"Elvis, or the Ironies of a Southern Identity"

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"Elvis, or the Ironies of a Southern Identity"

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This essay, by Linda Ray Pratt, originally appeared in issue 18 of the Southern Quarterly. It has been much anthologized ever since, because it is simply one of the best essays ever written about Elvis. I consider this required reading. Due to its length, I'll be posting it in two parts.
ELVIS, OR THE IRONIES OF A SOUTHERN IDENTITY
by Linda Ray Pratt

Elvis was the most popular entertainer in the world, but nowhere as popular as in his native South. In the last years of his career, his audience in other parts of the country was generally centered in the original "fifties" fans whose youth and music were defined by Elvis, and in the lower or working class people who saw in Elvis some glamorized image of their own values, In the South, however, the pattern of Elvis's popularity tended to cut across age barriers and class lines which were themselves a less recognizable thing in a region in which almost no one is more than a generation or two away from poverty, and where "class" in small communities might have more to do with family and past status than with money. Among Southern youth, Elvis was not a relic from a musical past; he was still one of the vital forces behind a Southern rock, which though different now from his, still echoes the rhythms which his music had fused out of the region. His numerous concerts in the South could not exhaust the potential audience. At his death, leading politicians and ministers from the South joined the people on the street in eulogizing him. Local radio and television stations ran their own specials in addition to the syndicated or national programs. Halftime ceremonies at the Liberty Bowl were in tribute to him. When someone commented on national TV that the Presleys were "white trash," it was a regional slur, not just a personal one. The white South expressed love, grief, and praise for Elvis from all age groups at virtually every level of the social, intellectual, and economic structures.

The phenomenon of such widespread sectional regard and emotional intensity went beyond the South's usual pride in the success of "one of our own." The emotion became more puzzling if one listened to some of the reasons offered to explain it: Elvis loved his mother; Elvis's heart was broken; Elvis loved Jesus; Elvis was the American Dream. Such reasons for loving and mourning Elvis seemed strange because, on the surface at least, they were so tangential to Elvis himself or to the musical or cultural impact he unquestionably did have. How, in the face of his vitality and defiance of convention, could one love Elvis because he loved Jesus? And how, in a man expressing nothing if not undisguised sexuality, could one love Elvis because he was so good to his mother? But people, especially those beyond the age group of his original teen fans, often did say such things. Merle Haggard's "From Graceland to the Promised Land," with its emphasis on Elvis's mother's death and his faith in Jesus, is, after all, the perfect Southern folk song about Elvis. The South's involvement with Elvis is sincere, but most of the expressed reasons for it do not reach very far, and some of them seem patently false. They are the myths sent up to justify the emotion and to obscure its source. The emotions spring from associations with a reality the South collectively prefers to conceal and yet constantly experiences. The paradox of Elvis was that he was able simultaneously to reveal the reality of the modern South while concealing it in a myth of the American Dream. He was at once both "King" and outsider.

The myth of Elvis which the South voices is in part very familiar. He is the sharecropper’s son who made millions, the Horatio Alger story in drawl. Almost everyone who knew him assured us that, despite the money and fame, "he never changed" (no one remarks how tragic such a static condition would be, were it possible). He never got over his mother's death (in 1958); he was humble and polite; he doted on his little girl; he loved his home town; he never forgot where he came from. He had wealth, yes; but in the tradition of those who love Jesus, he was uncomfortable with riches when others were poor and so gave millions of dollars away to the less fortunate. The American success story turned to altruism. Even his money was not tainted, just dollars freely given in exchange for entertainment so good it always seemed a bargain. Unlike some others whose success was a ticket out of the South and into the broader, happier American identity, Elvis remained in Memphis. His regional loyalty when he could have lived anywhere deeply complimented the South. Graceland was a new image of the Southern plantation, this time free from associations with slavery and a guilt-ridden past. The very gates had musical notes on them. He was a good boy and a good ole boy. Elvis himself seemed to believe this vision; certainly he played to it in his "family" movies, his sacred music, and in his “American Trilogy" dominated by "Dixie." It was a sentimental myth, but, then, W. J. Cash has called Southerners "the most sentimental people in history" (The Mind of the South, p. 130).

