'Benevolent Satire': Robbi Behr and Matthew Swanson, Idiots' Books, Politics and Prose

July 27, 2011


Writer Matthew Swanson and illustrator Robbi Behr run a small press called Idiots’ Books, but their offerings are neither written for nor by dimwits. Rather, the smart, funny books are produced by the married couple in their home in Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Their works are formatted like kids’ books but cover adult topics, from being new parents (“The Baby Is Disappointing”) to alternative history lessons (“Facial Features of French Explorers”). They’ll read from their books Friday at Politics and Prose.

Are your surprised this small press has become your full-time jobs?
Behr: We never thought of this as a money-making venture. We started out thinking we’d do it for one year and then Matt would get into graduate school. He failed to get into graduate school, and it was working pretty well, so we just kept going. Now we’re in year number five.

Your books “The Baby Is Disappointing” and “Babies Ruin Everything” precede author Adam Mansbach’s recent cult hit “Go the F**k to Sleep” and cover similar themes. Are you getting any interest from big publishers now?
Behr: We have an agent, and she has said “The Baby Is Disappointing” would be a good gift book. But finding the right audience, and finding the right publisher [is tough]. But ["The Baby Is Disappointing"] is the book that has basically subsidized everything else [we've done].

Swanson: That ["Sleep"] book has a little bit more punch than ours because the language is more assertive. We like to refer to ourselves as “benevolent satire.”

What will you discuss at your Politics and Prose reading?
Swanson: We’ll talk about running a small press, our subscription model and our particular mode of collaboration, because I think it’s one of the more unique aspects of what we do.

» Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW; Fri., 7 p.m., free; 202-364-1919. (Van Ness)

Photo courtesy Robbi Behr

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