Sunday, May 23, 2010
"Return of the King" by Gillian G. Gaar
Elvis Presley = sadness. It is truly the most depressing story of an icon music legend. On one level one would think Elvis was just dumb, but also he was a man who had the moment and the time (1950's) and he was sort of the force that got us over to the 1960's. The concept of Elvis is genius, but the life that is Elvis is not genius, but rather pathetic or someone caught is a strange depressive state of mind and body.
"Return of the King" is a well written researched book that focuses on Elvis' comeback years that quickly turned into a march to death. The great bio on Elvis is the two volume set by Peter Guralnick, and all others are just a shadow to that particular biography. Saying that, this is a very good book, but it has been said before, so there is really nothing new regarding Elvis and his world.
But for sure, anything on Elvis, one has to talk about Memphis and its culture. The Southern (gothic) culture basically made Elvis, and you can sort of see his world via the images of the great Southern photographer William Egglestion. Roughly both men are in the same generation, but it is interesting to see how outside influences such as the Southern family and settings can make a person tick. The big picture of Elvis is not his sad life, but how is life is part of a bigger puzzle that is the 20th Century South.
Elvis is fascinating in so many ways. A man who wore pink pants and eye make-up in his teenage years, and who adopted black culture as well as country music to make a hybrid sound - or a Frankenstein monster in a sense. Gillian Gaar is good with the facts, but there is no real analysis with those facts. She interviews all the key players but none can penetrate the Elvis wall. And I think even Elvis couldn't penetrate that wall.
So yeah if you are a Elvis fanatic this is a good book. But it has all been said in the Guralnick bio - but then again, like a car accident repeated in front of your eyes again and again, its hard to look the other way.
Also I want to note that the publisher Jaw Bone is fantastic. They don't do poorly designed books, and "Return of the King" is a beautiful production. Great cover, thick pages, nice photos - the whole package is great.