Warning, adult language at the link:
I'm sure that many of you have seen the "picture book" that has gone viral on the internet - Adam Mansbach's "Go the #%$& to Sleep."
First of all, is this book funny, or just distasteful?The odd, rageful, beautiful little book's inspiration lies in the commingling of insipid bedtime story rhymes with the inner monologue of the wildly irritated parent: "The owls fly forth from the treetops./ Through the air, they soar and they sweep./ A hot crimson rage fills my heart, love. / For real, shut the #$%^ up and sleep." The stylish parody relies for its humor and frisson on a certain level of frustration, an over- the- top, pent-up fury toward one's children, because without that fury, it's simply not that funny. The idea of saying "shut the $%&* up" to a 3-year-old is hilarious and enthralling only if you are channeling an awful lot of that "hot crimson rage." As one Amazon reviewer puts it, "The sanity we give up as conscientiously-parenting adults makes bonding experiences like this so worth it!"
Second of all, the author of this article argues that the reason we find it funny (if you do find it funny) is in short, that we are overly involved in our kids, and that we secretly resent them for it. Also that we are kind of pathetic and undersexed too.
Thoughts?In Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, Freud writes about the "hostile purpose" of jokes. He argues that jokes are liberating and give us pleasure when they articulate the anger we are not allowed to express in everyday life. Here of course, that anger or hostility is aimed at children, at big-eyed toddlers padding around in their strawberry pajamas, and that is what is both exhilarating and disturbing about the book. There is a nastiness in Go the F**k to Sleep, an undercurrent of resentment that is comic, or "cathartic," as another Amazon reviewer put it, only to parents who are pretty radically subjugating themselves to a certain kind of kid-centered drabness, and judging from the book's runaway success, that would be a lot of parents.
Somewhere in the space between the book's lush pictures and obscene words lies a kind of existential despair that is very particularly ours. In the epic effort to get the child to bed, amid endless requests for drinks and teddy bears and stories and other kidlike stalling tactics, Adam Mansbach writes, "This room is all I can remember./ The furniture crappy and cheap," and "My life is a failure, I'm a $%&*-@$$ parent" while illustrator Ricardo Cortés evokes a mood of depressive intensity, an almost fantastical restlessness, with his drawings of dim interiors and sleeping creatures and bespectacled dads in relaxed-fit jeans and twinkling black nights and red skies. The portrait is of a very ordinary family life, but what is revealing, what may have lead to all the ecstatic blurbs, like Jonathan Lethem's calling it "genius," is its Sartre-like bleakness and claustrophobia.
What exciting adult rendezvous is the sleepless child interrupting in Go the F**k to Sleep? It is his parents trying to watch a video, the mother under a blanket, the popcorn in the microwave. If the child refusing to sleep brings to mind the young Marcel in Remembrance of Things Past yearning for a kiss from his fragrant, bejeweled mother amid the clinking wine glasses of a glamorous adult dinner party, that is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about two slouchy, exhausted people trying to watch a television screen somewhere in each other's proximity. You can see why the father is so angry and unhinged; the precious adult time he is desperately fighting to preserve is so paltry, so modest, so barely there.
One wonders if this hostility toward the child, who is naturally and rightfully manipulative, is just a tiny bit misplaced. If we are raising a generation that sees the whole world as an expanse of devoted maids and butlers, if we ourselves are overly beholden or enslaved to our children's anxieties and desires, isn't it our own fault? Likewise, if we can't manage to hire a baby sitter and get out of the house, if we have made of the conventional nuclear family structure something stifling, airless, it can't really be the fault of a 4-year-old, resourceful and mischievous as he may be. We are, after all, to blame for our own self-sacrifice, and if we are being honest and precise, it's not exactly self-sacrifice, tinged as it is with vanity, with pride in our good behavior, with a certain showiness in our parenting, with self-congratulation.
The book, in all its cleverness and artfulness and ingenuity, raises certain other questions: Are they having sex, these slouchy rageful parents? Not enough, perhaps. When the father turns back to the waking child's bedroom, we look out at the comfy, sexless, vaguely depressive scene of his wife sprawled asleep on the couch under an ugly old blanket. No wonder the slouchy dad is full of rage. No wonder all those slouchy dads and moms who just want to watch a movie and eat some microwave popcorn find this book so funny, so transporting; no wonder it makes them feel, as the publicity materials suggest, "less alone." But if those sweet-faced children, so gorgeously drawn by Ricardo Cortés, could talk back would they say: "Put on a ^*&^ dress. Have a @#%$ drink. Stop hovering over us. Live your own *&^^% life."
