Over the course of twenty years, Edward Everett Tanner III (under that more commonly-known pseudonym of Patrick Dennis, and under his other alter ego of Virginia Rowans) produced sixteen sharp and satiric novels. 3D would be his last; disheartened by feeling out-of-step with the publishing industry and the post free-love era of the early nineteen-seventies, 3D had scarcely hit the shelves than its author had withdrawn from friends and family, changed his identity yet again, and spent the rest of his days as a butler to the extremely wealthy.
It's a shame that 3D was the last Patrick Dennis book—it's a fun novel. It's only old-fashioned in a very classic sense; it bases its story of a happily-wed couple both falling blindly in love with a beautiful (but deeply stupid) young man on the same trope as A Midsummer Night's Dream, in which a lord of mischief (here, the couple's unambiguously sexual uncle stands in for Puck) temporarily blinds its lovers with temptation and folly, which after a time of topsy-turvy vanishes and is forgotten like a confusing and bad dream. The theme's updated in the context of the swinging seventies, and although the novel is a little less frenetic than many of other Dennis works, it's surprisingly insightful. Like Paradise before it, with its uncanny foresight into the future of American television, 3D anticipates more vividly a vision of human sexuality that's more amorphous and free-flowing than most accepted at the time, but which seems positively at home in today's society.
Dennis was a gay man who married traditionally and fought the demons of his own sexuality through traditional psychiatry. Buried within 3D's many sharp comic portraits is one of a Hungarian psychologist, a vile and craven charlatan who studied with (and was hated by) both Freud and Jung, whose attempts to cure a confused husband of his feelings for another man are ludicrously unhelpful. It's comforting to think that the late-in-life Dennis used his satiric skills to get a little back at a profession that not only had institutionalized him but had forced him into shock treatment therapy for depression related to his same-sex desires. Certainly it’s there that the novel sports most of its teeth.
But the book is sweetly funny from beginning to end, and Dennis is obviously enjoying himself. The pretty, dumb, unreflective character of Davey is particularly well-done, and once again Dennis employs the streets and sounds of his beloved Mexico to enliven the book's proceedings. It's probably the subtlest of all his offerings, and for that reason alone shouldn't be skipped.
First Edition - Hard Cover
Used in great condition
Donated by Larry Lingle - Lobo Books