Garner, James Finn: Politically Correct Bedtime Stories
(researched by Rachel Nocon)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

New York: Macmillan Publishing Company Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan Canada New York, Oxford, Singapore, Sydney: Maxwell Macmillan International 1994 (fifth printing of the first edition)

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

The first edition is presented in trade cloth covered with a dust jacket.

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

48 leaves [15], 1-79 pages i. half title page ii. blank iii. full title page iv. publication information v. dedication vi. blank vii. table of contents viii. blank ix-x. introduction xi. half title page xii. blank 1-79 80-84. blank

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

The book is introduced by the author, James Finn Garner.

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

Illustrations are done by Lisa Amoroso.

7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

Since the book is only 5 years old, it is in fairly new condition. Unfortunately, the original dusk jacket was not availabe. The book is 7 1/2 inches wide and 5 inches long. The typography is legible and the book as a whole is rather attractive in appearance. Artistic lettering is found in the first letter of each chapter. The letter is enclosed in a box and surrounded by a drawing of the principle characters in that particular story.

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The paper is made of durable material and, although there are a few dirt stains on pages 37 through 39, no other significant damage is evident. The pages are an ivory color. No chain lines are visible and the paper edges are smooth. Each page is 4 3/4 inches wide and 7 inches long.

11 Description of binding(s)

The maroon-colored muslin spine is stamped in black lettering with POLITICALLY CORRECT BEDTIME STORIES JAMES FINN GARNER MACMILLAN. The spine is a bit worn and the lettering is fading. The pages are bound by mustard-colored thread. The cloth cover is a mustard color as well. While it has a few dirt and ink stains, it still looks fairly new. The book's ISBN number is imprinted on the outside of the back cover.

12 Transcription of title page


13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings


15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

An excerpt of the book originally appeared in Playboy magazine.

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A


2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?


5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

An edition of the book was released in 1994 by Souvenir Press of London, England.

6 Last date in print?

The 1995 edition of the book is still in print as of 1999.

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

40,000 copies of the book were first printed in 1994. By 1995, over 1 million copies had already been sold.

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)


9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

In their February 7, 1994 issue, Publishers Weekly featured the following review: "In this thin book Garner proposes to create 'meaningful literature that is totally free from bias and purged from the influence of its flawed cultural past.' The results are extremely funny. Updated to account for modern political sensibilities, these revisionist folktales reflect wit and an engaging knack for irony. In `Little Red Riding Hood,' Grandma exacts her feminist revenge on the woodchopper, who `assumes that womyn and wolves can't solve their own problems without a man's help.' In 'The Frog Prince,' the princess, now an 'eco-feminist warrior,' discovers that her dream frog is not a prince, but a real-estate developer. In other tales, Rapunzel becomes a self-reliant coffee-house singer and the Three Little Pigs armed guerrillas, while cultural imperialists such as The Big Bad Wolf and Goldilocks get what has been coming to them for centuries. The author strikes just the right tone here: clever, with more than a touch of self-awareness. And while each of these tales is short and easily digestible, in this case quickly read does not equal quickly forgotten. After one finishes this collection, 'happily ever after' will never seem quite the same."

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion


12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

An audio cassette recording was released in 1994 by Brillance of Grand Haven, MI. An interactive CD-ROM version entitled Politically correct bedtime stories cybersensitivity for our life & times was released in 1995 by Simon & Schuster Macmillan Digital USA of New York, NY.

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

[French] Politiquement correct: contes d'autrefois pour lecteurs d'aujourd'hui. Paris: Bernard Grasset, 1995. [Greek] Politikos ortha paramythia. Athens: Diaulos, 1995. [Hebrew] Sipure 'eres politikli korekt: o agadot yeladim bi-leshon sagi ne'or. Tel Aviv: Modan, 1995. [Japanese] Seijiteki ni tadashii otogi-banashi. Tokyo: DHC, 1995. [Spanish] Historias para dormir politicamente correctas. Mexico: Edivision, Compania Editorial, 1995. [Korean] Chongch'ijok uro olbarun bedu t'aim sut'ori. Soul-si: Silch'on Munhak, 1996. [Polish] Politycznie poprawne bajki na dobranoc. Poznan: Zysk i S-ka, 1997.

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A

An excerpt of the book originally appeared in Playboy magazine.

