About Auntie Mame
Originally posted on Goodreads- March 9, 2010
A quick preface: I’m never sure if including comments on books read in the distant past is strictly kosher on this list. Seen one way, including these books seems a pathetic attempt to build my public shelf. Seen another way, including them seems a perfect way to introduce to others material no longer in the public popular eye but still a wonderful reading experience. Until someone tells me to “shut up”, I am going to continue to add the odd personal blast from the past as seems useful to do so.
That said, I must now confess that I don’t remember if I saw the movie with Rosalind Russell before I read the book, or vice-versa. No matter, the actress and the book are wed together in my mind for all eternity. Even given the wonderful performance in the musical, Mame, given by Angela Lansbury, Rosalind Russell is the visual personification of Mame Dennis that leaps to mind every time I re-read the book.
I was fifteen, when I first read/saw it. I am not overstating that it was a spiritual revelation and comfort to a self-identity that was emerging as “queer.” To this day, I have no real idea as to why it was a “revelation”.
Maybe it was the larger than life personality of Mame Dennis, as painted by the author. Maybe it was the hint of something more intellectually and experientially sophisticated beyond my barely middle-class Chicago roots. Maybe it was the freedom of “Be-ing” that Mame and her friends had that gave me the hope that the grayness of my young closest was not the only color in the world.
Whatever it was, I love this book, and with the single exception of Lucille Ball’s movie version, which plays like a bad drag act by an aging queen, I’ve loved every re-incarnation of the Mame character.
The largest reason is because of how she was written on the page, originally. Patrick Dennis, aka Edward Everett Tanner III, was a man of wit and imagination (Mame Dennis is not real). It shows on every page of this classic novel of manners among the sophisticates during the twenties, and forward, of the twentieth century.