Chill the f**k out
It’s been barely three weeks since Adam Mansbach’s Go the F**k to Sleep hit bookshelves, but the slim hardback is already in its third printing, perched firmly atop the New York Times best-seller list.
In fact the book was a best seller before a single copy was ever sold to the public, but that it’s been categorized by the newspaper as an “advice” book is particularly telling.
Go the F**k to Sleep, illustrated by Ricardo Cortés, isn’t an advice book, but it’s not exactly a children’s book, either—even if it looks remarkably just like the kind you’d read in an attempt to soothe your little one off to slumber.
Indeed, with copious profanity and an attitude that won’t win its author a Parent of the Year award any time soon, the book has generated buzz for its tale, told from the perspective of a frazzled father reading his child a bedtime story:
The eagles who soar through the sky are at rest
And the creatures who crawl, run and creep
I know you’re not thirsty. That’s bullshit. Stop lying.
Lie the f*ck down, my darling, and sleep.
It’s also generating plenty of controversy.
In an essay titled “Why So Angry, Dad?” Slate writer Katie Roiphe takes Mansbach’s “odd, rageful, beautiful little book” to task.
“[It] relies for its humor and frisson on a certain level of frustration, an over-the-top, pent-up fury toward one’s children, because without that fury, it’s simply not that funny,” Roiphe writes. “The idea of saying ‘shut the f*ck up’ to a 3-year-old is hilarious and enthralling only if you are channeling an awful lot of that ‘hot crimson rage.’”
While Roiphe acknowledges that the parents in the book are “exhausted,” she blames such anger-tinged fatigue on their insistence to hover and spoil.
“If we ourselves are overly beholden or enslaved to our children’s anxieties and desires, isn’t it our own fault? … [It’s] not exactly self-sacrifice, tinged as it is with vanity, with pride in our good behavior, with a certain showiness in our parenting.”
Since when is reading a book to your child considered showy parenting?
Roiphe, who in July 2009 wrote a piece for The Wall Street Journal that actually defended young adult “disaster lit” (Gayle Forman’s beautiful, sad If I Stay, the enthralling The Hunger Games series, et al.), isn’t the book’s only critic—various Amazon.com reviewers called it “mean-spirited” and “trashy.”
(I hope the reviewer who claimed it made his 4-year-old son cry was joking. Please.)
Certainly, YA lit has come under fire lately for their dark and depressing themes. Meghan Cox Gurdon, The Wall Street Journal’s children’s book editor, recently censured the genre for “normalizing” bad behavior and, worse, encouraging children and adolescents to, among other things, become “immersed in ugliness.”
I’m not a parent, so feel free to roll your eyes (or, perhaps more appropriately, tell me to shut the f*ck up), but I have two younger brothers and I’ve done more than my fair share of baby-sitting. That said, if I ever am a mother to adolescent children, I’d want them to read dark fiction. That is, if they wanted. If they’d prefer the latest take on Sweet Valley High, that’s OK, too.
And, frankly, Go the F*ck to Sleep is exactly the type of thing I’d read to my kids—after a certain age, that is (put down the phone, there’s no need to call Child Protective Services).
The book is raw and dark, yes, but it’s also satire, and I’d hope that any kid of mine would come equipped with a healthy sense of humor. Sometimes that’s the only thing that helps a person—young or old—get by.