Once Upon a F**king Time: The Alternative Children's Book

Adam Mansbach's book of poetry, Go The F**k To Sleep, attempts to capture the indescribable magic of a child that just won't go down for the night through such tried and tested methods as swearing. A lot.
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Adam Mansbach's book of poetry, Go The F**k To Sleep, attempts to capture the indescribable magic of a child that just won't go down for the night through such tried and tested methods as swearing. A lot.

I know having kids is supposed to be some kind of amazing blessing. I've lost count of the number of friends who've waxed lyrical about how their entire world view changed the moment they picked up their flaky, red-faced, yellow-shitting bundle of joy. But no matter how much they might try to convince me that their lives began the day their little one was born, their eyes tell a different story. Especially when they're laden with bags that Ryanair would charge extra for carrying.

Whenever a new parent returns back to work after maternity/paternity leave, there's only one thing anyone wants to know "Are you getting much rest?" They're usually shaking so hard from sleep deprivation that they can barely hold a coffee cup, but those of us who've opted out of parenthood can't resist sticking the knife in and asking anyway. And they tell us in tedious detail, minute-by-minute, about all the interruptions through the night. The incessant crying, the random feeding patterns, taking it in turns to scream silently into a pillow out of pure exhaustion. It sounds amazing.

"Architects should live in the buildings they design, and children's book authors should be forced to read their stories every single night of their rotten lives".

It's not as if things get easier once the teething's out of the way. Because that's when the bedtime stories kick in. Twee, turgid, and more repetitive than the Fast and the Furious franchise, they're designed purely to get you speaking in hushed tones until the little one nods off. Wouldn't life be easier if kids were as easy to fool as dogs? Just stick a ticking clock under their blanket and they're convinced it's a heartbeat.

Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin & Hobbes, once wrote a particularly insightful strip about the pain of bedtime stories. In it, six-year old Calvin told his Dad about the literary world's excitement over author Mabel Syrup's sequel to 'Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie', entitled 'Commander Coriander Salamander and 'er Singlehander Bellylander"'. Less than impressed by the prospect, Calvin's Dad argued that "architects should live in the buildings they design, and children's book authors should be forced to read their stories every single night of their rotten lives".

If that's a sentiment you can empathise with, you might want to pre-order a new book that's published this week, called 'Go The Fuck To Sleep'. Described by its publishers as 'profane, affectionate and radically honest', Adam Mansbach's little book of poetry attempts to capture the indescribable magic of a child that just won't go down for the night.

Sample verse:
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.
Lies the fuck down, my darling, and sleep.

Adam was inspired to write his splenetic lullabies after one-too-many sleepless nights, courtesy of his two-year-old daughter who often took over two hours to settle. After some encouraging words from friends on Facebook, he put pen to paper and channeled his inner tourettes-sufferer. And although some may blanch at the language, it's really just a passive aggressive spin on children's classic 'Peace at Last'.

Months before its release date, the book made number one on Amazon's pre-orders list, thanks to a bootleged PDF which went viral. The publishers might have initially been concerned that this act of piracy would harm the book's sales, but in fact, the opposite seemed to be true. Asked in May about the impact of illegal sharing on potential sales, editor Ibrahim Ahmad commented that the as-yet unpublished title was already clocking up orders at a rate that made hotcakes seem sluggish, despite the fact that "...up until this week, we have done nothing to promote this book." Maybe the anti-piracy record labels should take note.

It's also worth noting that a film adaptation of the soon-to-be bestseller is already in the works, with Fox 2000 snapping up the rights. It might not be destined for a double-bill with The Smurfs, but if they can make a movie out of Monopoly and Battleship, I guess anything's possible.

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