Politically Correct Holiday Stories by James Finn Garner

Title:  Politically Correct Holiday Stories For an Enlightened Yuletide Season

AuthorJames Finn Garner

Hardcover:  99 pages

Published: 1995

ISBN:  0028604202

Twas the night before solstice and all through the co-op
Not a creature was messing the calm status quo up.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
Dreaming of lentils and warm whole-grain breads.

We’d welcomed the winter that day after school
By dancing and drumming and burning the Yule,

A more meaningful gesture to honor the planet
Than buying more trinkets for Mom and Aunt Janet,

Or choosing a tree just to murder and stump it
And dress it all up like a seasonal strumpet.

My lifemate and I, having turned down the heat,
Slipped under the covers for a well-deserved sleep,

When from out on the lawn there came such a roar
I fell from my futon and rolled to the floor.

I crawled to the window and pulled back the latch,
And muttered, “Aw, where is the Neighborhood Watch?”

I saw there below through the murk of the night
A sleigh and eight reindeer of nonstandard height.

At the reins of the sleigh sat a mean-hearted knave
Who treated each deer like his persunal slave

I’d seen him before in some ads for car loans,
Plus fast food and soft drinks and cellular phones.

He must have cashed in from his mercantile chores,
Since self-satisfaction just oozed from his pores.

-“Twas the Night Before Solstice”, Politically Correct Holiday Stories by James Finn Garner, pages 1-2

I first came across James Finn Garner’s schtick of running long-standing and beloved stories of western culture through the PC sanitizer in high school when I read his Politically Correct Bedtime Stories.  What made that first book so funny was that it was original and pointed out the ridiculousness of the then small voice of the PC police.  Oh, if only we knew then how that voice would grow and become the bully it is today!

In this holiday version of the original book, Garner revisits our favorite Christmas stories, some with more success than others.  The first is a modernized and sanitized version of Clement Moore’s 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, and the best offering in the whole book.  The narrator of the story (a man or woman, we never really know.. though, it sounds like a shrill hippy-feminazi) argues with the Santa about everything from Christmas trees to Barbie dolls and toy guns.  Ultimately, Santa capitulates and exits, leaving this admonishment:

“I pity the kids who grow up around here,
Who’re never permitted to be of good cheer,

“Who aren’t allowed leisure for leisure’s own sake,
But must fret every minute -it makes my heart break!”

-pages 8-9

And in place of the traditional “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” this Santa calls out as he flies off, “Happy Christmas to all, but get over yourselves!”

This particular section of the book is, in my opinion, the only part of the book worth reading.  It’s clever and pulls into focus exactly what is at stake with the PC craziness and who suffers the most.  Children are more and more being forced to worry about what they say and how it might be received.  They are forced at ever earlier ages to consider how their words and actions might be taken out of context.  From the kindergartener who was expelled for sexual harassment because he kissed his classmate on the cheek, to Maggie’s own classmates (fifth graders) calling her a racist because she likes asian things (HELLO? she’s asian!) or labeling another classmate as a racist because someone said she is one.  It’s become the new bad-name to call each other whether it is true or not, and whether they even understand what it means.  It’s the “Your mother wears army boots!” of the next generation.

Other stories included in this book:

Frosty the Persun of Snow – Frosty, a gender non-specific persun of snow, organizes a march to D.C. with the goal of making congress enact changes to end global warning.  Unfortunately, an army of snowmen showing up on Capitol Hill tends to draw the media’s attention, and where the media goes, so do those pesky hot lights.

The Nutcracker – Clara organizes committees to talk to the mice and get them to come to an agreement instead of fighting, then refuses the Nutcracker’s invitation to visit his kingdom, calling it a tactic to portray womyn as “docile, helpless and easily manipulated with identities and backgrounds of lesser importance” than that of males, and that they perpetuate their abduction fantasy.  Yeah… political correctness and communism just sucks the fun out of our holiday stories.

Rudolph the Nasally Empowered Reindeer – Basically, Rudolph is a bitter, angry loner who takes the opportunity of Santa’s need for his glowing nose to rape the jolly old elf into concessions that ultimately leave his fellow reindeer unhappy and then he leaves them to organize his Laplander cousins.

A Christmas Carol – All I can say about this one is that Dickens’ original story of keeping the spirit of the season in your heart all year round has been redone, revisited, and remixed so many times that, unless you can really knock it out of the park, another version of it just becomes white noise.  Garner’s attempt is mediocre at best, and portrays Cratchit as a impotent subversive, Fred as a milksop without any sense of self, and Tiny Tim… oh, excuse me, Diminutive Timón as an opportunist. 

Overall, Politically Correct Holiday Stories by James Finn Garner was just meh.  I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Here’s a clip of my favorite PC Christmas Story 🙂

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Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle by Nan Marino

Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan MarinoTitle:  Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me

Author:  Nan Marino

Hardcover:  160 pages

ISBN:  9781596434998

Challenges:  2009 ARC Reading Challenge

From the back of the book:

Muscle Man McGinty is a squirrelly runt, a lying snake, and a pitiful excuse for a ten-year-old.  The problem is that no one on Ramble Street knows it, but me.

Tamara Ann Simpson is tired of all the lies.  And boy, oh boy, can Muscle Man McGinty tell some whoppers!  When he does the unthinkable and challenges the entire block to a game of kickball, Tamara knows she’s found her opportunity to prove to everyone what a wormy little liar Muscle Man really is.  Of course things would be a lot easier if her best friend Kebsie Grobser were here to help her…

It’s the summer of 1969 and the world is getting ready for a young man named Neil Armstrong to make history by walking on the moon.  But change happens a bit more slowly in Massapequa Park, and it’ll take one giant leap for Tamara to understand the likes of Muscle Man McGinty.

I really enjoyed reading Neil Armstrong is My Uncle.  For me, this book was a trip into the past to my own childhood.  While the world of Indian Heights and that of Rumble Street were very different, and a good decade separated us, I could still cast the characters of the book with the kids from my own block.  I was, of course, Tamara.  I could totally relate to her, as I too never quite got the subtleties of the social game and all was black-and-white for me, as well.  I had a few Muscle Men at various stages growing up, people who seem to come along with the world undeservedly on their side.

There are lucky people in the world, and then there are people who always seem to find themselves knee-deep in trouble.  It’s not hard to guess which group I fall into.

If I were lucky, the morning of the us-against-Muscle Man game would be different.  I’d wake up to singing birds and sushine, scarf down a bowl of Apple Jacks, and be the first one standing on the Rattles’ front lawn.

But I’m a “trouble” person.  And that means I’m in deep water from the moment the day begins…

-page 54 in the ARE copy

Okay, so I’ve broke the three things hoped for in the publisher’s letter.  I didn’t read it in one setting in a comfy chair, but in about 5 sits… and in the car, and on the beach, then in the car, and finally in my bed.  I wasn’t born until 1973, so the trip to the moon was old hat by the time I was around, and I didn’t feel like calling anyone to ask them where they were.  And the front cover is about as much interest as my young readers care about the book because the sun is shining and the waves were coming in and the fair is today… and “Come on Mom, why are you still typing?!  We’re gonna miss the rides!  I’m hungry!  I want an elephant ear!  Let’s go, already!”

But Neil Armstrong is My Uncle is a fun book that is supposedly for the 8-12 set, but I never felt like I was reading a kids book, to be honest.  I just had a pleasant vacation into a safe past and for that I thank Nan Marino and Roaring Brook Press for the chance to read it 🙂  I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.  Oh, and be sure to heck out Nan Marino’s site at http://www.nanmarino.com/