Even Bedtime Stories Get Profane
The mass-marketing of profanity just won’t stop. Now it’s topping the best-selling book list — in children’s picture books. You might have heard by now that there’s a “subversive” little bedtime book for adults. It should not be read to children. It’s called “Go the F– to Sleep.”
Anyone who’s ever been up at 2 in the morning with a baby or toddler knows exactly the feeling that is being exploited here. “Total genius,” says the blurb on the front cover. Genius it is not. Anybody could have written this book in 90 minutes, tops. It’s just having the “bright idea” of a naughty nighty-night book that might make the get-rich-quick schemers jealous.
The book could not be smaller (32 pages, seven ounces, and less than nine inches by six inches), but it retails for $14.95. This could be called getting your cursing bang for the buck. There are 428 words in this stupid thing, and 24 are curse words. That’s about one profanity out of every 18 words. Shakespearean.
But wait! There’s more! Barnes and Noble is even helpful to the buyer of this epic work of “genius” in recommending other tomes in this genre. On the sales slip, they insist that if you like this, of course you’ll enjoy other literary works of high art like “S– My Dad Says,” “Farts” and “(A-Words) Finish First.”
The publisher of “Go” is Akashic Books, a small purveyor of “urban literary fiction,” which is a fancy way of saying “junk.” The imprint’s founder, Johnny Temple, told the U.K Guardian he was a little reluctant to buy it at first, but “it was definitely an interesting idea, and being the father of two little kids, I immediately sent it to my wife and other parents to gauge their reaction.” The feedback he received was unanimous, he reported: “They were all vehement in encouraging me to publish it. My wife’s e-mail response was just two words: ‘I’m weeping.’”
The author of this tiny product, Adam Mansbach, usually writes novels, but he started writing these dirty little poems when his daughter wouldn’t go to sleep. The poems went viral online, and then people insisted it be a book. The book was supposed to be out in October, but was selling like crazy online in March, so publication was moved up to June.
Now the book is not only an American phenomenon; it’s been picked up by Canongate in the UK, and Fox bought the film rights. A film? This book literally takes two minutes to read. (In fact, you can — and should — read it in the store and put it back on the shelf.)
Canongate’s Francis Bickmore says the book is so clever and “resonant” with “such a strong sense of voice.” What idiocy. It “strikes a note of solidarity for all parents” and “might just become the ultimate gift book.”
There are critics, they briefly acknowledge, but the author bizarrely claims that none of them are parents. Clearly, he doesn’t get out of his own bubble much. An ungenerous person would point out that some of these hostile bouquets of “radical honesty” sound like verbal abuse. Most parents have these selfish feelings inside their own heads. But if you heard a parent say to a small child, “F—- your stuffed bear, I’m not getting you s–,” you’d probably think they could use a parenting class or two.
The same goes for “Hell no, you can’t go to the bathroom. You know where you can go? The f– to sleep.” And: “For real, shut the f– up and sleep.” And: “I know you’re not thirsty. That’s bulls–. Stop lying. Lie the f– down, my darling, and sleep.”
But acid-tongued people want their acid-tongued kiddie books. Another fashionable publisher, McSweeney’s, printed a book called “Baby Get Me Some Lovin’,” by Lisa Brown. The promotional copy promises, “If you’re a new parent, you know how hard it is to get quality alone time with your partner. Instead of blaming the kid, put him to work! This handy manual will teach your baby how to set the mood for an intimate evening (and then make himself scarce). Thanks, Baby!”
Is it getting too serious to decry a book like “Go the Bleep to Sleep”? After all, if it takes two minutes to read it, it might take two minutes to forget it. Is this just a faddish product you can only package and sell once? Perhaps. But best-sellers like this suggest people have a love affair with profane rants, and that profanity sells, and sells very well. Such garbage could end up defining a culture.