlfriend's family for the summer, and is touched by their closeness and affection for one another. As the atmosphere in the family home grows hotter, the warning signs become hard to ignore. They love each other too much.
Paperback, 242 pages
Published January 9th 2003 by Allison & Busby (first published 2000)
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I love Daniel Handler SO MUCH. The way he writes is so splendid, I can sometimes hardly stand it. And his plots are so twisted and twisty and bizarre and beautiful and DARK. And funny and clever and smutty and sly and just just just such a joy to read. Here is how I love him:

Anyway so I obviously love this book to bits and pieces, let me count the ways. If you read the blurb you will know that it is: a meta-opera (sort of) about incest (maybe / maybe not) and Jewish mysticism (probably / possibl
Feb 26, 2015 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The premise of this story sounds sounds rather dull (a guy in college moving in with his girlfriend and her dysfunctional family for the summer), but this was easily one of the strangest books I have ever read...including House of Leaves, which says quite a lot. The story is often structured as if it is an Opera with the protagonist Joseph continually telling the reader that this IS FICTION. A fair amount of description goes into lighting, curtains, sound effects etc.

The book is incredibly twis
MJ Nicholls
Nov 20, 2010 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to MJ by: Oriana
The UK paperback edition of this book has the ugliest design and corniest blurb I've ever seen, but the text itself is a marvellous linguistic whirlwind through incest, or imagined incest, golems, or imagined golems, and operas, or maybe novels.

I became aware of Daniel Handler through Stephin Merritt's band The Gothic Archies, and a mean-spirited review (by Lucy Ellmann) of Adverbs. Since I trust Lucy Ellmann implicitly, I read this instead. It is, quite simply, gleefully bonkers.
Megan Scaison
May 23, 2008 Megan Scaison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who understand opera and like to be scandalized; fans of Bret Easton Ellis
Recommended to Megan by: Maggie in my knitting group
Oh G-d, this book.

When I finished it, I turned it over and started again.

Absolutely nothing turned out the way I had expected; with this particular book that probably means that I am not as fucked up as I sometimes think I might be. I suppose that means that Daniel Handler IS that fucked up.

This book affected me every bit as much as American Psycho, and in a very, very similar way.

This book contains two significant plot elements I've been wanting: contemporary American Jewish life, and opera. A
May 09, 2007 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aug 08, 2013 Teresa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Though I am a Handler/Snicket fan, the blurbs on this book, his second novel under his own name, didn't give me any impetus to want to read it;, but after enjoying his first novel, The Basic Eight, I figured I'd give it a try. Unfortunately, my first impression was right. While the writing was fine and kept me reading, the trademark Handler humor was not nearly enough to overcome a story that I didn't find entertaining at all.
Allegra S
Do not read this book if you are picking it up because you like Daniel Handler's writing.
DO read this book if you like experimental fiction as well Jewish mythology and the absurd nature of modern opera.

The first half of this book uses the guise of a 'satire of opera' to tell a lengthy absurd-style comedy story that continuously references a couple of major themes/motifs. It's chalk full crazy situations and unbelievable scenarios, because opera.

The second half of the novel is very long and the
Glen Engel-Cox
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 ...more
May 01, 2009 Robin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was very disappointed. I had been told this wasn't as good as The Basic Eight (Handler's first novel, which I read a few years ago and LOVED), but my fiance convinced me to give it a try anyway. Handler's use of gimmicks, which worked so well in Basic Eight, only got in his way here. The first half of the book is written as an opera; a bit belaboured, but it almost works. The second half of the book, written as a 12-step program, was unnecessary--it seemed like the only reason it was there was ...more
Jan 08, 2012 Leah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
Oh gosh I am enamoured of Handler's writing: the subtle absurdity, the occasional nonsense, the intimate style of storytelling.

