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The Big Jewcy: Adam Mansbach – Wanted Kid To Go The F**k To Sleep, Ended Up With A Bestseller

I don’t know if Adam Mansbach created the literary category of “Kids Books for Adults,” but the fact is that he became the King Kong of the genre a few weeks ago when his book, Go the Fuck to Sleep (or Go the F**k to Sleep for the timid) went to #1 on Amazon, and then #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, months before the book was supposed to hit shelves and tablets.  The demand was so great (thanks, in part, to internet book piracy) that Mansbach’s publisher, Akashic, moved the publication date from autumn, 2011, to this week.

First, congrats on all the success this book has already had.  Are you surprised at the response?  It’s somewhat unprecedented for a book to have this sort of success so early.

I’m not surprised that the book has resonated with people, but I never could have imagined this level of insanity – and you’re right, nobody else seems to remember a situation quite like this, either. It’s a perfect confluence of circumstances, I guess – 10% a simple, well-rendered idea that happens to be kind of zeitgeisty, plus 90% incredible luck. When a book can be read in three minutes flat, it changes the parameters a lot, in terms of social media and buzz and all that shit – none of which I will pretend to know anything about.  I’m still basically a Luddite; I write fucking novels.

If you don’t mind me asking, why do you think it’s such a huge hit even before officially coming out?

Judging from the fanmail, because it’s honest. It makes parents feel less alone in their struggles, gives them permission to laugh, and provides a kind of catharsis. The language is a part of that – not because it’s subversive to say fuck a lot, but because that’s such an accurate reflection of what runs through your mind when you’ve been trying to get your kid to go to sleep for an hour and a half.

I thought it was interesting that you decided to put this out on an indie like Akashic.  What made you decide to work with them on this book?

I love Akashic – their politics and the books they publish – so I’m always looking for projects that seem appropriate to do with them. Johnny Temple, the publisher, is an old friend of mine, and he just so happens to have two wonderful young sons who don’t sleep.

Your last book was The End of the Jews.  Why did you decide to go for the more subtle approach and name your book something like Go the Fuck to Sleep?

Yeah, I caught some blowback for title of that novel, so I figured I’d be nice and quiet this time around.  Sneak in the back door.

I notice you mention how many children each of the folks on the back cover have.  Did you have a strict “Parents Only” rule for the people who were blurbing this book?

We did.  And again, getting blurbs is usually an odious experience: you’re asking people you respect and admire to take untold hours out of their busy lives to read your book and then be publicly complimentary of your work. It’s one of the most pointless tasks the publishing industry foists on writers. I always find myself thinking about how, you know, back in the day, James Baldwin was never forced to call up Bernard Malamud and ask him for a blurb – that writers had dignity back then. But with a book like this, it was a pleasure – it was like “hey man, you got three minutes to check out a book I’m doing called ‘Go the Fuck to Sleep?’ Haha. Awesome. I’ll send it right over.” I think AJ Jacobs literally send me a blurb about five minutes after I emailed him the PDF.

So what’s next for you?  Another novel?  Or are you going to sit back until your kid finally has a normal sleep schedule, and then plot your next move?

I just wrapped up a visiting professorship at Rutgers, so I’m going to be back on my grind. I have a graphic novel called “Nature of the Beast” dropping in February – a beautifully-illustrated, full-color, 250-page story set in the immediate future, when an alien race of religious zealots plans to honor their god through the ritualistic annihilation of our planet, so we set up an interspecies gladiator tournament to select a champion to defend earth in single combat. It’s a lot crazier than it sounds.

I’m also doing a lot of screenwriting – I’ve got a feature called “Panarea” that Adam Bhala Lough is directing and Jim Jarmusch is executive producing; hopefully it’ll shoot this fall – and a new novel called “Rage Is Back,” which is your basic magic realist graffiti revenge story; that book was the most fun I’ve ever had writing. That ought to be out sometime next year. And the film rights to GTFTS just sold to Fox 2000, though I don’t know yet if they’ll let me anywhere near the screenplay.

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