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This is kind of a one-trick pony, but it's a very funny trick and Mr. Garner knows better than to try to ride the pony too long (the book's a compact 79 pages), so it's well worthwhile.  As you can imagine from the title,  the book presents famous fairy tales as retold for our current era of politically correct doublespeak.

From the first paragraph of the first story :

    There once was a young person named Red Riding Hood who lived with her mother on the edge of a large wood. One day her mother asked
    her to take a basket of fresh fruit and mineral water to her grandmother's house--not because this was womyn's work, mind you, but because
    the deed was generous and helped engender a feeling of community. Furthermore, her grandmother was not sick, but rather was in full
    physical and mental health and was fully capable of taking care of herself as a mature adult.

you pretty much know what follows.  Mr. Garner gets a lot of mileage out of the mere terminology of PC--as when the Seven Dwarfs are referred to as "vertically challenged" or when  Three Little Pigs ends with the disclaimer : "Please note: The wolf in this story was a metaphorical construct. No actual wolves were harmed in the writing of the story."--without even having to tell jokes or toy with the narrative to produce more humorous situations.

For my money, the book's best moment comes in "The Emperor's New Clothes" :

    Word had spread about the emperor's new clothes that only enlightened people with healthy lifestyles could see, and everyone was determined
    to be more right-minded than his or her neighbor.

Such is the conceit that surrounds political correctness too, that by torturing the English language and disavowing or rewriting much of our own history and classic literature, we will magically be transformed into more "enlightened" people and will be better than our ancestors or our less enlightened neighbors.  But one of the useful functions that Mr. Garner's retelling of these stories serves is to show that once removed from their historic context--no matter how sexist, racist, speciesist, etc. that context may have been--they lose much of their meaning and the lessons they taught to generations of us get lost in the translation.   Political correctness very much resembles those new clothes, embarrassingly transparent and ultimately useless.

Mr. Garner's book is not a particularly profound satire of political correctness, for that we recommend Postmodern Pooh (2001) (Frederick Crews  1933-)  (Grade: A), but it is enjoyable and by its accessibility and popularity has proven quite important.  In demonstrating how silly political correctness is he helped to turn it from a frightening trend into an object of derision.  The greatest threat to an idea comes not when people disagree with it, but when they laugh at it.  With Mr. Garner's help, political correctness has become a laughingstock.  Thank goodness for at least this one "descendant of dead white European males".


Grade: (B+)


See also:

Book-related and General Links:
    -The official James Finn Garner web site
    -STORY : Little Red Riding Hood
    -STORY : Three Pigs, Vertically Challenged (James Finn Garner, Wall Street Journal)
    -STORY : PC Pinocchio
    -POEM : 'Twas the night before Solstice by James Finn Garner
    -INTERVIEW : with James Finn Garner (Ellen Kanner, Book Page)
    -PROFILE :  He Makes The World PC (WILDER PENFIELD III, July 01, 1995, Toronto Sun)
    -ESSAY : "Politcally Correct-ifying" Sleeping Beauty (Feminist Analyses)
    -REVIEW : of Politically Correct Bedtime Stories  (Gary McGath)
    -REVIEW : of Once Upon A More Enlightened Time (Stan Freberg)
    -REVIEW : of Apocalypse WOW! (Susan Shapiro, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Apocalypse WOW!: A Memoir for the End of Time (Rebecca Reads)

    -Fairy Tales on the Web