Raises a glass to Patrick Dennis, the divine social satirist who introduced America to Auntie Mame.
If Dennis is remembered at all today, it is as the author of Auntie Mame. But in the late 1950s and early '60s, Edward Everett Tanner III (who published under the pseudonyms Patrick Dennis and Virginia Rowans) was a phenomenally popular novelist. Myers's literate, impeccably researched and entertaining biography resurrects this outrageous author of social satires who almost singlehandedly introduced "camp" into mainstream American culture. In 1955, Tanner wrote several short stories about an irreverent, fabulous woman that were turned down by 19 publishers until an editor at Vanguard Press suggested he turn them into a novel. Auntie Mame made Tanner a millionaire (during the novel's 112-week stint on the New York Times bestseller list, he became the first author to have three books on the Times list at once, when he published Guestward Ho! and The Loving Couple in 1956). Tanner was at his career peak in late 1962, when his Little Me opened on Broadway. But a week after he was profiled in Life, he attempted suicide and was committed to a mental hospital for eight months. After years of leading a double life as a gay man while married with two kids, he had fallen in love with another man and decided he had to leave his family. By the early '70s, his novels were out of fashion and he had spent (or drunk) most of the money he had made. He later reentered the milieu he'd previously enjoyed by becoming a butler to the rich and famous (including McDonald's founder Ray Kroc). The name Patrick Dennis has faded from most readers' memories, but that of Auntie Mame lives on (1998's But Darling, I'm Your Auntie Mame tracked her incarnations from book to stage to screen). So the reference to Mame in the title, along with the fetching "Playbill"-style book jacket, should compensate for Dennis's current obscurity, and help draw theater fans to this well-told tale. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Tanner saved all his composure for the page,
acid-etching each sentence and then simply giving up when his muse
wasn't responding. Tanner's personal correspondence, especially his
funny, frank letters to his children, may be the most revealing parts of the
book. He may have camped it up, but he never stooped to conquer.
New York Times Book Review
Let's hope Myers's book helps to introduce both of Tanner's immortal creations to the new fans they so richly deserve.
This is a biography we've been waiting for.
Lambda Book Report
A moving and often hilarious account of the once-popular novelist who gave the world Auntie Mame and was a pioneer in American "High Camp" literature. Dennis (christened Edward Everett Tanner III) was born in 1921 into a conservative upper-middle-class family in Evanston, Illinois. Signs that he was destined for a less conventional journey appeared early on when, to his stodgy and sotted father's dismay, he showed great interest in costume design and theater and none whatsoever for athletics. After showing real heroism in WWII as an ambulance driver, Dennis found his way to glamorous postwar Manhattan. He found work easily enough, but his first big success lay a decade away with the publication of Auntie Mame (a novelnot, despite widespread belief, a biography), which was made into a successful Broadway play and movie (both starring Rosalind Russell). Dennis enjoyed success with such subsequent works as Little Me, Genius, and Tony16 altogether and most with the same objective: skewering conventional mores and the pretentious boobs who flaunted them. He made millions, but spent or gave most of it away. After a breakdown, he confronted his homosexuality, reluctantly left his loving wife and two children, then led a rather wild and picaresque existence in Mexico and the US, finally ending up as a butler for McDonald's chairman Ray Kroc (who never knew the true identity of his model servant). Stricken with inoperable cancer in 1976, Dennis returned to his family and died at home, still much loved by them and his many friends. Film publicist Myers seeks to restore Dennis's place in literature and does so splendidly. He was given full access to family papers and interviewedasmany of Dennis's acquaintances as he could locate. He uses his research well, keeps speculation to a minimum, and, when employing psychological analyses, does so with a light touch, offering interpretations that are reasonable and believable. He also quotes generously from Dennis's extensive correspondencewhich is as amusing and scathing as his published work. A superb biography: factual, informative, andbest of allan absolute hoot. Ridgeway, Rick BELOW ANOTHER SKY: A Mountain Adventure in Search of a Lost Father Henry Holt (306 pp.) Jan. 9, 2001