A few weeks ago, Adam Mansbach realised he might be on to something. The 34-year-old novelist stood up at a Philadelphia art salon and began reading from his new children's book. It's his first attempt to break into the difficult children's market. But his book isn't really for kids. It's a bedtime story with a decidedly adult title.
Mansbach read the first of a series of verses that make up his narrative. The response from the 200-plus people in the audience was howls of laughter.
Then another verse, more laughter, then another and more laughter. "It got to the point that I had to stop for 20 minutes between each verse to get the crowd to quiet down," Mansbach told me.
The book is a phenomenon that has stunned the publishing world and might redefine the 'parenting' market.
Mansbach's book, Go the [Expletive] to Sleep (Akashic Books, June 2011), is satire with words and illustrations (by Ricardo Cortes) that mimic the soaring imagery of many bedtime favorites.
Except for the last line of each verse. They mimic what most sleep-deprived parents are truly thinking while they plod through the pages.
The book was originally scheduled to be published this October with a run of 10,000 copies. So much buzz built in recent days, that pre-orders began pushing it up the Amazon bestseller list until it reached the top.
The small, independent Brooklyn publishing house producing the book is rushing it into print. It will now be available June 14. The initial printing has soared to 225,000 copies.
"It's stupefying," said Mansbach, who just finished a teaching stint at Rutgers University. "It's already far outsold any of my previous books."
What's even more interesting is why Go the [Expletive] to Sleep is selling so well. Mansbach, a father of a 3-year-old, has a one-word answer: "Honesty."
"I think our generation talks so much about parenting, you almost can't get away from it. But there's a certain lack of honesty in a lot of it.
"Reading it can be cathartic. I've been getting comments that say, 'Thank you for making me feel so much less alone.'"
And was writing a book with a curse word in the title and on practically every page cathartic? "It's a dual narrative. It's profane and affectionate. It's actually about being a good parent. It's about being affectionate to a child even when you can't wait to get out of the [expletive] room."
(D'Arcy has been a journalist for more than 15 years and is the mother of two girls, a toddler and a preschooler. Read the On Parenting blog at Washingtonpost.com or follow (at)onparenting on Twitter)
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