Books » Book Features

Exit the King?

He's back! Elvis in words, in pictures, and in the hearts of girls.

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On August 16th, it's 25 years since you know who did you know what, and to observe (or is it cash in on?) the death of Elvis Aron (or is it Aaron?) Presley, the books keep coming, because the public keeps buying, because the publishers keep publishing. This month on the fiction front:

John Paxson writes in Elvis Live At Five (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press) about a news manager at a third-rate Dallas TV station who boosts his sagging career and his station's lousy ratings by means of a computer-generated talk show. The host: a "virtual" Elvis. Ratings soar. And what's better, advertising soars. And what's more (and worse?), "Elvis" beats out Oprah herself to become "a force of unimaginable power over the American public." Paxson is described as "Vice President, Europe" on the book's jacket, when what he is is bureau chief for CBS News in London, overseeing coverage of events in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, so who better to know something about global domination? And speaking of ... This warning: "This book has not been authorized, endorsed, approved, or sponsored by the heirs, estate, or successors of Elvis Presley." "Successors"?

No such warning (because there's no real interest?) attached to Pink Cadillac (Coral Press) or, as its press release boldly retitles it, Pink Caddilac by Robert Dunn, a novel that, again according to the press release, "seeks to resolve one of the greatest mysteries of rock 'n' roll." And that great mystery is: the whereabouts of a record called "Pink Cadillac," which everybody claims to have heard but no one's seen. (The search should instead be for the song's true title, "Pink Caddilac"?) Elvis figures here, so too Memphis in the '50s, in a story that "moves beyond mystery and tragedy to a redemption that recaptures joy even in the shadow of death." And there's that word again, for the umpteenth time in the hands of the umpteenth publicist: "redemption." Figures.

On the nonfiction front:

More bizarreness, in the form of The Tao Of Elvis (Harvest Books/Harcourt) by David Rosen, a psychiatrist, a Jungian analyst, and the first author ever to offer words of wisdom from your favorites: Deng Ming-Dao, Kwan Saihung, Chuang Tzu, Tung Su-Ching, Li Hsi-Chai, Wang P'ang, Tung-Pin Lu, Ho-Shang Kung, and Ts'ao Tao-Chung'ung, plus some two cents thrown in from Ann-Margret, William Shakespeare, Geraldine Kyle ("Good friend of Elvis's stepmother Dee Stanley"), Mahatma Gandhi, David Halberstam, Lowell Hays ("Elvis's Memphis jeweler"), Oscar Wilde, Walt Doxey ("High school boxing coach"), Mack Gurley ("Longstanding friend, who picked up Elvis hitchhiking in 1950"), Ludwig van Beethoven, Louie Ludwig (author of The Gospel Of Elvis), Clarissa Pinkola Estés (author of the important study "Elvis Presley: Famá and the Cultus Of the Dying God"), and Jo Smith ("Wife of Elvis's cousin Billy, recalling Elvis's reaction to being called 'fat' by a rude woman at a theater in 1975"). No statement from Graceland®, thank God (Elvis).

Enough with words. Don't see:

A picture book (with audio CD of Elvis interviews) called Elvis: The King Remembered (Sports Publishing L.L.C.) by Susan M. Moyer, an ugly little volume of standard Elvis photos together with shots of impersonators and fans, shots that are apparently NOT under the strict control of Elvis Presley Enterprises BECAUSE of their rank amateurishness. The book sells for an astounding $39.95, which is a lot to pay to learn (page 128): "The hair colors of choice for Elvis impersonators (reportedly the color Elvis used): Lady Clairol blue-black or L'Oreal Excellence blue-black." So see:

A picture book (handsomely slipcased and containing reproduced, removable Elvis documents) called The Elvis Treasures. The biographical text is by Memphian Robert Gordon, the photos are from the Graceland archives, the audio CD is of Elvis interviews from 1953 to 1972, and those documents -- a letter from G.I. Elvis to his girlfriend Anita Wood in Memphis; an RCA Victor recording contract; rare publicity photos; concert ticket stubs; telegrams of condolence to Vernon Presley from the likes of June and Johnny Cash, Governor George Wallace, and Isaac Hayes; the contents of Elvis' wallet (including his Tennessee driver's license, Social Security card); and more -- are state-of-the-art print duplicates. The price of the book is 50 bucks, and its great design is reason why. Same price, same reason:

A picture book called Elvis: A Celebration (DK Publishing) by Mike Evans, which weighs in at over 600 coffee-table-size pages. Short on introductory text but long on annotations, the book is a collaborative effort with the Elvis Presley Estate, and Evans knows exactly how to pick 'em: One glance at the full-page photos dating from 1953, when Elvis Presley went from serious adolescent to serious rocker, and maybe you too can believe in some force of unimaginable power over the American public and, this month, publishers too. -- Leonard Gill

David Rosen will be signing The Tao Of Elvis at a multimedia presentation at the Memphis Botanic Garden, Hardin Hall, Thursday, August 16th, 7 p.m. $15.

I've never been a very big Elvis fan. And then I read Kim Adelman's The Girls' Guide To Elvis (Broadway Books). Granted, I still won't willingly pop "Heartbreak Hotel" into my CD player during an afternoon drive, but I do feel much more connected to the King.

The Girls' Guide To Elvis is filled with interesting facts about Elvis, including some that you never wanted to know. For example, did you know Elvis was once injected with the urine of a pregnant woman as part of a fad diet? Or did you know he was uncircumcised? Or have you heard about the time he went to a car dealership, squeezed grape juice on the hood of a car, and requested it be painted that exact color?

Adelman's 200-page guide offers all this and more. She manages to paint the King's life by blending these small details with more well-known information to provide an all-around portrait of that hunka hunka burnin' love.

Based on a Web site of the same name (GirlsGuidetoElvis.com), the book is 18 chapters of Elvis-related topics slanted to be of interest to the average female fan. From his hair to clothes to sex life, the book covers all the bases.

It's also filled with interviews from those who knew Elvis well, such as Larry Geller, his personal hairdresser, as well as Q & A sessions with experts on all things Elvis, including Karal Ann Marling, an authority on Graceland's decor.

The chapter on Elvis' weight even offers low-fat recipes of his favorite foods, information Elvis could have used in his later years. For example, Adelman takes a grease-filled cheeseburger recipe worth 122.5 grams of fat and reduces it to eight grams using low-fat ingredients. Unfortunately, the low-fat and fat-free versions of their high-fat counterparts didn't exist during the King's lifetime.

Another chapter highlights what it was like to date Elvis, and several of his past dates talk of their experiences. And what good would a chapter on Elvis' dating habits be without another chapter on Elvis' sex life? According to a couple of interviewees, it seems that not everything about the King was King-sized, but no matter -- the guide also goes into detail about Elvis' girlfriends on the side. To sum up: What a player!

Adelman also dedicates a whole chapter to Elvis on film, including his salaries for several movies as well as a film timeline going from Love Me Tender to 1973's Elvis On Tour. He made up to three movies a year for eight years straight.

My favorite chapter, appropriately titled "La Vida Loca," is chock-full of strange facts that wouldn't fit anywhere else. It's made up of anecdotes regarding everything from Elvis' obsession with obtaining a federal narcotics badge to the day he bought 13 Cadillacs.

The only thing this book lacks is a discography. I guess his old-school fans already have this information memorized, but new fans like me could use a little guidance.

Otherwise, I absolutely loved The Girls' Guide To Elvis, and I think every girl should own a copy. If you're not an Elvis fan now, I guarantee you will be by the book's end. -- Bianca Phillips

Kim Adelman will be signing The Girls' Guide To Elvis at Davis-Kidd Booksellers Wednesday, August 14th, 6:30 p.m.

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