Elvis's fame initially grew out of an image in opposition to the one the myth attempts to disguise. He was scandalous, sexual, defiant of all authority. He was preached against from the pulpit as an immoral force. In a blackboard jungle, he was the juvenile delinquent. On the streets, he was a hood. Socially, he was a "greaser." Economically, he was "poor white," a gentler rendition of "white trash." Maybe he loved Jesus, but even his Christmas songs could be dirty. In songs like "Santa Claus Is Back In Town" he played with the conventions of Christmas music in order to startle and subvert.

This image of Elvis, the rocker with "a dirty, dirty feeling," "born standing up and talking back," never fully disappeared. His last few movies, like a lot of the lyrics he improvised in concert, were sprinkled with off-color jokes and plays on words. His 1976 image was as excessive and extravagant as his 1956 image, though not in the same ways. The violence still flowed out of the karate movements, the sexuality in such songs as "Burning Love." In concert, his emotional passion sometimes transfigured such schmaltzy songs of lost love and broken hearts as "Hurt" or "You Gave Me a Mountain" into rich autobiographical moments. Even the obscene subversion of Christmas showed up again in “Merry Christmas, Baby.”

The Elvis of the sentimental myth would never have changed musical or cultural history, but the authentic Elvis who did so was transformed into a legend obscuring what the man, the music, or the image really meant. Although some elements of the myth were commonly associated with Elvis throughout the country, in the South—particularly the white South—the myth was insisted upon and pushed to its extremes. The question is why. Jimmy Carter loves his mother and Jesus, too, but the South has not rewarded him with uncritical devotion. The real Elvis, both early and late, might have been severely criticized, but even his drug-involved death is called a "heart attack," the ten drugs the autopsy found in his body merely the "prescription medicines" of a sick and heartbroken man who kept pushing himself because he did not want to disappoint the fans. Those who have argued that people projected onto Elvis anything they liked because his image was essentially vacuous are mistaken; if anything, the image is too rich in suggestion to be acknowledged fully or directly.

Some critics attribute the sentimental myth of Elvis to the cleverness of Colonel Parker and the cooperation of Elvis himself. To do so is to oversimplify a complex phenomenon and to misread a generation's genuine mythmaking as merely another shrewd "sell" campaign. For anyone less significant than Elvis, the path that Colonel Parker apparently advised by way of numbingly stupid movies and empty music would have been the path to sure oblivion. The 1968 Black Leather television special saved Elvis from that, but allegedly against the advice of Parker, who wanted the show to be all Christmas music. Elvis, pursued by the myth and under pressure to confirm it, kept to himself and never told the public anything. The Colonel was smart enough to promote the myth, but it was the authentic handiwork of a society that needed a legend to justify the identification it felt with such a figure. After Elvis died, the Brentwood, Tennessee, Historical Society even supplied the Presley genealogy. The family was, of course, completely respectable, producing "renowned professors, doctors, judges, ministers" in every generation until poverty overcame them during Reconstruction.

