ONCE UPON A MORE ENLIGHTENED TIME
by James Finn Garner
Macmillan, ISBN 0-02-860419-9, 1995, 84pp, US$9.95
A book review by Evelyn C. Leeper
Copyright 1995 Evelyn C. Leeper
First there was POLITICALLY CORRECT BEDTIME STORIES, and now there's ONCE UPON A MORE ENLIGHTENED TIME. (There is also a volume POLITICALLY CORRECT HOLIDAY STORIES, described as "for an enlightened Yuletide season." I guess Garner has given up on the idea of inclusiveness.) For those unfamiliar with these books, they retell classic fairy tales (which for political correctness must be called bedtime stories) in politically correct language with politically correct ideas. So all our favorite characters are now leading vegetarian lifestyles, treating both sexes equally, not being speciesist, and so on.
Alas, as with many ideas, what is funny in one book can cease being funny in a sequel. (The first Xanth book was funny. 'Nuff said.) While the first book also rewrote bedtime stories to be politically correct, at least there was an attempt to make sense in the terms and concepts used. People were "differently appearanced" or "vertically challenged." But here Garner goes overboard, describing someone who has been in the rain as "moisture-enhanced" and "dryness- challenged." The former sounds like a body lotion, the latter like someone with a drinking problem, and the two together, when applied to the same person in two consecutive paragraphs, like overkill.
I think the problem is that Garner has decided if a little is good, a lot is better. But while I like a piece of chocolate, or even a chocolate sundae, I don't want to drink a quart of Hershey's syrup. At Intersection recently, Connie Willis bemoaned the fact that one problem humorists have now is what Willis called the battle cry of every group: "That's not funny." But the truth is, 90% of the time it's not funny, and that's as true when the target is political correctness as when the target is anything else. It's only when someone with the right talent goes at it that it works. Garner seemed to have it in the first book at times, but when that was such a success he couldn't resist writing a second one, and laying it on even thicker. Too bad.
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