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Garner, James Finn 1960(?)-

GARNER, James Finn 1960(?)-

PERSONAL: Born c. 1960; married Lies Vander Ark; children: Liam. Education: University of Michigan, B.A. Politics: Democrat.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Simon and Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Author and improvisational theater artist. Has appeared on National Public Radio.


Politically Correct Bedtime Stories: Modern Tales for Our Life and Times, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1994.

Once upon a More Enlightened Time: More Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1995.
Politically Correct Holiday Stories: For an Enlightened Yuletide Season, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1995.

Apocalypse Wow: A Memoir for the End of Time, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.

Politically Correct: The Ultimate Storybook (contains Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, Once upon a More Enlightened Time, and Politically Correct Holiday Stories), Smithmark (New York, NY), 1998.

Sweet Marlene, Authorhouse (Bloomington, IN), 2002. Also author of improvisational theater collection Kafka for Kinder, and of stage performances The Waveland Radio Playhouse and Theatre of the Bizarre. Contributor to periodicals, including Chicago Tribune Magazine, Playboy, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TV Guide, and Utne Reader. Contributing editor, Chicago Magazine.

ADAPTATIONS: Politically Correct Bedtime Stories was adapted for CD-ROM; Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, Once upon a More Enlightened Time, Politically Correct Holiday Stories, and Apocalypse Wow: A Memoir for the End of Time were recorded on audiocassette.

WORK IN PROGRESS: The Wet Nose of Danger, a novel about Rex Koko, a private-eye clown.

SIDELIGHTS: When James Finn Garner heard that classic children's fairy tales were being revised to avoid material that might be considered offensive by various groups, "he was appalled," according to Jon Elsen, an interviewer for the New York Times Book Review. Garner decided to make fun of this trend, and the result is his 1994 effort, Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. In this volume Garner rewrites thirteen popular stories, inserting politically correct terminology wherever he can. For instance, Rumpelstiltskin is not a dwarf but "vertically challenged," a "man of nonstandard height," who is scolded for attempting to "interfere" with Esmeralda's "reproductive rights" by demanding her first-born child as payment for teaching her how to spin straw into gold. In Garner's version of "Little Red Riding Hood," the wolf manages to don Grandma's nightgown after eating her because he is "unhampered by rigid, traditionalist notions of what was masculine or feminine." After Jack of beanstalk fame trades his mother's cow for three magic beans, Garner writes of Jack's mother: "She used to think her son was merely a conceptual rather than a linear thinker, but now she was sure that he was downright differently abled."

Critics applauded Garner's satire; Patricia T. O'Conner in the New York Times Book Review asserted that "somebody had to do it. And James Finn Garner has met the challenge manfully—or, rather, like a fully realized individual, secure in his personhood and in touch with his inner child." Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post Book World was even more lavish in his praise of Politically Correct Bedtime Stories; he declared that "Garner isn't a mere writer, he's a virtuoso, a necromancer, a master of the tour de force—a Hans Nonsectarian Andersen for our very own time." Yardley further judged that Garner, in satirizing the extremes of political correctness, has committed "a public service of truly epic dimensions." Garner himself defended stories like the ones he altered to Elsen: "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."

Garner has followed up Politically Correct Bedtime Stories with the sequels Once upon a More Enlightened Time: More Politically Correct Bedtime Stories and Politically Correct Holiday Stories: For an Enlightened Yuletide Season. Alex Tresniowski in People Weekly found that in Once upon a More Enlightened Time Garner "takes an irresistible premise and delivers some sharp satire." Speaking to Wilder Penfield III in the Toronto Sun, Garner explained that when writing his politically correct stories, "I tried to sanitize and secularize everything . . . especially that incredibly insensitive time of year we used to call Christmas." Faith J. Cormier noted in the Green Man Review, "It's always dangerous to try to force yesterday into today's sensibilities, as satirist James Finn Garner sets out to prove."

Garner's Apocalypse Wow looks at the turn of the twenty-first century with a jaundiced eye, taking none of the pomp, circumstance, or fear too seriously. "Describing a 'pilgrimage' to discover the truth behind all those end-of-the-world predictions," wrote Stephanie Schorow in the Boston Herald, "Garner roasts Edgar Cayce, the Atlantis-impaired, even the Armaggedon appeal of rapture and Revelations." "Take it from me," an online reviewer for Rebecca's Reads stated, "this little book will fracture any staid ideas you might have left about the dignity of this auspicious moment. You will also get to read one of the funniest linguists ever to put paper to pen."



Booklist, December 15, 1997, review of Apocalypse Wow (audio edition), p. 11.

Boston Herald, April 7, 1997, Stephanie Schorow, "Comedian-Turned-Author Revels in 'Apocalypse' Absurdities," p. 25.

Cultural Studies, October, 1997, Musa Al-Halool, review of Politically Correct Bedtime Stories,
p. 483.

New York Times Book Review, May 15, 1994, John Elsen, "Kafka for Children," p. 1.

People Weekly, September 26, 1994, "Not So Grimm,"
p. 90; June 19, 1995, Alex Tresniowski, review of Once upon a More Enlightened Time, p. 31.

Publishers Weekly, February 14, 1994, review of Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, p. 78.

Toronto Sun, July 1, 1995, Wilder Penfield III, "He Makes the World PC."

Washington Post Book World, April 27, 1994, p. B2.


BookPage, (May, 1997), Ellen Kanner, interview with James Finn Garner.

Green Man Review Online, (November 3, 2003), Faith Cormier, review of Once upon a More Enlightened Time.

James Finn Garner Web site, (November 3, 2003).

Rebecca's Reads, (November 28, 1999), review of Apocalypse Wow.*

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