C. Vann Woodward has said that the South's experience is atypical of the American experience, that where the rest of America has known innocence, success, affluence, and an abstract and disconnected sense of place, the South has known guilt, poverty, failure, and a concrete sense of roots and place ("The Search for Southern Identity" in The Burden of Southern History). These myths collide in Elvis. His American success story was always acted out within its Southern limitations. No matter how successful Elvis became in terms of fame and money, he remained fundamentally disreputable in the minds of many Americans. Elvis had rooms full of gold records earned by million-copy sales, but his best rock and roll records were not formally honored by the people who control, if not the public taste, the rewarding of the public taste. Perhaps this is always the fate of innovators; awards are created long after the form is created. His movies made millions but could not be defended on artistic grounds. The New York Times view of his fans was "the men favoring leisure suits and sideburns, the women beehive hairdos, purple eyelids and tight stretch pants" (New York Times story by Wayne King, 8 Jan. 1978). Molly Ivins, trying to explain in The New York Times the crush of people and "genuine emotion" in Memphis when Elvis died would conclude, "It is not required that love be in impeccable taste." Later, in the year after his death, Mike Royko would sarcastically suggest that Elvis's body and effects be sent to Egypt in exchange for the King Tut exhibit. ("So in terms of sheer popularity, no other American dead body can stand up to Presley's.") The "Doonesbury" cartoon strip would see fit to run a two-weeks sequence in which "Boopsie" would go visit Elvis's grave. Her boyfriend puts her down with, "2,000,000 necrophiliacs can't be wrong." Elvis's sheer commercial value commanded respect, but no amount of success could dispel the aura of strangeness about him. He remained an outsider in the American culture that adopted his music, his long hair, his unconventional clothes, and his freedom of sexual movement.

Although he was the world's most popular entertainer, to like Elvis a lot was suspect, a lapse of taste. It put one in beehives and leisure suits, in company with "necrophiliacs" and other weird sorts. The inability of Elvis to transcend his lack of reputability despite a history-making success story confirms the Southern sense that the world outside thinks Southerners are freaks, illiterates, Snopeses, sexual perverts, lynchers. I cannot call this sense a Southern "paranoia" because ten years outside the South has all too often confirmed the frequency with which non-Southerners express such views. Not even the presidency would free LBJ and Jimmy Carter from such ridicule. At the very moment in which Southerners proclaim most vehemently the specialness of Elvis, the greatness of his success, they understand it to mean that no Southern success story can ever be sufficient to satisfy a suspicious America.

And Elvis was truly different, in all those tacky Southern ways one is supposed to rise above with money and sophistication. He was a pork chops and brown gravy man. He liked peanut butter and banana sandwiches. He had too many cars, and they were too pink. He liked guns, and capes, and a Venus de Milo water fountain in the entry at Graceland. I once heard about 1958 that he had painted the ceiling at Graceland dark blue with little silver stars that twinkled in the dark. His taste never improved, and he never recanted anything. He was the sharecropper's son in the big house, and it always showed.

Compounding his case was the fact that Elvis didn't always appear fully white. Not sounding white was his first problem, and white radio stations were initially reluctant to play his records. Not to be clearly white was dangerous because it undermined the black-white rigidities of a segregated society, and to blur those definitions was to reveal the falseness at the core of segregation. Racial ambiguity is both the internal moral condemnation and the social destruction of a racist society which can only pretend to justify itself by abiding by its own taboos. Yet all Southerners know, despite the sternest Jim Crow laws, that more than two hundred years of racial mixing has left many a Southerner racially ambiguous. White Southerners admit only the reality of blacks who have some white blood, but, of course, the knife cuts both ways. Joe Christmas and Charles Bon. Désirée's Baby. In most pictures, Elvis might resemble a blue-eyed Adonis, but in some of those early black and white photographs, his eyes sultry, nostrils flared, lips sullen, he looked just that—black and white. And he dressed like blacks. His early wardrobe came from Lansky Brothers in Memphis. Maybe truck drivers wore greasy hair and long sideburns, but only the blacks were wearing zoot suits and pegged pants with pink darts in them. Country singers might sequin cactus and saddles on satin shirts, Marty Robbins would put a pink carnation on a white sport coat, and Johnny Cash would be the man in black. Only Elvis would wear a pink sport coat with a black velvet collar. "The Memphis Flash," he was sometimes called.
End of Part One. Part Two is directly below.
Last edited by Revelator on Fri Feb 19, 2010 5:14 am, edited 1 time in total.


