Make every weekend epic with our free Weekender newsletter. Sign up today!

Author not tired of 'Sleep'

Clement Clarke Moore is said to have died bitter that he would be remembered for "The Night Before Christmas," and not his massive scholarly works on religion and the classics. By contrast, Adam Mansbach is delighted to be risking a similar fate.

Mansbach was already a serious and well-reviewed novelist when he wrote "Go the F*** to Sleep," an instant classic for frustrated parents of young children. Now that his new novel is out, he's still happy to embrace the trifle that made him a household name.

"I'm not at all getting tired of being asked about 'Go the F*** to Sleep,' " Mansbach says by phone from his home in Berkeley, Calif. "In this publishing climate I'm grateful to have any kind of success with any book."

Mansbach hopes readers can see that his children's book parody, born of "loving your kids but wanting to throw them out the window" is not separate from his novels.

Mansbach's new novel, "Rage Is Back," is set in the world of New York graffiti artists. Told by the disaffected biracial son of two legendary artists, it's an ambitious book that unites the heyday of graffiti art, the 1980s and today.

"I have almost a lifelong passion for graffiti," Mansbach says. "I grew up as a kid defined by hip-hop. I was a DJ and a rapper, and I realized graffiti writers were the weirdos of the movement, the most interesting."

The war on graffiti, dated by Mansbach to 1972, set the tone for a war on youth, and especially on people of color. Law-enforcement tactics — three-strikes laws, gang databases — used to put a large proportion of young black men in prison were pioneered then, he says.

"I always thought there was a great American graffiti novel to be written," Mansbach says. "I don't know if this is it, but it's my attempt to capture something of this modern urban shamanism."

Early reviewers have praised the book. The Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle have likened it to the work of Michael Chabon and Junot Diaz, and both Amazon and Barnes and Noble named it "best book" for January.

Mansbach's first three novels, “Shackling Water,” “Angry Black White Boy” and “The End of the Jews,” also received favorable notices. But they didn't have the publicity wind of a modern meme such as "Go the F*** to Sleep" to fill their sails.

"I'm finding some doors open, and some opportunities that didn't used to be there," the writer says. "I don't worry too much about my 'brand.' I would just like to be versatile and write what I want."

Adam Mansbach will appear 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18, at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, 1 E. Las Olas. At 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, he’ll be at Books and Books, 265 Aragon Ave., in Coral Gables. Both events are free. Go to

Copyright © 2018, South Florida