Last edited by Alissa_Sal; 06-23-2011 at 10:05 PM.
The description is a little off. The pictures of boy the child and the adult changes from page to page. It's universal; not a sexless, resentful, over-indulging couple. Most of the kids look really happy. The adult who sneaks out to watch the movie after his child falls asleep isn't the same one who walks his child back to bed.
I like the book. I've made several people listen to it and posted a link on my facebook. Samuel L. Jackson's reading is perfect!
I love this book and my husband has asked me to buy him a copy for his bookshelf. We find it funny and it reflects the way we have felt over the years with our children.
I feel that the author of the second article is off base. I dont resent my children. I have made the choice to be home with them and I often make the choice to miss bedtime and go out with friends as well, but the majority of bedtimes fall to DH and I, especially in those times when bedtime is an issue (for example, after we had DS, DD refused to go to bed without calling us in a million times). During those times I would not put bedtime onto a babysitter as I feel I have way more patience with my own child than they would have, plus, I want my babysitters to come back. I actually find this article to be pretty insulting to parents who have chosen to give a portion of their lives to their children. If I was subjugated by my child, the child would be sitting on the couch between the parents, not stuck in his room IMO. Plus, Who doesnt enjoy a good movie night snuggled on the couch under a blanket with your SO? I know in our house it is usually just a prelude to ........more
Mom to Arianna (5), Conner (3) and Trent (my baby)
I thought the book was really funny too. I was actually kind of surprised by the condemnation in the article, I guess because I felt that the whole premise of the book was such a universal parenting experience. My DS has recently started going through this phase of refusing to go to sleep when we put him to bed (he was always an easy sleeper before, so this is a rude shock) and so I know well that sort of bewildered frustration when the kid just will NOT go to sleep. I thought the depictions of the parents wanting to watch a movie and then falling asleep under an old blanket were funny, not depressing. But at the end of the day, I can't agree that it means that I resent my son or that I'm too "involved" in him. It makes me wonder if the author of the article even has kids.
I think the thing that makes this book funny is the fact that it takes something wildly inappropriate that most people have probably thought (or at least some form of it) and declares it "out loud." That's some of the best comedy - parodies, taking something ironic or slightly funny and blowing it WAY out of proportion, or people saying things that the general public might think but would NEVER say because it's not quite appropriate. That's why sitcoms on TV have such larger-than-life characters - Kramer, Ray Romano's mom, Joey on Friends, Jack on Will and Grace, Neil Patrick Harris' character on How I Met Your Mother, etc.
Oh, and ethanwinfield, I definitely agree about Samuel L. Jackson's reading of it. Perfect!!!!
I'm the minority, I didn't really find the concept all that funny. Too overt, for my taste.
Have not read the book, so have a hard time commenting on the "get a life" philosophy....though I do think that some parents are way, WAY in need of getting a life outside of their children....not sure that I can say that this book reveals that.
I didn't really laugh at it but certainly wasn't offended in the least bit; there have been nights that I really wish my kid would just go to sleep so it's relatable. I disagree that it is amusing because parents secretly resent their children, we're allowed to be frustrated with being a parent...we're human.
I really did laugh out loud because the first time I read it was the morning after J pulled this with me for hours. I could totally relate (in my head) in the moment because she just kept bouncing out of bed for one reason or another. Kids do that and I know it's natural for parents to feel frustrated when they're challenging what is expected of them. That has nothing to do with resentment, being sexless, or pathetic in wanting to have "me" time. What made me laugh is me relating to the child continuously springing out of bed and the parent thinking, "Seriously, for realz?" I have not heard the narration and it never dawned on me the parent could actually be verbal in these thoughts. Showed DH after, who also found it to be hilarious.
DD Twins: 8/4/09 @ 35 Wks - No NICU, woot!
As the mother of seven, I found it hysterical. I especially liked the youtube version with Samuel L. Jackson narrating. I would not read it to my child nor do I feel it should be read to children. It's like Dr. Seuss for adults. Sometimes you have to know you are not alone and be able to laugh in order to deal with difficult situations