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Re: "Elvis, or the Ironies of a Southern Identity"

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Part 02:
The music was the obvious racial ambiguity. Elvis's use of black styles and black music angered many Southern blacks who resented the success he won with music that black artists had originated but could not sell beyond the "race record" market of a segregated commercial world. In interviews today, these black blues musicians usually say that Elvis stole everything from them, an understandable complaint but one that nevertheless ignores his fusion of black music with white country to create a genuinely new sound. He was the Hillbilly Cat singing "Blue Moon of Kentucky" and "That's All Right (Mama)." Elvis's role in fusing the native music of poor Southern whites and poor Southern blacks into rock and roll is the best known aspect of his career and his greatest accomplishment.

Students of rock always stress this early music, but the sentimental myth gives it less attention, though the records always sold better in the South than in any other region. The music in the myth is more often the love ballads and the Protestant hymns. Yet the music that was in reality most important to Southerners was the music most closely tied to Southern origins. Elvis himself seemed to understand this; compare, for example, his 1974 concert album from Memphis's Mid-South Coliseum (the "Graceland" album) with any other concert album. The music I remember hearing most was music like "Mystery Train," "One Night," "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," "Heartbreak Hotel," "Peace in the Valley," "Blue Christmas," and "American Trilogy." For Southerners, this fusion of "Dixie," "All My Trials," and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" has nothing to do with the rest of America, although its popularity around the country suggests that other Americans do relate it to their own history. The trilogy seems to capture Southern history through the changes of the civil rights movement and the awareness of black suffering which had hitherto largely been excluded from popular white images of Southern history. The piece could not have emerged before the seventies because only then had the "marching" brought a glimmer of hope. Even Elvis could not have sung this trilogy in New York's Madison Square Garden before there was some reason for pride and hope in the South. Elvis was right to make the song his; it is an appropriate musical history from one whose music moved always in the fused racial experiences of the region's oppressed. Rock and roll, taking inside it rhythm and blues and country, was the rhythm of Southern life, Southern problems, and Southern hopes. It is not coincidence that rock and roll emerged almost simultaneously with the civil rights movement, that both challenged the existing authority, and that both were forces for "integration."

The most stunning quality about Elvis and the music was the sexuality, yet the sentimental myth veers away from this disturbing complexity into the harmlessly romantic. Elvis might be "nice looking" or "cute" or perhaps "sexy," but not sexual. The sexuality he projected was complicated because it combined characteristics and appeals traditionally associated with both males and females. On one hand, he projected masculine aggression and an image of abandoned pleasure, illicit thrills, back alley liaisons and, on the other hand, a quality of tenderness, vulnerability, and romantic emotion. Andy Warhol captured something of this diversified sexuality in his portrait of Elvis, caught in a threatening stance with a gun in his hand but with the face softened in tone and line. The image made Elvis the perfect lover by combining the most appealing of male and female characteristics and satisfying both the physical desire for sensual excitement and the emotional need for loving tenderness. The music echoed the physical pleasure in rhythm and the emotional need in lyrics that said "Love Me," "Love Me Tender," "Don't," "I Want You I Need You I Love You," and "Don't Be Cruel." Unlike many later rock stars whose music would voice an assault on women, Elvis's music usually portrayed an emotional vulnerability to what women could do to him, as well as what he could do for them. When the public's notion of his heartbroken private life confirmed this sense of vulnerability, the image took on renewed power. Despite the evidence in the music or the long hair and lashes and full, rounded features, most Elvis fans would deny that his appeal is vaguely androgynous. Many male and female fans talk about Elvis as an ideal male image but would probably find it threatening to traditions of sexual identity to admit that the ideal male figure might indeed combine traditional male characteristics with some which are freely admitted only in women. In the South where sex roles are bound up with the remnants of a chivalric "way of life," open sexuality was allowable only in the "mysterious" lives of blacks, and permissible sexual traits in whites were rigidly categorized by sex. But the image of Elvis goes behind these stereotypes to some ideal of sexuality that combines the most attractive elements in each of them.

