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Patrick Dennis: One of Those People You Should Realize Is Awesome

Literary Blog Hop

For those unaware, the Literary Blog Hop is fricking awesome. The topic for this week is "Talk about one author that you love and why his or her writing is unique. Please be specific."

All right. I thought this might be hard, but the second after I read it, the name ‘Patrick Dennis’ popped into my head.

Patrick Dennis is awesome.

He wrote primarily in the ‘50s, and the only thing of his most people have heard of is Auntie Mame, more properly Auntie Mame, An Irreverent Escapade. It is both right and proper that that’s what they’ve heard of, because it’s almost definitely his best novel. His others are rather difficult to find nowadays. Auntie Mame’s survived because 1) it is awesome, and 2) it was made into a movie AND a musical, so people continue to be interested in it. It’s the story of a young boy whose father dies and he goes to live with his highly eccentric, wealthy aunt.

Dennis has been likened to Dickens in his writing style NOT because he’s overly verbose, but because of the level of detail included in his writing. And it’s period detail. Footnotes in his books actually would be helpful because of all the ‘50s cultural references made, fashion designers mentioned and slang used. But they’re immensely readable books. The three that I’ve read have all been episodic, so if you want to go back to them later you can flip around if you want.

Early-in-the-book example:

Such a room might have depressed most people, but not Auntie Mame. She was as cheerful as a bird. In fact she looked rather like a bird in her bed jacket made of pink ostrich feathers. She was reading Gide’s Les Faux-Monnayeurs and smoking Melachrino cigarettes through a long amber holder.

He captures the female voice extreeeemely well. I could make some stupid comment about this possibly being because he was bisexual, but I shall not go there. No! This blog shall have only immensely unstupid comments. Remember when I likened the Brontes to sea turtles? Yeah. Stuff of such ponderous weight even Joyce would collapse under it.

She was in her big gold bed sticking pins into a war map of Europe when I floated up the stairs.

“Is that you, my little love?” she called.

“Yes, Auntie Mame,” I said, peering in. “Are you awake?”

“Of course not, darling,” she said, “it’s my custom to sleep sitting bolt upright with a map in my lap and all the lights burning. It’s so Napoleonic.”

And finally, one of the most oft-quoted lines:
Morning, I soon discovered, was one o’clock for Auntie Mame. Early Morning was eleven, and the Middle of the Night was nine.

I’m not good at all at dissecting a literary voice, but I do know that Patrick Dennis has a distinctive one, and it’s one of my favorites. Auntie Mame might be my favorite book. And its competitors are things like Bleak House, Gone With the Wind, The Lorax…you know, deep things. Not to get all sentimental, but Auntie Mame comes down to being a love story, because for all her eccentricities, Auntie Mame really, really loves Patrick (yes, the main character’s name is Patrick Dennis), and he very much loves her.

So this really comes down to being a recommendation of the book (and movie, which is almost as good) Auntie Mame. But I do think Patrick Dennis needs more recognition as an author. He’s fantastic.



  1. Oh how I loved Auntie Mame when I read the book years ago. So lovable, eccentric and sheer fun. I haven't read any other book by Patrick Dennis, not even the sequel to Auntie Mame. He seems to be sadly underrated. I'm glad you wrote about him.

  2. @CHE Ah! the sequel's great. It actually takes place in the middle of the first one (I think Patrick graduates from high school or college and she takes him to Europe). Totally worth reading.

  3. I've never heard of this guy, but he sounds wicked awesome. I especially love that oft-quoted line.
    Also, I love your blog name and your blog in general. You are hilarious.

  4. @Christina Hurray! A co-worker thought of the name and then facebook voted it so.

    He's really great. Auntie Mame and Around the World with Auntie Mame should both be read.

  5. You know, I love the musical with Lucille Ball, but I didn't even know it was a book! I assumed it was originally a screenplay-turned-musical. This is good to know.. I'll definitely check out the book, now! I love discovering things like this. Like when I found out Harold & Maude (the movie) was based on a book, too - LOVE! Thanks. :) The author I chose has books that were made into movies, too... but both the books and movies are pretty disturbing, for the most part. Disturbing, but genius!


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