Friday, June 03, 2011

Does this drive you crazy?

Adam Mansbach’s newest book has reached number four on Amazon’s bestseller list even before it’s published, according to a report in last weekend's newspaper.

How did he achieve this? With a lot of f-bombs. It’s a book for adults, but written satirically as a children’s book, called Go the Fuck to Sleep. The verse is accompanied by illustrations by Ricardo Cort├ęs. It evokes earlier children’s “go to sleep” books like Goodnight Moon.

Mansbach is an author of several books, the latest entitled The End of the Jews. He has been acclaimed through his writing career, winning a number of awards, at least according to his own website.

What bothers me about this is that this is an established writer. He began as an editor of Elementary, a journal about hip-hop, and has parlayed that exposure into a book career. One of his novels, Angry Black White Boy, was performed as a play for three months in San Francisco. Mansbach was also 2009-2010 New Voices Professor of Fiction at Rutgers University.

In other words, he is established and successful. So what does he do? He uses “fuck” juxtaposed with children to sell a lot of books.

It’s cheap, cheaper than Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You” song, which gets airplay as “Forget You” only because we all know  that’s just the radio, prime-time version, and what he really means.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I always think that cussing is a cheap shot, an easy way out. While there are definitely places for swearing, particularly in dialogue, a good writer shouldn’t have to resort to this to get his or her point across.

Mansbach has been published by Doubleday and Bloomsbury, as well as a lot of very small presses.
What drives me crazy about this is that, cheap and easy and low as it is, it works. Maybe I should add some cussing to my books. Or just write a book of nothing but cussing.


  1. I agree that this writer is taking a short cut. It seems that this is an unpleasant consequence of the ebook self publishing revolution going on in publishing today. Still, the writer ought to be careful. He might attract some interest from readers and gain a few sales initially, but if it is not a good book, then he won't have long-term success with it.
    Also, I would not read his book just based on his title, and I would hope there are other potential readers who might feel the same way.
    I don't think there are shortcuts to success.

  2. Anonymous7:02 PM

    Forget the book “Go the F**k to Sleep”, a pathetic, soul-less, allegedly rebel, ‘children’s book’. Don’t waste your hard-earned money, instead read a BANNED book like “America Deceived II” by a real rebel and the “World’s Most Hated Author”, E.A. Blayre III.
    Last link (before Google Books bans it also]:

  3. My kids brought the F*** Sleep book to my attention this week. My "kids" are 29 and 26. The oldest has a one-year old son. While he said that he could sympathize with the author's dilemma, he wouldn't buy the book. He thought it exhibited a great deal of selfishness on the author's part. I agree with him whole-heartedly.
    I don't have the liberty to choose cussing for my books, even if I were so inclined. I write for 3rd-5th graders! But, cussing is gratuitous and unnecessary in most cases.
    I guess the "F*** Sleep" book does prove one write what you know! I wonder what day-to-day conversation with that author is like?