Novelist turns sleep-time joke into profane rhyme

2013-03-07T00:00:00Z 2014-10-10T11:48:14Z Novelist turns sleep-time joke into profane rhymeKristen Cook Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

It was news to Adam Mansbach that he's participating in not one, not two, but three panels at this weekend's Tucson Festival of Books.

"I'm only dimly aware of any of this," the writer said upon hearing the news during a phone interview from his home in Berkeley, Calif. "My philosophy is actually a lack of preparation or anticipation is the way to go."

Perfectly understandable considering how busy Mansbach, 36, is these days. He's winding up a three-week book tour for "Rage Is Back," about '80s-era graffiti artists in New York; his first thriller, "The Dead Run," debuts in September; and he's in talks to write the screenplay adaptation of his wickedly popular, wildly profane picture book - not meant for children - that prominently features the mother of all four-letter words.

"Go the F--- to Sleep" (Akashic Books, $14.95) was a smash even before it was officially released in 2011, gracing the top of the Amazon.com best-seller list months before it was even available.

The book, based on the trouble he had getting his toddler daughter, Vivien, to sleep, was written on a whim. Mansbach said he jokingly posted on Facebook one night to be on the lookout for his new book, "Go the F--- to Sleep." A few weeks later, he actually did it, writing quatrains in an AB-rhyme scheme. Sample stanza:

The windows are dark in the town, child.

The whales huddle down in the deep.

I'll read you one very last book if you swear

You'll go the f--- to sleep.

The book, illustrated by Ricardo Cortés, is a No. 1 New York Times best-seller, with an audio version amusingly narrated by actor Samuel L. Jackson. It's been translated into 40 different languages, including a Swedish version that Mansbach's partner, Vivien's mom, translated.

Yes, Vivien, now almost 5 and in preschool, knows about the book.

"She thinks it's called 'Go to Sleep,' " said Mansbach, who jokes that since she's in a Waldorf school, she "probably won't learn to read until she's 14."

While some of her classmates' parents know what he does for a living, Mansbach - an award-winning novelist - doesn't advertise his breakout hit. "It's funny on the one hand, they're our audience for the book, but it's not exactly in line with the Waldorf philosophy."

He avoided doing the obvious quickie follow-ups. "I didn't want to beat it into the ground," said Mansbach, who also co-hosts the KPFA/Pacifica radio show "Father Figures."

Instead, last year Mansbach penned a pro-Obama political ad - starring Samuel L. Jackson - designed to galvanize disaffected voters and get them to participate in the political process. Called "Wake the F--- Up," it scored a Reed Award, which honors excellence in the world of political campaigning.

"There's a big statue that I've been scheming to get my hands on," Mansbach said. "It's at the director's house."

Mansbach was recently tapped to adapt the popular children's novel "The Pushcart War" for screen. He hopes he'll get lucky with his movie version of "Go the F--- to Sleep." He declined to go into details of his vision for the film except for one tantalizing tidbit: "I will tell you there is a strong Sam Jackson cameo."

See Adam Mansbach

Mansbach will participate in three panels:

• "Don't Try This at Home! Writers Who Are Parents," 4-5 p.m. Saturday in Room 130 of the Integrated Learning Center.

• "Human Frailty and Complexity," 10-11 a.m. Sunday in the Student Union's south ballroom.

• "The Changing Landscape of Journalism," 4-5 p.m. Sunday in the Student Union's Gallagher Theater.

Contact Kristen Cook at kcook@azstarnet.com or 573-4194.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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