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James Finn Garner – Politically Correct Bedtime Stories & Once Upon a More Enlightened Time

September 14, 2008

Re-Read. Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner (1994)

112. Once Upon a More Enlightened Time: More Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner (1995)

Length: 79 & 84 pages

Genre: Humor; Fairy tales

Started: 13 September 2008
Finished: 13 September 2008

Fairy tales retold
and stripped of their biases.
Joke gets old by end.

Summary: The classic stories we tell our children are full of sexist, classist, ageist, speciesist, and heteronormative biases. James Finn Garner, despite being a white male, attempts to strip these biases and provide fairy tales for a more enlightened, liberated, and politically correct generation. In the first volume, he tackles Little Red Riding Hood, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Three Little Pigs, Rumpelstiltskin, The Three Codependent Goats Gruff, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Goldilocks, Snow White, Chicken Little, The Frog Prince, Jack and the Beanstalk, and The Pied Piper of Hamelin. In the sequel, he provides slightly more detailed re-tellings of Hansel and Gretel, The Ant and the Grasshopper, The Princess and the Pea, The Little Mer-Persun, The Tortoise and the Hare, Puss in Boots, Sleeping Persun of Better-Than-Average Attractiveness, and The City Mouse and the Suburban Mouse.

Review: I love skewed re-tellings of fairy tales, and by-and-large, these books get the job done quickly and punchily. Some of the stories are essentially the same as we always knew them, but with slightly different endings (Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf set up an alternative household based on mutual respect), or contexts (Goldilocks as a crazed research biologist), while some are more radical departures (Hansel and Gretel learn dark magicks from the Wicca in the candy house, and use it against their forest-destroying woodchopper father). Most of the stories are still pretty funny, although we’re at least a decade out of the extreme political correctness movement. However, by the end, it starts to feel like the same joke over and over, and loses some of its effectiveness. The least-funny parts are the the most obvious PC-based jokes (“It should be mentioned here that the name “Little” was a family name, and not a derogatory size-biased nickname.”), while the funniest parts are the more subtle jabs at society. My personal favorite was the Big Bad Wolf being a land-grabbing imperialist power, who used the land of the second pig to set up a vacation destination, complete with fiberglass replicas of the original house of sticks.

The second book contains stories that are longer, more detailed than those of the first book, and more radical departures from their original forms. Consequently, they’re a little weaker – or maybe I was just over the joke by that point. Also, although this sort of contradicts what I just said, I felt like in some cases there were opportunities to really re-tell the fairy tale in a subversively funny way that were just missed in favor of the more obvious joke.

Despite these being fairy tales, I don’t know that I’d really recommend them for kids. Not that there’s anything inappropriate (I think the worst is the three little pigs telling the wolf to “Go to hell, you carnivorous, imperialistic oppressor!”), but just that little kids wouldn’t get the joke – and therefore wouldn’t get the point. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Funny in small chunks, but starts to feel a little one-note by the end.

Politically Correct Bedtime Stories:
This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

First Line: When they were first written, the stories on which the following tales are based certainly served their purpose – to entrench the patriarchy, to estrange people from their own natural impulses, to demonize “evil” and to “reward” an “objective” “good.”

Once Upon a More Enlightened Time:
This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

First Line: At the outset, I would like to apologize sincerely for the success of my last book.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2008 11:14 am

    The very first gift my husband gave to me when we were dating was a copy of Politically Correct Bedtime Stories! They are so funny!

  2. September 15, 2008 11:24 am

    Alyce – Awww, that’s sweet! Speaks well of your husband, too. (I mean, obviously you thought so, you married the guy, but.)

  3. September 15, 2008 1:47 pm

    You’re really great with haikus, Firefly!

  4. September 16, 2008 6:12 pm

    I started to pick one of these up once. I might have to do that!

  5. September 17, 2008 5:40 pm

    Alessandra – Aww, thanks! I’d say it comes with practice, but I think the last time I wrote haikus was about five years ago when I came home a leeeeetle bit tipsy and decided it was a good idea to start drunk-IM-ing my friends in haiku format. It’s still some of the best stuff I’ve written. :)

    Ladytink – If you can get these cheap, they’re worth having for a giggle, but I don’t know that I (personally) would pay full price to get them new.

  6. Joyce permalink
    November 19, 2009 12:38 pm

    I would like to purchase either Politically correct bedtime stories or politically correct fairy tales or both if I get them at a good price. where can I purchase them I’ve tried Barnes and Noble and they do not have it. If I could even get a slightly used copies. My husband had it years ago and someone borrowed it and we never got it back and he still talks about it. I’d like to get it for him for Christmas. Thanks!!

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