Joseph is a great narrator, self-absorbed but observant, exciting and bored. The copious amounts of sex that is had in the book is dealt with gorgeously, sweat and heat and sensation all featured. The opera framework is just self-referential enough to make the story a tiny bit tongue in cheek but not invasive enough to detract from the narrative; in fact, I think it is
Aug 21, 2008 Linda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I couldn't help thinking while reading this that he was trying to make up for all of the adult situations he couldn't write into the Lemony Snicket books. I'm not a prude, by any means, but I kind of got tired of all the sex and other stuff in this book. I liked the aspect of setting it as the description of an opera, but I was glad the whole book didn't follow that formula because then it would've crossed the line into gimmick, I think. it was part Lemony Snicket, part Chuck Palahniuk, part Jon ...more
Sarah Emily
Mar 11, 2008 Sarah Emily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: very few people, if any
Shelves: disappointing
I was sitting on the bus commuting to work when it suddenly hit me: this book was about comedic incest. it wasn't going to be a one-liner, but an actual plot line. the major plot line. I mention this in large part because most descriptions of the book discuss Jewish folklore or opera and leave out the Main Theme.

now, incest isn't a deal breaker for me. neither is changing the color of a book's font midway through the novel. but when font color and telling people that my book is about comedic in
Megan Howarth
Mar 24, 2017 Megan Howarth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A smutty Jewish incest-opera that turns into a 12-step program in the second half...quite possibly the strangest thing I have ever read. I finished the book a week ago and still have no idea what to make of it, no clue if the events in the story were meant to have actually happened or have all been in Joseph's head, or if I even liked it or not. One thing is for certain, though; you will never read another book like it.
Feb 04, 2012 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, I went to get an autograph from the author at Live Wire! Radio, having just finished the Series of Unfortunate Events series earlier that day. He had just talked about his new book (which was a Printz Honor book) about a box of memorabilia left over from a breakup of a relationship. They were out of the new book, so I grabbed the next best thing: this book.
So, I'm reluctant to even write this review, because the first half is a Jewish incest-comedy porn opera novel. And the parts that are f
Apr 03, 2013 Grace rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humour
3.5/5 stars. An operatic Jewish themed comedy novel about incest? Ok then. Possibly one of the oddest books I've read but frankly I love the odd, taboo and unashamedly smutty so in that sense I liked this book for the experience, and I'm glad I read it because it certainly was, erm, unique haha. The prose was also amazing and hilarious; "pearls hanging round women's necks like drops of semen" has got to be a new favourite line of mine.

Unlike some people I had no problem with the subject matter,
Mar 13, 2013 Charles rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Honestly, I almost put this book down for good several times. Incest, really? And what's with Handler's obsession with semen - its seems that every page contains a reference thereto (though he did seem to be using water/liquids as a theme, though I'm not sure to what end). It makes me want to read the Lemony Snicket books my daughter loves to see exactly what's in them. Frankly, this book struck me as edgy (incest, really?) for the sake of edgy, shtick-y (the opera motif, the twelve-step program ...more
gonzo, opera, myth, sexy sex, funny stuff: what's not to like right? i didn't so much, not sure why. i like this gonzo n sex better: Drinking Closer to Home and i liked this gonzo and myth better: The Infinities and i liked this funny better: Bee Season
so that just leaves opera and rothy sex. sorry handler fans, more my failing than yours.
Sep 06, 2012 Abner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is probably what Ian McEwan's The Cement Garden (or any other novel containing incest but not being about incest) would look like if it were: written backwards, upside-down but still with a linear structure; thrown on a stage with several lights going on and off from distinct angles; loosely set as an opera libretto for the first half; full of linguistic and metalinguistic jokes without being pedant; as unreliable as the narrator and everything that's happening, and to convey a sort of a my ...more
May 12, 2008 Julie marked it as dnf-gave-up-or-will-never-read  ·  review of another edition
Oh, Daniel Handler. I love your turn as Lemony Snicket, and "Adverbs" was amazing -- but I ended up not being able to finish "Watch Your Mouth", as much as I was in ridiculous love with the premise. (I mean, what? An opera/12-step-program about incest and a golem and murder?)

