The guilt-mongers and Child Over-Protection Patrol have set their sites on “Go the F*** to Sleep,” Adam Mansbach’s children’s book parody, a cranky, profanity and obscenity-laced release for frustrated and sleep-deprived parents of small children everywhere.
“Imagine if this were written about Jews, blacks, Muslims or Latinos,” intones Dr. David Arredondo, quoted by CNN. He is an expert on child development and founder of The Children’s Program, in the San Francisco metropolitan area, which provides consultation and training for those working with troubled youths. Yes, Dr, imagine. Then it wouldn’t be a humorous satire for the amusement of perfectly loving parents.
“Nobody is suggesting that there’s a connection between Adam Mansbach’s book and child abuse or child neglect,” writes Karen Spears Zacharias, whose essay suggests that there is a connection between Adam Mansbach’s book and child abuse or child neglect. “Still, there’s no denying the reason “Go the F*** to Sleep” should be kept out of reach of children is because of its violent language and because of the way it demeans children.”
OK, there’s a book that is an inside joke for parents that relieves their guilt over the occasional horrible thoughts they have about their children, and children shouldn’t read it, because they wouldn’t understand. So what? Since when was there something inappropriate about enjoying books that shouldn’t be shared with children? I wouldn’t let my child read Dr. Spock, either.
Zacharias is really beyond belief. “Joan Demarest is an attorney in Corvallis, Oregon, and the mother of three young boys,” she writes. “Demarest told me that initially she thought the book was funny. That was before she read it. ‘Now I find it unsettling. I don’t like violent language in association with children.'” Great. Then don’t read the book. The book is satire. The book is funny. The book is therapeutic after a long day of screaming at willful toddlers. The book does no harm, and does much good by giving some laughter to parents who need it. But Zacharias knows better…
“[Demerest] has good reason to be concerned about the message behind such a parody,” she continues. “Demarest was the prosecuting attorney in one of Oregon’s most high-profile child murder cases. She understands the fear that far too many children endure because the lines of what’s appropriate parenting have become blurred.” But “nobody is suggesting that there’s a connection between Adam Mansbach’s book and child abuse or child neglect,” right, Karen?
The late Shel Silverstein was a brilliant satirist, humorist, lyricist, author, illustrator and wit. He was the author of popular songs like “A Boy Named Sue” and Dr. Hook’s “The Cover of the Rolling Stone,” as well as children’s classics like “The Giving Tree.” But Silverstein also wrote one of the funniest books I have ever had the guilty pleasure to read, a black humor children’s book parody that would have justified a law making it a felony to show it to any child under the age of 1o. (My aunt gave me a copy when I was 11. I got the jokes.) It was called “Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book.” Silverstein’s masterpiece is both funnier and more sinister than Mansbach’s, and without using a single four-letter word: comic geniuses don’t need them.
I’m sure if hypersensitive, politically-correct critics like Zacharias, Dr. Arredondo and Joan Demarest had been around in 1961, they would have managed to make people who laughed at “Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book” believe that they shouldn’t be laughing, and that something was wrong with them for enjoying black humor involving kids. There would have been a lot fewer laughs, and not one healthier child as a result.
There is nothing wrong, you see, with the people who enjoy satire and understand the difference between black humor and genuine cruelty and violence. There is a lot wrong with the people who don’t—like Zacharias, Arredondo and Demarest.