Marc Munroe Dion
Up in Canada (where I understand they keep beavers as house pets) a woman named Pamela McColl has caused to be published a vile, stinking travesty of an American classic.
McColl paid for her book to be published, which is what you do when your book stinks so much that no one will publish it and pay you.
What’s McColl done? I shudder.
She re-wrote Clement Moore’s "Twas The Night Before Christmas" and, in so doing, has removed the lines, "The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth. And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath."
The poem’s a classic, that rarest of literary reindeers, an enduring piece of writing but, in 2012 Canada (and she’s brought this lousy book to America, too), we don’t give a damn for classics. What we give a damn for is the endless self-aggrandizement of self-published literary losers whose "talent" doesn’t stretch beyond butchering someone else’s work.
I’m a writer. I’m a paid writer, a guy who has never had to pay anyone to publish what I write. Heck, they pay me. It’s how I make my living. And I smoke a pipe. I’m 55 and I’ve smoked a pipe since I was 15.
But perhaps more than the self-published crap that inundates the word like a lumpy brown flood, more even than the assault on my beloved pipe, I resent the notion some dimwits have that everything can be edited to suit how we feel now.
In the Stalin-era Soviet Union, members of the government were frequently "liquidated," which is to say they were taken to a dirty, mildewed cellar and shot.
As soon as they shot Comrade Nogoodski, the government would begin the process of airbrushing him out of the pictures in the history books. Goodbye, Nogoodski. You never existed.
History’s a balloon, just words on paper, just pictures in a book. We can bounce it on our fingers and toes. Great literature’s just words and we can erase them to suit the fashion of the moment. How about we get all the booze out of Hemingway? How about we get all the pot smoking out of Jack Kerouac? How about we get all that messy gay stuff out of Tennessee Williams?
My ancestors were Norman French and they went on the Crusades a thousand years or so back. As they marched through Europe, on their way to save The Holy Land, they butchered every Jew they could find. I don’t want to butcher Jews and I think what my ancestors did was wrong but I want it in the history books because it’s true.
Truth is truth and fact is fact and you must respect them in their smallest incarnations or they vanish like smoke in the wind. Handle the truth gently. It can break. Touch facts reverently. They can guide you home. Read good words slowly. They can take you to the stars inside yourself.
Do not, however brightly it is wrapped in "this is good for you" touch anything false, anything that seeks to hide, anything that turns good words to dirty propaganda slush.
Santa is at the North Pole tonight, standing just outside the reindeer barn, having bedded them down for the night. He’s a little old and he’s fat but his blood moves faster as he raises his bearded face to the night sky, feeling the wind against his forehead.
And he walks through the boot-top deep snow towards his house, where a glass of mulled wine and a pipe wait for him. He won’t stay up too late over either one. He works long days in December.
And in Massachusetts, where I live, it’s in the 30s tonight and windy. I finish my column and I light a pipe and I head for the living room, where I will pour a glass of Irish whisky and sit for a while, resting.
We may not be the latest thing, me and Santa but we get the work done.
And the smoke, it encircles our head like a wreath.
Copyright © 2012 By Creators.com
To find out more about Marc Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
The e-book version of Marc Dion’s book about pipe smoking, "Mill River Smoke," can be found at www.sumnerbooks.com.
[Editor’s note: We have a few related items below.]
This was reported on CNN Headline News in October. Watch the video clip and notice that weatherman Bob VanDillon & show host Robin Meade understand how ludicrous this is. Listen to their banter at the end.
Even mainstream news anchors understand what a slippery slope the PC-fanatics hoist upon us with their comments that Frosty the Snowman is next, and that both Santa and Frosty will be forced to slim down as well … so here’s our latest cartoon …
In Fred Brown’s column, Pipe Smokers of the Past, he wrote about Santa last year:
Santa Claus: Gift Giver, Sleigh Rider, North Pole Dweller – Pipe Smoker
Poor idiot! I heard she mortgaged her house to have it published. Leave Santa alone, as well as all literature written by long gone writers.
(Santa’s gonna love the cookies in Colorado and Washington).
I can’t understand how a classic old Christmas poem would influence anyone to begin pipe smoking.
People seem to be afraid of everything these days.
When we start changing history or literature to enter the world of political correctness or the prevailing populism of the current culture, we are entering a very dangerous and slippery slope.