Women's sexual imaginations of Elvis have rarely been openly expressed, in part because women weren't supposed to have any explicit sexual fantasies and in part because those who did were perhaps least likely, because of the cultural and regional prohibitions, to admit them. Despite the mass of published material about Elvis, almost nothing of a serious nature by women has been printed. One remarkable exception is a short story by Julie Hecht, "I Want You I Need You I Love You" in Harper's (May 1978). Hecht's story makes the only serious effort I have seen to reveal those characteristics which gave Elvis's sexual appeal such complexity and power. The woman in the story remembers first imagining his kiss when she was twelve and didn't know what came after the kiss. Twenty years later in her fantasy of August 1977, she is able to "save" Elvis's life by getting him on a good health food diet. They become "best of friends," and she has her moment of tenderness: "I did get to touch him. I touched his hands, I touched his face, we hugged, we kissed, I kissed his hands, I kissed his face, I touched his face, I touched his arms, I touched his eyes, I touched his hair, I saw his smile, I heard his voice, I saw him move, I heard him laugh, I heard him sing" (Harper's, p. 67). This passage illustrates the obsessive physical attraction that combined with the illusion that Elvis was really sweet, tender, and in need of loving care. Seeing or hearing Elvis was never enough; one had to try to touch him. In life, such fans tore at his clothes and his person; in death, they visit his grave. Does any woman really care whether or not Elvis loved his mother or Jesus? But I never met a female fan who did not detest Priscilla. "Somebody ought to put a bullet through her," a pleasant faced middle- aged saleswoman in a bookstore once told me.

Elvis said he grew sideburns because he wanted to look like truck drivers, and many such men would later want to look like him. One important element in Elvis's sexual appeal for men seemed to be the acting out of the role of the "hood" who got the girl, won the fight, and rose above all the economic powerlessness of real hoods. Men who because of class and economic binds knew their own limitations seemed especially attracted to this aspect of the image. They wore their hair like his, affected his mannerisms, sang with his records. Men too sophisticated to betray themselves in such overt ways betrayed themselves in other ways. I remember a highly educated man rhapsodizing about how phallic the black leather suit was that Elvis wore in his 1968 television appearance. When Elvis aged and put on weight, men were his cruelest detractors. They seemed to take his appearance as a personal offense.

Beyond the money, the power, the fame, there was always at some level this aspect Of Elvis, the American Dream in its Southern variation. Like other great Southern artists, Elvis revealed those characteristics of our culture which we know better than outsiders to be part of the truth. In Elvis was also the South that is bizarre, or violent, or darkly mysterious, the South called the grotesque in Faulkner or O'Connor. Perhaps this is why a book like Elvis: What Happened? could not damage the appeal. The hidden terrors, pain, and excesses of the private life which the book reveals, despite its mean-spirited distortions, only make the image more compelling in its familiarity. Even his drug problem had a familiar Southern accent—prescription medicines, cough syrups, diet pills.

Elvis's South is not the old cotton South of poor but genteel aristocrats. His Mississippi is not that of Natchez. Elvis is the Mississippi of pulpwood, sharecroppers, small merchants. His Memphis had nothing to do with riverboats or the fabled Beale Street. Elvis's Memphis was the post-World War II city of urban sprawl, racial antagonism, industrial blight, slums, Humes High. He walked the real Beale Street. Despite Graceland, and "Dixie" in Madison Square Garden, Elvis was the antithesis of the Rhett and Scarlett South. But no one living in the South today ever knew the Rhett and Scarlett South. Southerners themselves go to Natchez as to a tourist attraction. Elvis's South was the one that most Southerners really experience, the South where not even the interstate can conceal the poverty, where industrial affluence threatens the land and air which have been so much a part of our lives, where racial violence touches deep inside the home, where even our successes cannot overcome the long reputation of our failures. Even Graceland is not really beautiful. Squeezed in on all sides by the sprawl of gas stations, banks, shopping plazas, and funeral homes, Elvis's beloved home is an image of the South that has been "new" now for over fifty years.

