Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Bed-Wetting Good Time For Shitty-Assed Parents: Adam Mansbach's Go The Fuck To Sleep

It’s late. Even for me. We’ve been through eleven bedtime stories, seven lullabies, an entire rendition of “no more monkeys jumping on the bed,” two trips to the washroom, a glass of water, one final snack and lights out. But my otherwise perfect little angel still won’t go the fuck to sleep. Apparently, I’m not alone according to author Adam Mansbach whose Go The Fuck to Sleep (Akashic, 2011) skyrocketed to the top of the Amazon best seller list before it was even available in print. In his bedtime story parody, Mansbach offers a hilarious and refreshingly honest portrayal of parenting which should be appreciated by any parent or caregiver of a toddler who insists on burning the midnight oil.

At first glance, the colourful illustrations of toddlers (by Ricardo Cort├ęs) snuggling up next to kittens, or parachuting past a rainbow, give Go the Fuck to Sleep the essence of a children’s story book - until you notice that the f-bomb accompanies every single page. While you may not want to actually read this book to your little one(s), this profanity laden mockup is really quite innocent. It is more or less a blow-by-blow synopsis of the emotions that accompany not only bedtime, but parenting in general.

Beginning with so much hopefulness, the narrator puts his child down for bed and, using a mixture of poetic verse and profanities, he pleads with them to go to sleep. This optimism swiftly digresses to desperate negotiation and then stifled frustration. All of which is described ever so eloquently: “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 fuck down my darling, and sleep.” As time ticks by, we make the transition into arguably the most familiar emotion felt by parents: guilt. With one last self-doubt laced plea, “my life’s a failure, I’m a shitty-assed parent, stop fucking with me please,” our narrator eventually gives up, allowing the insomniac imp to escape down the hallway. Oh our children, how we love them, and how they manipulate and destroy us in return.

Samuel L. Jackson
While the text stands alone, the audio version takes the tale to the next level. Appropriately read by Samuel L. Jackson, it’s as soothing as having Jules Winnfield (Jackson’s Pulp Fiction character) read you a bedtime story. Now, believe it or not, there has been the odd scathing review of Go The Fuck To Sleep. Most of which were composed by (admitted) non-parents. (And who has more valuable knowledge on child-rearing than non-parents?) Yes, these all knowing conquistadores are up in arms over the hostile language directed toward a child, or labeling fans of the book as “self-pitying, rage-filled sexless yuppies.” With regard to the first account, I will reinforce that while the frustration remains evident to the end, there is never an essence of hostility toward the child. Mansbach simply grants the reader permission to laugh at a sometimes difficult transitory period of parenthood with no intention of this actually making it into the nursery library. As for the second acquisition: I cannot speak for everyone, but this book is in no way a reflection of my self-pity, rage or lack of sex life. The half empty bottle of wine on my counter reflects these qualities all on its own.  

Overall, Mansback’s concept and the delivery are absolutely brilliant. While I’m sure there are many lucky parents who have a child who willingly crawls into bed and drifts off to dreamland the minute their head hits the pillow (I hate you by the way), Go the Fuck To Sleep offers the rest of us “shitty-assed parents” a self-effacing, self-indulgent, bed-wetting good time.

Laura Warner is a librarian, researcher and aspiring writer living in Toronto. She is currently based in the Canadian Broadcasting Centre’s Music Library.

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