Go the Fuck to Sleep
|Genre||Children's literature, black comedy|
|June 14, 2011|
|Followed by||Seriously, Just Go to Sleep|
You Have to Fucking Eat (2014)
Go the Fuck to Sleep is a book written by American author Adam Mansbach and illustrated by Ricardo Cortés. Described as a "children's book for adults", it reached No. 1 on Amazon.com's bestseller list a month before its release, thanks to an unintended viral marketing campaign during which booksellers forwarded PDF copies of the book by e-mail.
When Adam Mansbach's daughter, Vivien, was two years old, she would take up to two hours to fall asleep. Exhausted and exasperated, one night Mansbach posted a note on Facebook, "Look out for my forthcoming children’s book, Go the — to Sleep". Following his post, friends of Mansbach responded enthusiastically, so that Mansbach began writing what was then only a hypothetical book. Mansbach had the illustrations for the picture book done by a friend, illustrator Ricardo Cortés (a contributor to The New York Times), and approached Akashic Books, a book publisher from New York.
Go the Fuck to Sleep is written as a "children's book for adults". While its writing is in the style of classic children's bedtime stories, it includes the parent's language as commentary on the tricks used by Mansbach's daughter to avoid having to go to bed. The narrator advises the child that other animals have gone to sleep already including cats and lambs, and asks the child to "Please go the fuck to sleep"[sic]. As the pleading progresses, the narrator begins to grow more upset, decrying himself as a parent, then eventually falling asleep himself. He wakes to find his child asleep, then quietly exits to watch a movie with his spouse. Unfortunately, a beep from the microwave wakes up their child again.
Go the Fuck to Sleep was subject to an unintended viral marketing campaign after PDF copies of the book, presumably from advance copies sent to booksellers, were distributed via email. While the book was originally scheduled for release in October 2011, by the end of April the book had hit No. 2 on Amazon.com's bestseller list, and by May 12 the book was No. 1. In the meantime, the publishing date was moved up to June, and the publisher increased its first printing to 150,000 copies. Akashic, which acknowledged the importance of social media in popularizing the book ("it's a miracle from the heavens for us"), is trying to prevent copyright infringement of the book. The book's title on the cover had the letters "uc" in the word "fuck" hidden by a full moon, while the book's text includes the full word. The rights for the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth were acquired by Canongate. The film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000.
The audiobook company Audible.com published an audiobook version of Go the Fuck to Sleep, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. The CD's total running time is just over 7 minutes, which includes an unabridged reading of the book by Jackson, a brief introductory monologue by Jackson explaining why he decided to record the book, and approximately 2 minutes' worth of introductory and legal matter (spoken copyright notice, etc.). The actual reading of the manuscript by Jackson runs approximately 4 1/2 minutes.
As a follow-up, Mansbach wrote a family-friendly version of the book called Seriously, Just Go To Sleep. Whereas the original was a parody of a children's book written expressly for the adult age group, Seriously, Just Go To Sleep is a real children's book for a parent to read to his or her child, and the word "fuck" was replaced by the parent in the story expressing frustration with the stubborn child in a more G-rated way. For example, "I know you're not thirsty, that's bullshit. Stop lying. Lie the fuck down, my darling, and sleep" was changed to "I know you're not thirsty. You just had a drink. Stop goofing around now, and sleep."
The book was translated into many other languages, and in February 2014, it was announced on Facebook and in other sources the book would receive a translation into Jamaican patois, entitled Go de Rass to Sleep.
According to Mansbach, the frustrations he wrote about "are not permissible to talk about. We're not completely honest because we don't want to be bad parents." Macy Halford said this frustration elicited a response peculiar to modern parents:
"Whatever the cause, it is definitely the case that, when faced with a kid who refuses to go to sleep, we get annoyed, like all parents before us, but, rather than just abandoning the child to the dark and telling it that it can go to sleep or stay awake as it likes but it is staying in the bed until morning (remember Proust at the opening of Swann’s Way?), we sit there with it, reading to it and singing to it and distracting it with swirling night lights until it decides it feels like going to sleep, all the while thinking to ourselves, Go the fuck to sleep, kid."
According to Mark Rotella, an editor at Publishers Weekly (and father of two), this is one of the books "that are less earnest about raising your child. They help parents step back and laugh at themselves a bit ... It's more like a parenting book for when the parent is inconsolable in the middle of night and frustrated." The publisher for the UK and the Commonwealth, Canongate, likewise pointed to the book as a parents' book: "This book perfectly captures the familiar and unspoken tribulations of putting your child down for the night. In the process, it opens up a conversation about parenting, charming and enraging as it can be, and chimes a note of solidarity with tired parents everywhere."
Positive initial response to the Facebook posts was matched by positive criticism from reviewers. Macy Halford, writing for The New Yorker, said "the book is super funny, and the art, by Ricardo Cortés, is perversely sweet, so sweet and genuine that it made me cringe." Some of the reviewers chimed in from experience, as did Sarah Western Balzer, writing for Here Is the City: "It goes on a bit too long, and by the end, he's kind of in a rage. But then, putting a two- or three-year-old to bed can be totally fucking enraging at times."
The senior vice president and director of Macmillan Children's Publishing announced that she felt the book was a parody of Macmillan's book It's Time to Sleep, My Love by author Eric Metaxas and illustrator Nancy Tillman, saying "Except for the profanity laced throughout, the book has the same kind of lilting lullaby as Eric's, and the art style is the same as Nancy's." Metaxas complained that the book damages the innocence of children's lullabies. Mansbach responded that he was not familiar with the Macmillan book and that his work satirized children's bedtime books in general rather than any particular book.
In July 2011, Men's Health published a retort to the book: a parody poem written from the child's perspective titled "Get the Fuck Out of My Room" and containing parenting advice.
As well as the audio book read by Samuel L. Jackson, the book attracted several celebrity readings including by German film director Werner Herzog at the official launch of the book at the New York Public Library. Kevin Pollak, doing a vocal impression of Christopher Walken, read some of the story on Kevin Pollak's Chat Show by viewer request.
As part of a rapidly growing internet meme, the publisher of the book in Australia, Text Publishing, posted a video of Australian actress Noni Hazlehurst reading the book to camera in the style she formerly used on the children's television program Play School. She immediately offered to record a reading of the book after being sent a copy by the publisher.
LeVar Burton, former host of television show Reading Rainbow, Geordi LaForge on Star Trek and Kunta Kinte on Roots read the book during a 2014 charity live stream event held by the Rooster Teeth podcast.
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