15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A

Politically correct bedtime stories: modern tales for our life & times. Accord, MA: Wheeler Pub., 1994. Once upon a more enlightened time: politically correct bedtime stories. London: Simon & Schuster, 1995. Once upon a more enlightened time. New York: Simon & Schuster Audio, 1995. Once upon a more enlightened time: more politically correct bedtime stories. New York: Macmillan, 1995. Once upon a more enlightened time: more politically correct bedtime stories. Thorndike, ME: G.K. Hall, 1995. Politically correct holiday stories: for an enlightened yuletide season. New York: Macmillan, 1995. Politically correct holiday stories: for an enlightened yuletide season. Thorndike, ME: G.K. Hall, 1995. Politically correct holiday stories: for an enlightened yuletide season. Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind, 1997. Politically correct: the ultimate storybook. New York: Smithmark, 1998.

Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

James Finn Garner was born in 1960 to Irish-Catholic parents residing in Dearborn, Michigan. He moved to Chicago after graduating from the University of Michigan with a bachelor's degree in English literature and criticism in 1982. There he began performing as an improvisational comedian at "The Theater of the Bizarre" in Chicago's Elbo Room. It was at this time that Garner began telling his audiences famous childhood fairytales with a politically correct twist, entitling his collection "Kafka for Kinder," as part of the entertainment in-between comedy skits. His readings eventually became so popular that a waitress at the theater suggested that Garner compile his stories and aspire to have his work published. After close to thirty rejections, the comedian-turned-author finally caught the attention of Macmillan editor Rick Wolff. From there, Politically Correct Bedtime Stories rose to the top of the best-seller list in 1994, ultimately inspiring Garner to write more stories in the following year. Garner began revising traditional childhood fairytales after noticing that the ridiculous rise in political correctness was beginning to affect the younger generation. "I don't think a kid was ever made sexist because he or she read 'Snow White,' " Garner said. "I think they were made sexist because of how they were raised and what they see in society around them. They didn't get it from silly little stories - they got it from Barbie" (Elsen 3). Through his humorous collection of stories, Garner thus intended to display the absurdity of political correctness applied to children's lives. As of 1999, Garner still lives in Chicago with his wife, Lies Vander Ark Garner, and their 4-year-old son Liam. He has appeared on Chicago Public Radio and is also a contributing writer to various periodicals, including Chicago Tribune Magazine. His next project is an animated film about Rex Koko, a private-eye clown featured in his improvisational acts. Elsen, Jon. "Jack, the Beanstalk and His Marginalized Mother." The New York Times Book Review. 15 May 1994: 3.

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Politically Correct Bedtime Stories has been well received since it was first published in 1994. The February 7, 1994 issue of Publishers Weekly asserted that "these revisionist folktales reflect wit and an engaging knack for irony." Garner was particularly praised for "strik[ing] just the right tone here: clever, with more than a touch of self-awareness." Such acclaim catapulted his book onto the Publishers Weekly Hardcover Fiction Bestseller List on July 11, 1994, where it remained for a total of 60 weeks and ultimately achieved the number one spot on December 19, 1994. Garner wrote these parodies of children's fairytales in an attempt to show the absurd extent to which political correctness has been taken over the years. For the most part, critics have acknowledged the author's daring feat. The Washington Post Book World's Jonathan Yardley congratulated Garner for doing "a public service of truly epic dimensions" by mocking the extremes of political correctness. Yardley even went on to hail Garner as "a Hans Nonsectarian Andersen for our very own time." Patricia T. O'Connor of The New York Times Book Review, however, enjoyed Garner's book precisely for its politically correct approach. She applauded the author for "purging [the stories]?of their racist, sexist and monocultural bias." Whether one reads the book for its political correctness or its satirizing of the movement's absurdity, Politically Correct Bedtime Stories has achieved much success. Its popularity has prompted Garner to publish more volumes of embellished childhood stories, including Once Upon an Enlightened Time, Politically Correct Holiday Stories: For an Enlightened Yuletide Season, and Politically Correct: The Ultimate Storybook. Reviews: Elsen, Jon. "Jack, the Beanstalk and His Marginalized Mother." The New York Times Book Review. 15 May 1994: 3. "Not So Grimm." People Weekly. 26 September 1994: 90. O'Connor, Patricia T. "Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner. 79 pp. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. $8.95." The New York Times Book Review. 15 May 1994: 3. Publishers Weekly. 7 Februrary 1994. Yardley, Jonathan. The Washington Post Book World. 27 April 1994: B2.