We should learn from history that when we distort the facts, change books or, God forbid, burn them, nothing good can result. This lady, like so many others, is peering over the edge of that downwards spiraling slope. And woe to us if they prevail.
Great piece. I guess Stalin wasn’t that bad, if people feel that we need to re-write classics.
Thanks for bringing this outrage to everybody’s attention. Also, I was glad to learn, through Robin Meade’s heartening coverage and response, that the American Library Assn. labeled the re-write as censorship. The quandary this puts us in however, is, do we now censor McColl?
I’m with ya, Marc. Just because you’re politically left of center – and I am – does not mean you like busybodies, and that’s what this lady is. I don’t like “liberal” busybodies any more than I like “conservative” busybodies.
Tell that ignorant lady to take up pipe smoking If and when she does, she just mught find the world to be more pleasant
Look me up at Facebook. Ralph Baker (Skip Baker). Cheers!
While I completely agree, I have to point out that (tragically) a lot of good writers have had to publish their own works. Because, I think, idiots like McColl run too many journals and publishing houses. Don’t lump her in with the likes of Rimbaud. Good article, keep fighting the good fight, and if Santa can’t smoke ask him if he’ll leave his pipes under my tree. Jud, I’m a lefty too but this donkey McColl is on a different scale.
Saint Nick would not approve.
Chalk up another voice of agreement from left of center. If you don’t like Clement Moore’s vision of Santa, don’t read it. But don’t publish a bowdlerized version and pretend that you’re “editing”. It’s like the expurgated version of “Huckleberry Finn” they gave my brother to read in school – you’re not doing your kids any favors by pretending that the stuff that makes you uncomfortable doesn’t exist.
As a self-published Author and a pipe smoker, I can understand your frustration with the omission, but not your anger with all self-published authors…
I have recieved some wonderful reviews and I get paid to perform my work in schools…
But like I said, I sypathise with the anger over the re-write…
Thank you Marc.
Thank you for saying the things that needed saying.
Our world is turning upside down… Whatever you feel is right or wrong, whatever your opinions are… history is history (whether fiction or non). this is a long time classic… should we then re-write Mark Twain or countless other classic writers?
captainprophesy’s concern for, and phred’s comment about, a sanitized version of Huck Finn, underscores the idiocy of the P-C left: the book is pro-abolitionist from first page to last!
I’ve never been a fan of banishment & always have been a heart on my sleeve lover of liberty. From the banishment of Santa’s innocent pipe [to the banishment of the cowboy’s image of a riding, lassoing, shooting renegade], no matter what….most decent thinking folks really want a big dose of ‘leave me alone.’ Alone in our pleasures & our comfort. McColl & her ilk typically move beyond innocent re-writings or editing & eventually trample right into censorship. Right into ‘no… you can’t smoke a pipe or drink a 32 ounce soda in that big cup’. Does anyone know if her few books were printed with a soy based ink & stamped harmlessly onto recycled paper? I have an image as to where I’d like to stick my corn cob pipe & it isn’t in Santa’s jib either.
They come for the cigarettes, but since I don’t smoke them, I stay silent.
Then they came for trans-fats (and 20 oz cokes), but since I don’t eat “junk foods” or drink cokes, I stay silent.
Not satisfied, they came for the cigars. Since they smell bad, and I don’t smoke them, I remained silent.
Now they want my pipes, but who is left to speak up for me.
Then when they come for my guns, there will be no way to stand up and fight back.
I don’t understand that there’s no law about plagerisim or the estate can’t do something about this political “airbrushing”…That line had a lot of bearing in me wanting to enjoy the pleasures of a pipe,unconsciously….
Must be bash Canadians because of what some lady wrote? What I find more annoying is that there is an article expressing such offence to a re-written piece of work that will rarely ever even be read. Most Canadians wouldn’t really care, every has the freedom write what they want, if you don’t like it, don’t read it, it’s as simple as that.
I haven’t read anything regarding the responses that can be considered bashing of Canadians. I did read the responses from smokers who seem a bit weary of being bashed for enjoying a decent bowl of tobacco & who respect the wordsmithing found in a classic tale along with the illustrations that are part of it. You see, we have the freedom to disagree with McColl although personally I do not support censorship.