Adam Mansbach’s Go the Fuck to Sleep is one of those rare books that, as soon as people hear about it or see it, it immediately grabs their attention. And it was no different for my household and me. I read it between checking the mail and leaving for work (pretty much on the walk from my front door to the slots where we organize the mail) and put it on our downstairs record shelf to display its cover for housemates and visitors. Once it was visible, I took pleasure in seeing and hearing people notice it for the first time. Invariably, there’s a statement along the lines of “What the fuck is that?” followed by quiet reading and laughing, or sometimes reading aloud while laughing.
The book is presented in a fashion that I’ve colloquially been describing as “children’s books for adults who grew up with children’s book,” a category that I would also group McSweeney’s “Baby Be of Use” books into, including Baby Mix Me a Drink and Baby Do My Banking. And I just discovered once again how unoriginal I am, or that I’ve heard that phrase before somewhere else, because upon looking Go the Fuck to Sleep up on Wikipedia just now, it says, “Go the Fuck to Sleep is written as a ‘children’s book for adults’.” Eh. Written in an ABCB rhyme scheme and illustrated by Ricardo Cortés in a fashion typical of children’s books, it calls back to classic bedtime stories such as Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd’s Goodnight Moon while at the same time presenting adult themes, in this case profanity and parents’ exasperated frustration over their fucking kids who won’t go the fuck to sleep.
I have no children of my own, but I know the difficulty of getting young kids to go to sleep from my experiences babysitting as a teenager. There was one family for whom I babysat whose children would promptly stand up at 8:00 or 9:00 PM and say, “Well, we should probably start getting ready for bed.” It kind of startled me every time, my thoughts being, “What, you’re not going to try to convince me to play Nerf Wars for another hour, or lock yourself in the bathroom, or start bawling and saying it’s unfair, or call you parents, or run away, or any of the ridiculous shit that other kids I’ve babysat try to pull right at bedtime?” So although I have no current personal frame of reference for this battle, I do know from past experience how this goes.
Along that same line of thinking, I’m not familiar with what it’s like to raise kids in this time period of the every-softening treatment of children. Even when I was growing up, although the trend towards viewing our offspring as extra-special had already begun, it has definitely reached a point of parody by now. Macy Halford’s review of this book in The New Yorker draws attention to this factor by saying that whereas parents in the past would just leave their kids pleading in bed, parents these days attempt to coax their children to sleep through attention and patience. I feel like I come from an era in between these two approaches; although my parents would talk to me before bed or read to me as a child, I also seem to remember staring at the clock for long hours into the night.
She also points out that the book, which reached the number two bestseller spot on Amazon before galley copies had even been distributed and, according to the press release held the number one spot for as consecutive week (and counting) a month before publication, started as a result of the positive feedback Mansbach received from a Facebook post about trying to get his daughter to fall asleep. Coincidentally enough, I was inspired to respond to the press release with a request for a galley copy by a Facebook post from my brother’s wife regarding trying to get their six-month-old baby to sleep. (I just tried to find if but it’s too far back.) To paraphrase, though, the introduction text said something along the lines of, “After rocking and singing to her for an hour, turns out this is what worked.” Then there was a video showing Emily in her crib asleep with a noisy sound which pans over to show the hair dryer on, sitting on a cribside table.Visit: Adam Mansbach | Akashic Books
Purchase: Powell’s Books | Amazon