The little literary portrait is fascinating because within five years, Patrick Dennis decided that his brand of comic fiction was out-of-date and unpopular, and as he was in need of a salary, he decided to retire from writing and become a butler—and he did so by using forged credentials and never letting on to his employers that he had a checkered life as a best-selling author. One of his employers was Ray Kroc, the self-made billionaire. Throughout his mystifying career change, Edwards the Butler never let slip that behind his cool and impassive exterior lay all manner of cynical impertinence.
It's really a shame that Eric Myers, in his biography of Dennis, dismisses How Firm a Foundation as second-rate work. It's not. The author's satire is as sharp as ever, his immense cast of characters is deftly chosen and shaded, and his incredulity of what people would do to to make—or save—a buck creates and abundance of laugh-out-loud funny situations.
True, the book does have a couple of weak points. Its premise of collecting a large cast of zanies and having the U.S. government force them into making an art film seems recycled from Genius. And Dennis seems a little confused about how a non-profit foundation actually works, at some points (taxpayers don't pay for their electricity bills, certainly).Minor detractions aside, if one likes the sort of thing Dennis writes, this is the sort of Dennis book that one will like.
And watch out for that butler. They're a tricky breed, as Dennis would himself prove.
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