Thursday, June 16, 2011

I am Spartacus

This morning, I could not help but notice that the number one "most helpful" negative review of the number one bestseller on Amazon was written by none other than yours truly.

Go the Fuck to Sleep, by Adam Mansbach and illustrated by Ricardo Cort├ęs, is a children's book of sweet rhymes and lovingly-painted images of calming scenes of animals, babies, and landscapes; with reassuring references to lambs and the pangolins of Madagascar, the narrator implores his or her child to go the fuck to sleep.

The cats nestle close to their kittens,
The lambs have laid down with the sheep.
You're cozy and warm in bed, my dear.
Please go the fuck to sleep.

You can find my review here. I suggest that you read it before going on. And the comments. The comments are very good.

As anybody knows, parenting is not a perpetual state of amiable bliss and blossoming pride, but a constant struggle with frustration, despair, rage, panic, resentment, and resignation, interspersed with moments of hope that are dashed like your favourite bowl flung from an infant's fingers because there wasn't enough apple sauce in it. Go the Fuck to Sleep captures this parental state of being in all its desperation and yet it retains the smile, the humour that actually makes the desperation worthwhile. Now, as one person wryly notes, there is a great deal of pleasure to be had in those people who take my review of Go the Fuck to Sleep seriously, and particularly the ones who get hot and bothered and counsel me on parenting, call me an "idiot" and a "moron" (two epithets that come up with ego-deflating frequency), threaten to call Child Protective Services, and, best of all, are horrified that I apparently kept reading the book to a child night after night even though it "made him cry".

So far, at least two people have made the point that I gave the book one star, thus lowering the book's average star rating on amazon (one of the people makes the point in a sympathetic way, and one of them rather more angrily, although this latter person had made an earlier comment and then deleted it when cottoning on to the fact that the review was a joke, and so was justifying his or her anger at being "punked" with some righteousness on behalf of the aggrieved authors). Do I have any regrets about giving the book one star? After all, if I were to write a book, the first person who gave it one star, whatever the reason, even if complaining that amazon sent it to the wrong address, would send me into a spiral of despair that would end up with me guzzling $2 cartons of wine and muttering over and over "they didn't like it, they didn't like it" until I was finally run over by one of those street-cleaning vehicles that sprays water and dirt and old plastic bottles onto the sidewalk. The answer is: not really. As I posted in the comments section, I knew this book would get many positive reviews (parents are having more orgasms over this book than they are with each other); plus, I pointed out to myself, what authors could object to the fact that the most popular, most widely-read, most highly-rated negative review is actually a joke based on their book with nothing negative to say about the book, and is in fact a parodic caricature of those who don't get the book? I like to think that when my as-yet-incomplete masterpiece hits amazon.com, the most popular, most widely-read, most highly-rated negative review will give my book one star "only because it's too short and I was gagging for more, more, more". But those are the quasi-righteous reasons. The other two reasons were less moral in nature. Nobody reads two and three star reviews other than the authors of the book. And, the most important reason of all: the tone of outrage and victimisation, hyperbolic and hurt, had to begin at the beginning, with a single star. It was the comic set-up. And, let's face it, you can't make a sticky, wet comic omlette without breaking an egg.

Really, who can complain about a funny negative review for a funny book? Unfortunately, it turns out that the authors of Go the Fuck to Sleep did not, as so many of us thought, intend their book to be funny; they were deadly serious when they wrote and illustrated it. Word on the street is that they are seething at the ironic-hipster-parents who "love" their book because it's so "funny" and they are not taking too kindly to "amusing" reviews on amazon. Given that they met in Riker's for a plethora of knife- and horse-related charges, those of us who have in any way crossed them are getting very antsy. So if for some reason over the next five years I stop blogging, please alert the police immediately and let them know that they might have reason to look into this incident, and should the police find a bloodied stroller in one of the authors' backyards, they should know they've got the murder weapon. In the meantime, I'm asking all of my readers to recall the famous scene in Spartacus: if you're asked about the authorship of the review, please stand up and say, "It is I who did it! I am Spartacus!" (Unfortunately, the authors will know it is me because, like Spartacus in the movie, I'll be the only one not saying I did it).

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