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.