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BOOK TAKES `BIAS’ OUT OF CLASSIC TALES

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WITH THE CURRENT pressure to be politically correct, it's a delight to see a new little "processed tree carcass" by James Finn Garner, a "descendant of dead white European males." It is called "Politically Correct Bedtime Stories." (MacMillan, 1994, $8.95.)

This collection of "modern tales for our life and times," takes 13 of the better known fairy tales and recasts them in language that cannot easily be accused of being ageist, sexist, racist, sizeist, speciesist, intellectualist, culturalist, nationalist, regionalist - or any other known bias.The best is the first story, about Little Red Riding Hood, who took a basket of fresh fruit and mineral water 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. Furthermore, her grandmother was not sick but rather was in full physical and mental health and was fully capable of taking care of herself as a mature adult."

On the way she was accosted by a wolf, who told her it was unsafe for a little girl to walk in the woods alone. Red Riding Hood said, "I find your sexist remark offensive in the extreme, but I will ignore it because of your traditional status as an outcast from society, the stress of which has caused you to develop your own, entirely valid, worldview."

Although Red Riding Hood walked along the main path, the wolf took a quicker route to Grandma's house - "because his status outside society had freed him from slavish adherence to linear, Western-style thought."

When he arrived, "he burst into the house and ate Grandma, an entirely valid course of action for a carnivore such as himself. Then, unhampered by rigid, traditionalist notions of what was masculine or feminine, he put on Grandma's nightclothes and crawled into bed."

Red Riding Hood arrived, carrying fat-free, sodium-free snacks and was shocked to see the wolf dressed as her optically challenged grandma. Finally, the wolf leaped out of bed and grabbed Red Riding Hood in his claws.

"Red Riding Hood screamed, not out of alarm at the wolf's apparent tendency toward cross dressing but because of his willful invasion of her personal space."

Her screams were heard by a passing log-fuel technician, who tried to intervene. Red Riding Hood, you see, was not happy, and said, "Just what do you think you're doing? Bursting in here like a Neanderthal, trusting your weapon to do your thinking for you."

Then she accused the technician of being both a sexist and a speciesist.

"How dare you assume that womyn and wolves can't solve their own problems without a man's help!" When she heard Red Riding Hood chewing out the log-fuel technician, Grandma jumped out of the wolf's mouth. Red Riding Hood, Grandma and the wolf felt a "certain commonality of purpose."

In fact, they "set up an alternative household based on mutual respect and cooperation and they lived together in the woods happily ever after."

With similar panache, Garner treats The Three Little Pigs, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Goldilocks, Snow White, Chicken Little, The Frog Prince, Jack and the Beanstalk, the Pied Piper of Hamelin - and the Three Codependent Goats Gruff.

You've got to get this book and start telling your kids traditional stories, properly adjusted to reflect more enlightened times.

If you're not convinced, take the word of the Brothers Grimm, quoted on the jacket, "We were fighting between ourselves to see who would read it first."