Did you have a favorite childhood author whose work for grownups, you discovered as an adult, turns out to be pretty racy? I did.
I’ll never forget reading Shel Silverstein’s MacBeth in the late nineties in Playboy magazine, and the thrill it gave me to realize that the sharp, naughty satire found in his children’s books could survive the transition to adult fare. Not only survive, but, man, thrive. Overt sexual content, profanity, and, of course, his usual zesty tone. Ah—this, I realized, is the real Uncle Shelby. This was the voice he was living with inside him. Recommended: An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein, a collection of short plays, and Playboy’s Silverstein Around the World, a collection of travel essays.
When I was a kid, Roald Dahl’s children’s literature was regarded with a bit of suspicion by most adults I knew. There was no getting around the utter strangeness of his fantastical visions, and even as a child, I sensed the author working out some deeply personal issues in the stories. I also sensed it was best not to look too closely. But goodness gracious me, as an adult, I was hardly prepared for My Uncle Oswald, Dahl’s artificial insemination satire. There isn’t a sensor-flagging rude word in the book, but it’s still duuuuuurty and just awesome. Also recommended: Skin, a collection of dark, weird short stories (just like Dahl’s kid’s books).
I was an adult when I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which reminded me of the children-with-immense-responsibility books I loved as a child, like those of Roald Dahl. So, following my grown-up reading of Dahl, it hardly surprised me that when J.K. Rowling published The Casual Vacancy, its violence and sexual content seemed to be the only thing anybody wanted to discuss. Personally, I’d rather like to see her write The Wizard’s Kama Sutra.
Daniel Handler is a respected writer and rising literary star, but he may never eclipse his other identity, Lemony Snicket. As Snicket, he wrote the A Series of Unfortunate Events books that were an instant hit just about as soon as The Bad Beginning hit the shelves. The series grew into a publishing juggernaut long before the thirteenth and final installment arrived, but lo, the first adult book of his that I read was an awfully randy and not a little squirm-inducing volume called Watch Your Mouth. It goes there. And keeps on going. I hope he never stops.
I’d also be delighted to check out adult fare from Jon Scieszka, Mo Willems, or Sandra Boynton, and Dav Pilkey’s just gotta have something in the works, right? And wouldn’t it be wonderful to learn that Beatrix Potter or C.S. Lewis wrote risque fantasies for adults too? I’m not holding my breath.