Friday, July 15, 2011
Congratulating us on the recent birth of our daughter, a relative emailed us the PDF version of a "children's book for adults." Said book, by Adam Mansbach, catapulted to bestseller lists last month, when it was released, as a result of what Wikipedia calls "unintended viral marketing:" Booksellers had released PDFs of the book ahead of time.
Some time after we read the book, my wife saw it on sale while out shopping for the baby and bought several for other new parents in our circle. One friend, upon receiving a copy of the book, told me he believed there was a video somewhere of Samuel L. Jackson reading the book. That reading has been released as an audiobook and it appears on YouTube, but I think Jackson botches the reading by going too much into "frustrated parent" mode. I find the book much funnier if read as if to a child. (Of course, as a first-time parent of a newborn, I could be lacking the context to fully appreciate the Jackson reading. Perhaps I'll revisit that question in a few years...)
Hamming things up for the in-laws, I read the book to my daughter while rocking her after a meal, and ended up with "before and after" pictures, since the baby was crying in the first and sound asleep in the second.
In addition to the style of the prose, I find the illustrations by Ricardo Cortes to be ingenious. He captures the idyllic sensibility of many children's books and the innocence of young children -- as well as the fact that, in any given illustration, the child alone is wide awake.
Part of what makes the book so humorous to me is the juxtaposition of short- and long-range values, along with the focus on the short-range problem of getting a child to -- em -- sleep. Something I've noticed as a parent is that much of what I had imagined would be inconvenient or frustrating -- like changing diapers or having my sleep schedule pretty effectively annihilated -- hasn't been so bad (when it hasn't simply diminished to the status of something-that-has-to-get-done or even been amusing in some unexpected way). The wonderful feeling of being a parent -- described well by Leonard Peikoff recently -- puts such things in perspective much more than I imagined beforehand.