A while back a guy came up to the desk, his trendy man-purse (really—man-purse; it was a third the size of your average messenger bag, so it was a man-purse) bouncing against his love-handle clad hips. As he’s still a step or two from the desk he tosses a book the distance between us where it hits the desk and slides towards me. It’s a biography of Che, one of several we regularly carry.
“Why do you sell this?” he demanded as the book came to stop before me.
I glanced at the cover for a second, and momentarily considered not being a smartass.
“Because it’s a book,” I told him.
He accused me of promoting an anti-government baby-killer who burned villages and blahblahblah. I don’t know much about Che, and I don’t really care. I’m sure at three in the morning some time in the near future I’ll spend an hour or two on Wikipedia reading up on him, but at any given moment, I really just don’t care. But more important than my not caring about Che, I don’t care about your opinion of him. If you’re offended by this man and are opposed to books or movies or t-shirts touting him as a hero, then don’t buy them.
But why do you have to waste my time with this? Don’t you have friends? Fuck, start a blog if no one can stand you. Maybe no one will read it but at least you can feel like someone’s listening. I think about three people read this but at least it makes me feel better to write it. But leave me alone. I don’t care.
People working retail, we’re doing just that. Working. We’re not selling books on Che so we can encourage overthrowing a government, we’re not selling Go the Fuck to Sleep to promote verbally abusing children. We’re selling these books because people are buying them. If you don’t like them, don’t buy them, but how is it fair that you’re giving me shit because other people are buying them?
Retail workers, they’re like Joaquin Phoenix in 8mm.
Defending his job at a porn store, Phoenix’s character, Max California says, “I don’t buy it. I don’t endorse it. I just point the way.”
So stop giving me shit for pointing the way. You don’t like it, write a letter to Akashic Books who published it, or to Adam Mansbach for writing it. While you’re at it, why don’t you call up his daughter who’s constant requests for a glass of water or trip to the bathroom or another story is what prompted the writing of this book in the first place.
The problem with doing that is that the publisher has pointed out that the first two lines on each page are what the parent is saying out loud, the horrible things that come after are internalized. The kid never hears that.
“The book is an outlet for that frustration, but it completely reinforces parents sucking it up and dealing with it. There’s never a moment where the kid suffers because of the parent. It’s actually pretty idealistic,” Johnny Temple of Akashic Books said.
Oh, and he’s also read a censored version of the story to his own young children—a censored version which is now in the works to be published as well. His kids loved it, recognizing the shit they pull to avoid going to bed.
In her article claiming that the book encourages verbally abusing children and is representative of household bullying and parental neglect, Karen Spears Zacharias claims that “the violent language of “Go the F*** to Sleep” is not the least bit funny, when one considers how many neglected children fall asleep each night praying for a parent who’d care enough to hold them, nurture them and read to them.”
But those parents who don’t care enough to hold their kids or read to them aren’t the subject of this story. They’re not the audience either. This wasn’t written for them or about them, or meant to represent them. This book was intended for those parents who do read to their children, it was meant to remind parents who do take part in this time-honored tradition that they are not alone in trying to combat the cunning little bastards that are their children.
Let’s be honest though, if a kid who is never read to by their parents picks up Go the Fuck to Sleep, they’re not going to suddenly cry, “This is why my parents never read to me! They knew I’d ask for water! Why did I have to be so thirsty as a child!?”
Anna Smackers (remember the customer whose annoying, multiple visits to the store to complain about the book prompted this) threatened to stop shopping at the store and move all her business to Amazon. They sell the book too, so I’m not sure if that’s really making a point on her part. Not only do they sell it as well, but its listed on the right-hand sidebar when you click into the book section. And has a preview of a few pages. I feel like for an online-only retailer, that’s pretty comparable to having it sit right on the customer service desk.
She also claimed to be writing an editorial to the Buffalo News, and I have no doubt all seven people who still read that paper will be outraged. She intended to contact the local TV news stations and involve the organization 1000 Mothers to Prevent Violence. Aside from saying it seems to be outside that group’s mission statement to get involved in where I place a stack of books, I’m really not going to touch the last one. 1000MPV seems like a great group based out of San Francisco, created in the wake of real violence, as opposed to this imagined abuse, and even I can’t mock this group. Yet.
Anna’s second visit to the store was enjoyable for two reasons. After she finished her tirade about amassing her mom-army against my merchandising choices, a customer in line behind her informed us their children go to school together and this woman is a big pain in the ass all around.
Another customer who’d witnessed the exchange suggested we allow Anna to organize a book burning in the store.
Perhaps that would satisfy her.