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)


Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

In an era of increasing awareness for political correctness, James Finn Garner fights back with his Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. He rewrites thirteen traditional children's stories using as much politically correct jargon as possible in an effort to show the absurd extent to which the movement has been taken. Although his first thirty attempts at publishing proved unsuccessful, Garner did receive much critical acclaim for his book once it finally made its debut in February of 1994. Most readers and critics alike responded to the witty tales as Garner did, seeing the extremes of political correctness and how it can even affect childhood traditions. However, some critics such as Patricia T. O'Conner applauded Garner for actually changing the face of history with these embellished stories. They saw the book as being revolutionary rather than being satirical as Garner had intended. Whether audiences were in favor of Garner's corrections or merely laughed at them as he did, it is certainly true that his version of traditional fairy tales was well received from the moment its publication. Garner introduces his book with the statement, "we cannot blame the Brothers Grimm for their insensitivity to womyn's issues, minority cultures, and the environment" (ix). Thus he chooses to take the opportunity "to rethink these ?classic' stories so they reflect more enlightened times" (ix). By doing so, Garner is not trying to completely restructure the traditions of past generations. Rather, he attempts to do exactly the opposite, attempting to show that traditions are precisely what they are and should not be subjected to the changes of the modern world. More importantly, these stories are childhood pastimes, ones which have been treasured for years and are expected to touch the lives of future generations. Garner points out that subjecting children to the particulars of political correctness is entirely unnecessary and should not be done. As he told The New York Times Book Review: "There's magic to storytelling, and fear and wonder, and when you tie obvious little agendas to it, kids see that. I don't think a kid was ever made sexist because he or she read ?Snow White.' I think they were made sexist because of how they were raised and what they see in society around them. They didn't get it from silly little stories ? they got it from Barbie." (Elsen, 3) Garner is a firm believer of these childhood stories and thus attempted to preserve their sanctity by writing his own version. Critics like Jonathan Yardley agree with the author and acknowledge that the turn which political correctness has taken over the years has gotten out of hand. He praised Garner for satirizing the movement's extremes, proclaiming that the author has "committed a public service of truly epic dimensions" (B2). Yardley even goes so far as to hail Garner as the "Hans Nonsectarian Andersen for our very own time" (B2). He appreciates the author's efforts to protect the magic of childhood fairy tales from the absurd changes of modern times. The idea for the book began when Garner learned that some traditional children's stories were being revised and new ones were being written to exclude allegedly offensive and derogatory material. He points out that some elementary school teachers were even being advised to avoid certain children's books because of their seemingly negative attributes. But the author believes that all old stories are great and should be left alone for future generations to experience. Incidentally, they would not have survived through the years had they not been considered to have a moral message geared towards a young audience. Indeed, children learn valuable lessons from reading and listening to tales such as "The Emperor's New Clothes" and "Jack and the Beanstalk." Completely altering the stories to fit the standards of political correctness would result in a loss of clarity and, more importantly, would devalue the fairy tales' moral lesson. Thus Garner decided to write his own version in order to "mimic that overreaction" of applying political correctness in the classroom (Elsen, 3). Children at a young age are entirely oblivious to the cruelties and discriminations inflicted by adult society. Thus the compilation of childhood fairy tales is actually intended to target an older audience, those who impose such negative stereotypes on others. As Garner says in his introduction: "If, through omission or commission, I have inadvertently displayed any sexist, racist, culturalist, nationalist, regionalist, ageist, lookist, ableist, sizeist, speciesist, intellectualist, socioeconomicist, ethnocentrist, phallocentrist, heteropatriarchalist, or other type of bias as yet unnamed, I apologize and encourage your suggestions for rectification." (x) Garner ultimately makes a mockery of the overly critical and analytical attitudes of late twentieth-century America. Included on his list of attacks is an overt criticism of the feminist movement. In "Little Red Riding Hood," for example, Garner begins the story by saying: "One day her [Little Red Riding Hood's] mother asked her to take a basket of fresh fruit 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." (1) He is quick not to generalize the work of women as being limited to caring for their family members and completing domestic chores. He also spells "womyn" with a "y" as opposed to an "e," a habit many feminists have picked over the years to completely separate themselves from male domination. Minute distinctions such as these characterize the entire book, actually mocking the feminist movement and the extreme actions it takes rather than supporting its arguments. In an attempt to make this notion clear, Garner changes "Little Red Riding Hood's" end to assume a feminist point of view. Rather than rejoicing at the arrival of the wood-chopper, who intends to save the young girl and her grandmother from the wolf, Little Red Riding Hood exclaims: "Bursting in her like a Neanderthal, trusting your weapon to do your thinking for you!" she exclaimed. "Sexist! Speciesist! How dare you assume that womyn and wolves can't solve their own problems without a man's help!" (4) Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother, who "jumped out of the wolf's mouth," kill the wood-chopper for being a macho hero (4). They then live happily ever after with the wolf "in an alternative household based on mutual respect and cooperation" (4). With such a ridiculous ending, Garner proves that only absurdity results in rewriting a famous story. Trying to alter it merely to satisfy the needs of feminists only produces more violence and relates a moral message children would never understand. Ironically, critic Patricia T. O'Conner praises Garner for correcting the male-dominated attitude of these childhood fairy tales. She believes the author "blows the lid off classic literature's dirty little secret: those fairy tales we all grew up with are disgustingly unenlightened" (3). O'Conner has obviously misread Garner's intent and, instead of seeing the light-heartedness of his efforts, considers his revisions to be a much-needed godsend. In her critique of Garner's work, she rails on about the absurdities of children's stories: "They're embarrassing, really ? litanies of conquest and oppression, full of testosterone-crazed giants, hairy trolls and other threatening social outcasts who enjoy abusing children, playing tricks on the mentally impaired, wearing fur and eating meat, sometimes human meat. (Not that one should place a lesser value on nonhuman than on human animals, thus falling victim to species-centered thinking.)" (3) Unlike other critics, O'Conner does not see the satirical side of Garner's book. Rather, she treats his politically correct stories as serious and necessary revisions. She is precisely one of the overly critical and sensitive persons Garner warns about and blatantly attacks through his stories. Like many extremists, O'Conner views political correctness as a necessity for safeguarding society from a male-dominated and overtly sexist mentality. Indeed, there is nothing wrong with wanting to raise the female sex above the stereotypes it has endured over the centuries. However, as Garner points out, altering childhood fairy tales is not the way to do it, although in O'Conner's and other feminists eyes his method seems perfectly appropriate. As she says: "And the women! Or, as Mr. Garner prefers, ?womyn.' Tradition has exposed us to a parade of submissive ninnies (except for witches, more power to them) who pass the time swooning, kissing frogs (not because they're open to interspecies relationships but because they can't get dates), waiting for princes to come along, spinning straw into gold (clearly a dead-end job) and consulting the mirror on the wall for reassurance that they meet society's Eurocentric, white-bread standards of beauty." (3) O'Conner overreacts to the way in which traditional children's stories are told. She chooses to ignore the fact that they were written long ago in a time when males were publicly superior to women. She also neglects the moral lessons they relate and chooses instead to focus on minute details such as their attitudes towards women and their bombastic diction. O'Conner therefore does not enjoy Garner's book as the satire it is meant to be. Rather, she perceives it as a serious subject that should be dealt with accordingly. She completely misses the message Garner relates by rewriting these stories, that extreme political correctness is utterly absurd. Instead, she falls into the author's trap and brands herself as one of the many who are desire to impose political correctness in every aspect of daily life, even in the classroom. In response to extremists like O'Conner, Garner suggests that they find other ways of attacking social problems than by rewriting children's fairy tales. In an interview with critic Jon Elsen, the author mentions that, when one attempts to correct discrimination by changing the language of traditional stories, "you're debasing the idea of sexual or racial equality and wasting credibility trying to get people to eliminate certain ways of saying things. You're not converting them, you're annoying them" (3). Politically Correct Bedtime Stories is thus an attempt to display the annoyances political correctness. Although O'Conner considers Garner's book to be a serious revision, most readers enjoy the stories for their witty and fanciful nature. They treat the fairy tales as they are meant to be treated, merely as tales. The book is meant to bring adults back to the days of their childhood and think how these stories would have been received had they replaced the traditional versions. Indeed, Garner is standing up to those modernists who believe childhood fairy tales are oppressive, ultimately showing that altering them neither changes the attitudes of society nor makes the world a better place to live. "As if Mother Goose is the source of all the domestic violence in this world," Garner said (Tabor, C1) Works Cited: Elsen, Jon. "Jack, the Beanstalk and His Marginalized Mother." The New York Times Book Review 15 May 1994: 3. Garner, James Finn. Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1994. O'Conner, Patricia T. "Politically Correct Bedtime Stories." The New York Times Book Review 15 May 1994: 3. Tabor, Mary B. W. "At Home with James Finn Garner: On Pens and Needles." The New York Times 28 Sept 1995: C1. Yardley, Jonathan. Washington Post Book World 27 April 1994, B2.

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