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Book Review: "Go the F**ck to Sleep" by Adam Mansbach

Published on: December 30, 2013


By Chris Garlington

There comes a time in the epoch of any great literary movement when a pivotal title is released, one that rejects the norm and, thereby, rises above the accepted canon, clearing cobwebs from the corners of readers' minds.

Likewise, there comes a time in every new parent’s life when he has had enough; a moment when the shine’s worn off his precious darling, when the very next question, the very next word, the very next utterance from his exhausting spawn drives him over the cliff of reason and he mutters exciting, colorful new words which his child will surely repeat in church.

Both of these seminal moments are captured perfectly in Adam Mansbach’s remarkable bestseller Go the F*** to Sleep.

Perhaps the most aggressively honest children’s book ever published, Go the F*** to Sleep looks like a classic illustrated baby book. Like the cherished sleepy-time tome Goodnight Moon, each stanza is simple and treacle-sweet — right up until the last, when the world’s most delightfully unreliable narrator ditches the sugary Hallmarky schmeck, imploring its little insomniac to follow the simple, desperate command implicit in the title.

Every new parent has been there. Older, more seasoned parents rarely put up with insomnia. But newbies are afraid of their bundle of joy. They worry they’ll hurt it. They’ll drop it. They’ll over- or under-feed it. They’ll . . . the list is endless. Certainly, under no circumstances would they drop an F-bomb near their biscuit’s crib.

For the first two weeks.

Week three, you’re hallucinating, you have an angry beard, your wife has hidden the knives. It’s eleven o’clock and you’re on your 324th performance of Curious George and Banksy Go to the Zoo; you haven’t slept since the Boer Wars; someone’s dumped a bag-full of gravel in your eyes. All you want to do is snore. All you need is for The Spleen to pack it in.

And that’s when it happens. The kid isn’t even paying attention, she’s just manipulating you, that evil little one. That's when you slide a minor curse word into the narrative.

The house doesn’t burst into flames. Your kid’s still staring at you like you can levitate. Your mother-in-law didn’t call.

Minutes later you’re ad libbing like an erudite barkeep.

That’s the place where Go the F*** to Sleep comes from. Obviously the book isn’t for kids. No self-respecting parent would read a printed curse word to his child. They might smuggle one into the narration, but to read one right off a page?

No, this book is for the people who read other books to insomniatic nanodictators. It’s a gift. A joke. And more than that, it’s a relief, an understanding. Go the F*** to Sleep is a secret bond of fraternity between the walking dead; a new manifesto for the exhausted.

Which is exactly who you should buy this book for. That new mom who shows up at the office looking like she was dragged there by an angry bus? Go the F*** to Sleep. The dad with gack on his lapel crying at his desk? Go the F*** to Sleep. And for the truly meta parent, the newly minted grandparent, this book can be a token of honesty to your somnolent progeny, a reminder and admission in one of how, in those bygone days of sleep deprivation, when they drove you to the point of whispering to them through gritted teeth: Go the F*** to Sleep.

Author Adam Mansbach will be appearing in Seattle tonight (November 10) at 7 p.m., at Elliott Bay Book Co. In addition to reading and signing copies of the book, Adam will open the floor to discussion and will field questions about the book, parenting, and other related subjects.

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