The classics: taking another look


By Les Linz

We live in a twisted world.

As the prophet Isaiah said, “Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil; that put darkness for light and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).

That’s 2021. That’s us.

Political correctness will often either suppress the truth or attempt to reverse it altogether.

So it got me thinking.

What if we took some literary classics, reversed their titles and applied them in a completely different, more nonsensical way? If it’s good enough for PC, it should be good enough for the classics.


Let’s revisit them.

“Of Mice and Men” — A John Steinbeck novella, published in 1937 and like many a great Steinbeck work made into a captivating movie (more than once). It focuses on the experiences of George and Lennie, two displaced migrant ranch workers who go from place to place during the Great Depression in search of employment.

Now known as “Of Men and Mice,” this story follows the exploits of Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public. Mrs. Public suffers from “depression” because she has mice in her ranch home and is ready to move out unless her husband annihilates the rodents in short order. When Mr. Public complains, his spouse informs him that killing them is his “job,” and if he wants a new one of those, he’ll be looking for another wife, too. Last heard, John has filed for unemployment, and Mrs. Public is feeling much better.

“The Grapes of Wrath” — Also by Steinbeck, published in 1939 and likewise set during the Great Depression, the novel emphasizes the plight of tenant farmers displaced due to the Oklahoman drought, aka Dustbowl, and delves into a host of other related problems they experience as a result.

Now known as “The Grapes of Wrath” taking a page from “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes,” an anthropomorphized California vineyard rebels. In lieu of droves of new people wanting to move into a state boasting of high unemployment and rising crime, grapes, tired of being “stepped on,” “whine” about conditions and begin stomping on those intent on profiting from their just simply being who they are. They “pick” on the rookie workers to see how they like it when the tables are turned.

“Jungle Book” — Published by Rudyard Kipling in 1894, it is a Disney classic. It’s the story of a young boy who is assisted by jungle animals, persuading him that he was better off in civilization, rather than remaining in the jungle, where he was abandoned after an accident. There is disagreement within the animal kingdom as to what’s best for their imprinted human friend. By the end of the film/book, the protagonist chooses to live midst mankind because he’s sufficiently attracted to womankind. (Note of interest: The 1967 Disney film by the same name had a production budget of $5.3 million and grossed a total of nearly $206 million with $142 million of that coming from U.S. box offices. Second note of interest: I’ve never seen the film, but I will).

Now known as “Book Jungle,” A young school-aged youth accidentally stumbles into the local library and seeks the help of a librarian to get his research paper accomplished. “Old school” employees want to see the lad fend for himself, where he may be subject to failure, based on his own effort, while the younger workers see the wisdom in doing the work for him. In the end, the adolescent rejects the counsel offered by either school of thought and tells the teacher he didn’t feel like doing the report because it was too much work and that trying to tell someone else what they should do is wrong. The student got an A.

“A Tale of Two Cities” — Written by Charles Dickens in 1859, the novel tells the story of the French Doctor Manette, his 18-year-long imprisonment in the Bastille in Paris and his release to live in London with his daughter, Lucie, whom he had never met. The book precedes the French Revolution and so-called (French) Reign of Terror.

Now called “A City of Two Tales” is the story of a large metropolitan area, where half of the local school board is asleep and the other half “woke.” “Alarming” as that is, it is indicative of a new “great divide,” where groups of citizens are “oceans apart,” though both live in the same locale at the same time. Not completely unlike Dickens’ work, the townspeople dwell amongst each other, without even realizing the other exists, that although their melanin may be different, their blood all runs the same color.

“The Sound of Music” — Based on the 1949 memoir “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers” by Maria von Trapp. It was a 1965 film/musical (which was in turn was based on the 1959 stage musical book by Lindsay and Crouse). It details the largely true story of the von Trapp family. Though some liberties were taken to help further advance the film, it focuses on a retired and widowed Austrian sea captain that wed a novice nun, which came to be nanny to the captain’s seven children. Captain von Trapp resisted the wooing of the Nazis to get back into the Navy (for their sake) and eventually wound up leaving Austria via musical talent (which in the movie was a ruse to get out of the country). Though Hitler wanted to unionize Germany and Austria together, he never succeeded in his effort to bring it about.

Now known as “The Music of Sound,” a new group, the Pigeon Family, put forth “good vibrations,” a good sound for those with ears that hear. The listeners know how “coo”l it is.

“Tortilla Flat” — Published in 1935 by (here it is again) John Steinbeck. His first critical success, the book is set in Monterey, California. World War I has ended and a group of friends collaborate on wine, women and song as one returns from the war, learning he has inherited two homes from his grandfather. The remainder of the story focuses on the homes and the creative use of the bartering system in order to have a good time together after having survived the horrors of war. Think of it as “Friends” of the ‘40s.

Now known as “Flat Tortilla,” a group of former troops go out and get drunk together and wind up arguing as to whether or not the common white tortilla is predominantly flat or round. One advises they should place a flatbread sample on the ground and have NORAD fly over to best make the determination. The flyover occurs. Flat wins, and as a result, “Mr. Circle” has to give up the deed to the two homes that he owns. The new owner of the houses offers one of the domiciles to the Aztec company in exchange for a 49% share in the business. The corporation hears about the original dispute and “sides” with the round theorist, hires him as senior vice president, who then goes out and hires “Mr. Flat” as his assistant. They collectively invite the secretary pool over for a party, make lewd comments and forfeit their respective positions. With the little monies they have left, the two friends work together to start a Chinese fortune cookie factory.

“Catcher in the Rye” — Written by J.D. Salinger (originally published in serial form from 1945 to 1946), it was published as a novel in 1951. In this story, a young man of high school age leaves the institution he has been at and travels the country in a depressed state until he finally finds happiness. Ironically, in 1981, it was both the most censored book and the second most taught book in public schools in the United States at the same time.

Now called “Rye in the Catcher,” it’s the tale of a young man who broaches the “institution” of baseball to make a living. He regularly plays in areas that are economically depressed. He is paid obscene amounts of money for doing a job he likes to do and with excess funds available to him imbibes in the kind of whiskey and rye that Don McLean only dreamed about. He must be full of rye to begin with, insisting on taking a knee to protest the government, rather than bowing both of them to the one that kept the troops that fought for his right to protest to begin with.

To conclude, “The Sound of Music/The Music of Sound” referred to earlier has many an older song that most of us are familiar with.

Though weaned on that musical and its songs, most importantly, I defer to the third verse of the 40th Psalm. When it comes to full fruition, society will be changed for the better: “And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.”

Les Linz of Seymour writes the “Humor: More or Les” column. For information about Linz, visit his author page. Send comments to [email protected].

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