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Detail of an illustration created for the print version of this story by Craig Terlson (Craig Terlson)
Detail of an illustration created for the print version of this story by Craig Terlson (Craig Terlson)

HUMOUR

Adam Mansbach, the sequel: Father knows sweet … Add to ...

People often ask me if I intend to write a sequel to Go the F*** to Sleep, the 421-word generation-defining obscene fake children’s book many experts credit with bringing about the democratic revolution known as the Arab Spring. By “people,” I mean “morning radio talk-show hosts,” and by “ask,” I mean “tell me their stupid ideas for sequels.” By “me,” I just mean “me.”

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For those of you who have never parlayed a drunken afternoon’s jackassery into an international bestseller, a few words about the concept of the “radio tour.” It basically involves sitting in a recording studio for four straight hours, starting at 6 a.m., sipping from the bottle of spring water the receptionist is legally obligated to give you, and being interviewed by a different radio show every 10 minutes. If one of them calls in late, or you finish an interview early, you are allowed to go pee. By the last hour, you’re giving one-word answers to everything, like Prince in the eighties, and reflecting that this gambit, which seemed so brilliant and badass in the Purple Rain era, might have been based solely on bladder size, because after all Prince is like 5 feet, 2 inches.

There is perhaps no better way to appreciate the dizzying stupidity of the United States than to chat with 25 consecutive morning radio hosts. To begin with, they are mostly named Rick, and they all have the same Jocular But Edgy Dude Voice. They all have a sidekick with a goofy nickname (Booger, Stinky, Crankshaft), whose job is to contribute verbal back slaps and snorting sounds. They often employ an auxiliary back-up sidekick with an even more ridiculous name (Mitt, Newt, Rand) whose job is to step in if the first sidekick has a brain aneurysm. Most shows also feature a female sidekick, whose job is to condone, through her bemused/exasperated boys-will-be-boys attitude, the show’s locker-room odour.

In a country so divided, it is reassuring to discover that regardless of political leanings, and no matter which side of the IHOP/Waffle House (formerly Mason-Dixon) line a morning radio show is on, they are all exactly the same. If I were more scientifically-inclined, I could have built some type of potato-powered cyborg/clock radio to recite the story of why I wrote the book, how we got Samuel L. Jackson to perform the audio version etc. And, most important, to laugh at the host’s inevitable list of sequel ideas, which inevitably included Wake the F*** Up (for teenagers!) and some variation on S*** in the F***ing Potty or Eat Your F***ing Vegetables.

The problem with these ideas is that – forgive me if I’m getting overly technical here – they’re not funny. Sure, they express authentic discontents, but what is there to say about them, really? There’s no extant canon of classic literature to riff off, as there is with bedtime; you’re not wringing out 14 funny stanzas. Or maybe you are, if your life’s great frustration revolves around the toilet or the dinner table. My daughter eats and eliminates waste with the cavalier grace of a bonobo ape, so perhaps I’m just not the guy to write those books; it wouldn’t come from the same sweet spot of deep-seated hostility crossed with overwhelming love. On the food thing, I’m probably good for about three stanzas:

Unlike oh-so-many

Of your playmates’ jackass dads

I give a f*** about nutrition

Know my way around the kitchen

And refuse to let a toddler

Make her own mealtime decisions

 

This feast I'm serving now is one

That we all cooked together

(Which was so you’d f***ing eat it;

I thought that was kind of clever)

But your palate, being three and all

Shifts like the godd*mn weather

 

And so to avoid a tussle ’bout

These godforsaken Brussels sprouts

(Which you had last week, and liked

And asked for specially tonight)

I'm forced to caper and cajole

While you, dear child, fillet my soul.

If I were to write another book (And for the record, I do write novels in my real life, like a jerk. Please buy them.), it would have to focus on one of two things: the insanely violent frenemy relationships three-year-olds form with one another, or playground etiquette, which I find mysterious and infuriating. I could probably get 14 stanzas out of this, but they’d mostly reveal me as a misanthrope who hates other parents and yet fears their judgment:

Well, look who it is! That snot-drenched kid

He might as well be here alone

His dad’s on the swing set, conducting a meeting

That douchebag’s always on the phone

 

I find his presence comforting

The sight fills me with cheer

I forgot to bring water, and my kid’s got one sock

But I’m not the worst parent here

 

On the park bench – I assume they live there –

Sit a trio of mommies who over-prepare

A dozen juice boxes, snacks alphabetized

Every urchin hydrated, each hand sanitized

 

Really? You brought a whole bag of beach s***?

Too good for the broken crap in the sand pit?

Your discussion’s so precious it’s borderline creepy

But when you ignore me, it still pains me deeply

I realize that I’m writing for a Canadian newspaper, and some of this humour may not translate. You probably don’t go to the playground and fantasize about punching everybody in the neck, because on a fundamental level, you’re better than we are. Maybe it’s the socialized medicine, I don’t know. We usually refuse to admit this publicly, but hell, it’s Father’s Day. Cards-on-the-table time.

You’re our moral compass, and sooner or later you’re going to have to invade us, for our own good. I’d suggest laying the groundwork now, with a campaign for the hearts and minds of the American people (naturally, when I say “American,” I’m not counting you guys. Or the Mexicans. Or anybody in South America). Take it to the airwaves; start easing us unto the idea of Northern Sovereignty. I bet Rick and Booger have some great ideas for what to call the war.

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