But this prose style really, really did not jive with me, and it was a toil to get through. Blerg. This will teach me to squeal too much over books before reading them.
Aug 25, 2008 Leslie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Very disappointing. Incest and a golem? WTF? Started off almost pornographic and then just lost sight of whatever the story was supposed to be about. Don't bother with this one.
Dec 16, 2013 sj rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yorwtfiw
Wow. That was strange. Good, but weird.

I feel like I need to re-read to fully appreciate, which leaves me less than charitable.
Hmmm. I can't say I really enjoyed this but it was original. Or something.
Jessica Journey
Handler is clearly a sharp writer. "Watch Your Mouth" is full of witty turns of phrase, innuendos, and strongly written details. The story is modeled off of operas: the sex! the drama! the tragedy! the arias!
It's an interesting idea, but it didn't really work for me. The early scenes with the whole family were the strongest, all those dinnertime dynamics. After that, it just got weird. I love Handler's quirky approach in books like "Why We Broke Up," but here it was so insane I felt I was readi
Baptiste Canard
May 22, 2017 Baptiste Canard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A weird comedy about weird themes. It is so original you won't believe it...
May 28, 2017 Joe rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Such a weird book. Hard to follow and story is a little too much; but maybe just not my taste.
Oct 20, 2009 Leah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I've read by Daniel Handler. Sort of. He also writes under the pen name Lemony Snicket, who is a fictional character Handler created to tell the story of the Baudelaire orphans in the popular children's series, A Series of Unfortunate Events. I have been a fan of that series almost since its inception; I find the books to be extremely witty, different, humorous, and slightly macabre. Therefore, I was really looking forward to reading one of Handler's books for adults. Over ...more
Dec 25, 2011 Khy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of my favorite movies are The Royal Tenenbaums, Addams Family Values, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, films that follow the tribulations of various families in sad, funny, and crazy ways, respectively. I like my literature to have some of those same family discussions, and Watch Your Mouth combines them all in Daniel Handler's classic way.

And by "classic way," I mean this book is weird. Perhaps the weirdest Daniel Handler book I've read, but that's part of what makes it so fun. It does
Tandava Brahmachari
[from my blog: ]

This book turned out to be excellent, though I have to admit I was a bit skeptical at first, given the somewhat excessive horny-college-kids and incestuous-family themes. But it worked out to be a kind of fascinating web of complex crazy people, with a monster story mixed in for good measure. So it really stayed intensely interesting all the way through.

The structure of the whole book was extremely unique, which I liked. (There's nothing w
Missy Sherriff
Hmmmmm. Where to begin?

When I was about 8 years old and the concept of the universe as infinite space was first introduced to me, at first I balked. Then I puzzled and stained and worked to stretch my brain into a shape that could handle the depth if this idea. Finally I stopped fighting it, sat back and let the absurd reality of it simply wash over me in waves until all became right in my world again.

In some ways, reading Watch Your Mouth was a similar experience for me. At first I pushed back
Mar 31, 2011 Les rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Okay, an operatic Jewish incest comedy (?) with a golem. Not your average story. Let's just say that "Daddy's Girl" and "Mama's Boy" have a little different connotation here. Joseph and Cynthia have been having mind-blowing sex at college, then he comes home with her so they can work together at the same camp over the summer.

Then things get strange when she says she wishes she'd had a better sex education from an older man so she could be a better lover for Joseph. It doesn't take him long to f
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Daniel Handler is the author of the novels The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth, Adverbs and, most recently, the Michael J. Printz Honor-winning Why We Broke Up, a collaboration with noted illustrator Maira Kalman. He also worked with Kalman on the book Girls Standing on Lawns and Hurry Up and Wait (May 2015). Under the name Lemony Snicket he has written the best-selling books series All The Wrong Qu ...more
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