LAST week, to earn enough Christmas dollars to keep my family in gourmet stollen, I did a little light dusting at Wikileaks spokesman Julian Assange’s place. Scrunched up in his recycle basket I found the following correspondence, obviously the “thermonuclear bomb of information” that he has been threatening to make public. Since Mr. Assange is tied up in some legal proceedings, I’ve decided to carry on his work and drop that bomb here, in my whistle-blowing blog.
MEMO TO: PENGUIN BOOKS
FROM: Jarmelle Watkins, Director of Acquisitions, HARPO, INC.
Further to the publication of the Charles Dickens classics A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations under Oprah Winfrey’s book club imprimatur, Ms. Winfrey has indicated that next winter she will be packaging the Dickens novella A Christmas Carol under the Oprah brand. It will be positioned on shelves America-wide on Black Friday, 2011.
We came away from our lunch meeting with you last week with the impression that Penguin may have some concerns regarding Ms. Winfrey’s “appropriation” of Dickens’ story. We are pleased to inform you that your concerns are unfounded and immaterial. Ms. Winfrey is richer than God plus the Devil times 10 of their underlings, and she has decided that she will own the rights to these books hitherto. As she said earlier this week, “It’s the best of times, readers.” Harpo, Inc. is confident that this move will rescue Dickens’ work from obscurity and finally put him on a par with James Frey, Christina Schwarz, &c.
Being English and therefore familiar with Dickens’ writing style, Penguin is deemed the ideal publishing house to make the textual revisions Ms. Winfrey requires before the novella can bear her brand – which, as you know, is about owning your destiny, greeting each day with awe, and using your personal GPS to construct your most you-friendly you.
Rest assured that the necessary changes to the story will in no way affect Dickens’ message about being nicer to short people on crutches, sending folks gourmet treats to make up for past indiscretions, &c. The Oprah Winfrey organization approves strongly of A Christmas Carol due to its key messaging that an enterprising capitalist can find peace through judicious generosity.
MEMO TO: Jarmelle Watkins, HARPO, INC.
FROM: Nigel Paddington-Lager, PENGUIN
We have received your letter and, to tell the truth, cannot stop laughing. Is it April Fool’s there? Surely we don’t need to remind you that Charles Dickens is one of Britain’s great literary treasures and not a fried chicken and biscuit franchise.
MEMO TO: NPL, PENGUIN
FROM: JW, HARPO
Fried chicken?! The implication of your reference is clear. Ms. Winfrey reminds you that the French fashion house Hermes famously shut its doors on her, clearly due to the color of her skin, to its everlasting regret. She is the most powerful woman in the world. You are on notice.
MEMO FROM: NPL, PENGUIN
TO: JW, HARPO
We merely meant that England’s classics cannot be bought, contrary to the relentless American zeal for commerce. No offence was intended beyond that directed toward your entire country, its citizenry and their values.
MEMO FROM: JW, HARPO
TO: NPL, PENGUIN
May I remind you that we continue to own this planet?
Ms. Winfrey requests that you put your top Olde English re-write team on the task of revising A Christmas Carol. Your first job is to change the title to The Christmas Carol, as it will indeed become The Christmas Carol after Ms. Winfrey’s stamp is placed upon it. Ms. Winfrey notes to her distress that God is largely absent from the original, despite being the major force in all our lives, and particularly hers. She would like to see Him front and centre, replacing the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and “Yet to Come,” for God is, of course, omnipotent and omnipresent in life, as He is one of the essential pillars of the Oprah Winfrey brand platform. It is no accident that Ms. Winfrey’s California estate is called The Promised Land -- while your queen’s palace seems to be named after a ham.
A number of further changes are required. The entire passage about Scrooge’s friend Jacob Marley being dead must be excised. It sets a negative tone for this uplifting story. Marley may be mentioned in passing, as “away, on a soul-quest,” perhaps on the Isle of Kent. (We’re not sure which isles you still have there.) He could also be replaced by the dog Marley, from the heartwarming book Marley & Me, but again, the dog cannot die.
In addition, Dickens calls Scrooge a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner… solitary as an oyster.” Ms. Winfrey’s enthusiasm for oysters is well known, she in fact owns several oyster dealerships, and she feels any three of the earlier adjectives would suffice without insulting mollusks or shellfish, which many Americans continue to enjoy. This is especially important as people working on the Florida coast, who comprise some of Oprah’s key demographic, contend with the loss of their livelihoods as a result of the BP oil spill. Further, toward the end of the book, Ms. Winfrey would like to see the happy, transformed Mr. Scrooge described thus -- “now as plump, succulent and pristine as a Gulf of Mexico oyster” – just before he sends the Cratchits a motherlode of fresh Gulf shrimp instead of a greasy, unappetizing goose.
Additionally, Ms. Winfrey finds Dickens’ references to workhouses, prisons, &c. heavy-handed. While she supports the poor in all their endeavors, she would like to throw the book’s support behind American troops who are serving overseas. This theme will need to develop gradually over the course of the story, with Scrooge at first rejecting the efforts of his nephew to tie a yellow ribbon on his holly bush or what have you, while wondering aloud what’s so bad about Osama bin Laden &c. Near the end, he finds out that Tiny Tom – formerly Tim -- limps because he lost a foot in Iraq. That is the point where Scrooge finally blossoms and starts knitting khaki scarves for our boys. The section where his heart “grows ten sizes that day” will feature an illustration of Scrooge with an enlarged heart, in the centre of which will be a proudly waving Stars and Stripes.
MEMO FROM: NPL, PENGUIN
TO: JW, HARPO
The final sentence of your last note suggests that you have confused Charles Dickens’ beloved masterpiece with something by your own Dr. Suet, The Grump Who Ate K-Mart, we believe it’s called.
MEMO FROM: JW, HARPO
To: NPL, PENGUIN
It’s Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but no matter. Big-heartedness is a strategic value at Harpo, Inc. This is why we have not mentioned before now that if the afore-mentioned changes are not made to the text of The Christmas Carol, Ms. Winfrey will buy your entire publishing house and sell it to Disney. Then God help you, every one.