Adam Mansbach to the War on Graffiti: “Go the Fuck to Sleep!”

01/17/2013 10:45 AM |

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Go the Fuck to Sleep was a time-consuming event in my life,” its author Adam Mansbach said last night at the powerHouse Arena in DUMBO, “so it’s nice to be talking about something else.” That something else is his new novel, Rage is Back, about the effects of The War on Graffiti, waged in New York City and around the world toward the close of the 20th century, on a mixed-race teenager, the son of two famous graffiti writers, living in the present day (well, 2005); when the book opens, he has been expelled from his private school, which Mansbach did not confirm was modeled after Dalton, and from his mother’s Fort Greene apartment.

Mansbach writes in a voice not dissimilar to his own: a Junot Diaz-ian blend of highbrow and low, a hyperarticulate take on the conversational street vernacular of the Hip-Hop Generation. When he reads, he pushes his open hand forward like a freestyler would. (He was hard to photograph in close-up because he doesn’t stand still; see below.) After he was introduced, he said he’d make some remarks but keep it short. “People can drink more and shit.” (There was wine! And J.Period, now the Nets’ music supervisor, DJ’d.) He also opted to go without a microphone, so long as everyone could hear him. “I can talk louder and shit, too,” he said in a louder voice.

He began with a piece published in The Awl on Tuesday, “The Stupidity of New York’s Long, Expensive (And Ongoing) War on Graffiti,” a critical history worth reading for insights like: “Mayor John Lindsay first declared war in 1972, and over the next 17 years, the city would spend $300 million attempting to run graffiti-free trains—this, during a period when the subway barely functioned and the city teetered on the brink of insolvency. Clearly, there was more at stake than aesthetics.”