Auntie Mame is outlandish and outdated

Auntie Mame and her nephewPatrick Dennis  subtitled Auntie Mame “an irreverent escapade.” It’s actually a series of escapades rather than a true novel.

The escapades are loosely tied together by comparing Mame to the stereotypical Reader’s Digest “My Most Unforgettable Character.”


Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade By Patrick Dennis [Edward Everett Tanner III]

This edition: Broadway Books,  2001, Intro. by Paul Rudnick, Afterward by Michael Tanner. 299 pages. 1955 bestseller #2, 1956 bestseller #4. My Grade: C-.


At his father’s death, motherless Patrick Dennis, 10, becomes the ward of his father’s sister, Mame.

Mame and Patrick hit it off immediately: They are approximately the same mental age.

Auntie Mame is a hold-over from the Jazz Age complete with cigarette holder, well-stocked liquor cabinet, and tastes for anything that would shock folks in Des Moines.

Mame has no sense, but her heart is in the right place.

She stands up against anti-Jewish practices and gives a home to six Cockney refugees more terrifying than the Blitz.

Mame might well have been the narrator’s most unforgettable character—she was his relative after all—but she’s someone most folks would rather not remember and certainly wouldn’t wish to admit was related to them.

Auntie Mame might have been as wildly funny in 1955 as the reviewers said, but it’s a sad bit of nonsense now, destined to be landfilled with all those thousands of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books that nobody has been able to give away since 1997.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Photo: Detail from cover of  Auntie Mame, Broadway Books edition, 2001.

Around the World with Auntie Mame Is a Bad Trip

Patrick Dennis won instant celebrity in 1955 with his first novel Auntie Mame. Three years laster, he cashed in on his success with its prequel: Around the World with Auntie Mame.

In this novel, Patrick recalls his 1937 trip with his flamboyant aunt. Patrick tells his wife a sanitized version of the trip. Readers learn what really happened.

In 1937, Mame was filthy rich, knew everyone, and was ready to do anything that was not boring, especially if it involved sexy men and stiff drinks. Patrick was 18 and mature for his age—but then, almost anyone of any age seems mature compared to Mame.

Patrick and Mame met cons and kooks from Paris to Singapore. Between them, they defeated scam artists, punctured pretenders, and deflated windbags.

The novel is broad farce, sprinkled with sophomoric humor. Example: The Austrian castle when Nazis train is Schloss Stinkenbach.

Many of the allusions are dated. Dennis’ attempts to reproduce accents becomes irritation very quickly, too.

As to characterization, the roles of Mame and Patrick could be played by Miss Piggy and Kermit.

The highlight of the novel for me was the name of the woman Mame hires to get her introduced at court in England: Lady Gravell-Pitt. Now that’s funny.

Around the World with Auntie Mame
by Patrick Dennis (pen name of Edward Everett Tanner III)
Harcourt, Brace, 1958
286 pages
1958 Bestseller #4
My Grade: D+
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni