November 19, 2005
MarkBernstein.org
 
Follow me on Twitter

Watch Your Mouth

by Daniel Handler

This book appeared at the office a few days after I'd ordered it online. By the time it arrived, I'd forgotten who told me to read it, and why. After a long, introspective search, I realized I'd found it in a list of recent books about golems in The Believer. At least, I think that explains it.

My reading habits are not well disciplined.

This is, however, a nicely executed book, a novel of college love gone weird when the lovers move into her parents' house to spend the summer together. It's a close-knit and odd family: what family isn't, when you've just finished your freshman year and you're sleeping with your first lover under the eaves of her weird parent's Pittsburgh house?

The story, obviously, is operatic in scale and conception, and Handler presents it as an opera in four acts and twelve steps. You can see where this is heading. Act IV gets out of control, I think. Of course, golems do that. But even the excess is eventually paid off, and it's all worth reading in any case for the paragraph in which the narrator analyzes Grandma's seeming simile comparing revenge to a parfait.