Elvis evoked the South of modem reality with a fidelity he could not himself escape. The South rewarded him with its most cherished myths, but Elvis's tragedy was that he got caught in the contradictions. We only wanted to be able to claim that he was a good boy who loved Jesus. He apparently needed to become that, to live out the mythic expectations. He hungered for approval. The problem was that most of what Elvis really was could never be so transmogrified. He was the king of rock and roll, but he was uncomfortable with what the title implied. Linda Thompson has said that in his later years he hated hard rock. The further he moved from the conventions of the romantic myth, the more he proclaimed them. The more drugs he used, the more he supported law and order. When the counter culture he helped to usher in became widespread, he thought of helping the FBI as an undercover agent. How could he not be schizophrenic at the end, balancing the rock myth he created, the sentimental myth he adopted, and the emotional needs that made him like anyone else? He was destroyed by having to be what he was and wanting to be what he thought he ought to be. The Jesus-loving boy singing dirty Christmas songs. "One Night" and "How Great Thou Art."

After Elvis died, it was necessary to deify him. It isn't, after all, very becoming to grieve for a rock idol who died, as The New York Times once put it, "puffy and drug-wasted." But saying what and why one grieved was difficult. The South has had a lot of practice mythologizing painful and ambiguous experiences into glamorous and noble abstractions. So it was from Graceland to the Promised Land. Rex Humbard told us that Elvis found peace in Jesus, and Billy Graham assured us that Elvis was in Heaven. Billy was even looking forward to visiting him there. A disc jockey playing "How Great Thou Art" reflects at the end of the record, "And he certainly was." In Tupelo the Elvis Presley Memorial Foundation is building a $125,000 Chapel of Inspiration in his memory. Memphis will put a 50-ton bronze statue on a river bluff. Priscilla wants their daughter to remember, most of all, his humbleness. He loved his Jesus, his daughter, his lost wife. He loved his daddy. He loved the South. He was a great humanitarian. "God saw that he needed some rest and called him home to be with Him," the tombstone reads. Maybe all of this is even true. The apotheosis of Elvis demands such perfection because his death confirmed the tragic frailty, the violence, the intellectual poverty, the extravagance of emotion, the loneliness, the suffering, the sense of loss. Almost everything about his death, including the enterprising cousin who sold the casket pictures to National Enquirer, dismays, but nothing can detract from Elvis himself. Even this way, he is as familiar as next door, last year, the town before.

Greil Marcus wrote in his book Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock 'n' Roll Music that Elvis created a beautiful illusion, a fantasy that shut nothing out. The opposite was true. The fascination was the reality always showing through the illusion—the illusion of wealth and the psyche of poverty; the illusion of success and the pinch of ridicule; the illusion of invincibility and the tragedy of frailty; the illusion of complete control and the reality of inner chaos. In Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! Shreve thinks that Quentin hates the South. He does not understand that Quentin is too caught in it ever to have thought of such a question, just as Elvis was and just as we were in Elvis. Elvis had all the freedom the world can offer and could escape nothing. What chance that the South could escape him, reflecting it as he did?

Southerners do not love the old Confederacy because it was a noble ideal, but because the suffering of the past occasioned by it has formed our hearts and souls, both good and evil. But we celebrate the past with cheap flags, cliché slogans, decorative license plates, decaled ash trays, and a glorious myth of a Southern "way of life" no one today ever lived. And Southerners do not love Elvis because he loved Jesus or anyone else. The Elvis trinkets, his picture on waste cans or paperweights or T-shirts or glowing in the dark from a special frame, all pay the same kind of homage as the trinkets in worship of the past. People outside the Elvis phenomenon may think such commercialization demeans the idol and the idolater. But for those who have habitually disguised the reality of their culture from even themselves, it is hard to show candidly what and why one loves. In impeccable taste. By the most sentimental people in history.


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Re: "Elvis, or the Ironies of a Southern Identity"

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Wonderful read! I have the collection it came from, the entire thing is worthwhile.

Love this part:
Greil Marcus wrote in his book Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock 'n' Roll Music that Elvis created a beautiful illusion, a fantasy that shut nothing out. The opposite was true. The fascination was the reality always showing through the illusion—the illusion of wealth and the psyche of poverty; the illusion of success and the pinch of ridicule; the illusion of invincibility and the tragedy of frailty; the illusion of complete control and the reality of inner chaos.

In Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! Shreve thinks that Quentin hates the South. He does not understand that Quentin is too caught in it ever to have thought of such a question, just as Elvis was and just as we were in Elvis. Elvis had all the freedom the world can offer and could escape nothing. What chance that the South could escape him, reflecting it as he did?


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Re: "Elvis, or the Ironies of a Southern Identity"

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drjohncarpenter wrote:Wonderful read! I have the collection it came from, the entire thing is worthwhile.]
Which collection? Pratt's piece has been reprinted in at least three anthologies. I found it in The Elvis Reader, edited by Kevin Quain. What I love about the essay is that even Pratt's casual observations are deeply incisive, such as her noting how men were the more cruel when it came to Elvis's physical decline.


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Re: "Elvis, or the Ironies of a Southern Identity"

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Revelator wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Wonderful read! I have the collection it came from, the entire thing is worthwhile.]
Which collection? Pratt's piece has been reprinted in at least three anthologies. I found it in The Elvis Reader, edited by Kevin Quain. What I love about the essay is that even Pratt's casual observations are deeply incisive, such as her noting how men were the more cruel when it came to Elvis's physical decline.
Has Linda Pratt ever visited FECC, I wonder?

Unless I am mistaken, Pratt's "Elvis, or the Ironies of a Southern Identity" made its debut here:

Elvis: Images and Fancies (University of Mississippi Press: Jackson, 1979), Edited by Jac L. Tharpe.

It's a wonderful collection of essays; Charles Wolfe's "Presley and the Gospel Tradition" is another highlight.


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Re: "Elvis, or the Ironies of a Southern Identity"

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Here's the front cover sleeve:


ImageImage


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Re: "Elvis, or the Ironies of a Southern Identity"

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Ah, I haven't seen that cover before. Wolfe's essay is also in The Elvis Reader, but I'll have to check out Images and Fancies sometime. It seems to me that the time is ripe for yet another anthology of Elvis articles, since it's been a while since the last one, and plenty of good pieces remain uncollected.


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Re: "Elvis, or the Ironies of a Southern Identity"

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Revelator wrote:Ah, I haven't seen that cover before. Wolfe's essay is also in The Elvis Reader, but I'll have to check out Images and Fancies sometime. It seems to me that the time is ripe for yet another anthology of Elvis articles, since it's been a while since the last one, and plenty of good pieces remain uncollected.
Do you have a favorite I may be able to hunt down?


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Re: "Elvis, or the Ironies of a Southern Identity"

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drjohncarpenter wrote:Do you have a favorite I may be able to hunt down?
I don't know if it's a favorite, because its pessimistic ending suggests that the author is done with his subject (and that history is too), but Greil Marcus's last-known essay on Elvis is still uncollected. It's called "Elvis Again" and can be read here:
http://www.threepennyreview.com/samples/marcus_w03.html
I'm not sure if it's already been posted here, but if not feel free to post it. Otherwise I might do so sometime in the next couple of weeks.


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Re: "Elvis, or the Ironies of a Southern Identity"

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Very interesting reading, thanks Revelator!


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Re: "Elvis, or the Ironies of a Southern Identity"

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Revelator wrote:
drjohncarpenter wrote:Do you have a favorite I may be able to hunt down?
I don't know if it's a favorite, because its pessimistic ending suggests that the author is done with his subject (and that history is too), but Greil Marcus's last-known essay on Elvis is still uncollected. It's called "Elvis Again" and can be read here:
http://www.threepennyreview.com/samples/marcus_w03.html
I'm not sure if it's already been posted here, but if not feel free to post it. Otherwise I might do so sometime in the next couple of weeks.
I posted it a few years back -- it's a great piece from a superb writer and fan.

Elvis Again
http://www.elvis-collectors.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=25102


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Dr. John Carpenter, M.D.
Stop, look and listen, baby <<--->> that's my philosophy!