Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

3.4 7
by Bobbie Ann Mason

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A vibrant, sympathetic portrait of the once and future king of rock 'n' roll by the award-winning author of Shiloh and In Country

To this clear-eyed portrait of the first rock 'n' roll superstar, Bobbie Ann Mason brings a novelist's insight and the empathy of a fellow Southerner who, from the first time she heard his voice on the family

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A vibrant, sympathetic portrait of the once and future king of rock 'n' roll by the award-winning author of Shiloh and In Country

To this clear-eyed portrait of the first rock 'n' roll superstar, Bobbie Ann Mason brings a novelist's insight and the empathy of a fellow Southerner who, from the first time she heard his voice on the family radio, knew that Elvis was "one of us." Elvis Presley deftly braids the mythic and human aspects of his story, capturing both the charismatic, boundary-breaking singer who reveled in his celebrity and the soft-spoken, working-class Southern boy who was fatally unprepared for his success. The result is a riveting, tragic book that goes to the heart of the American dream.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
If you're going to read one book to find out what Elvis was all about, Mason's is a good choice. She brings to the task a novelist's eye and the sensibilities of a Southern girl who came of age in the 1950s. (The San Diego Union-Tribune)

If you're going to read one book to find out what Elvis was all about, Mason's is a good choice. She brings to the task a novelist's eye and the sensibilities of a Southern girl who came of age in the 1950s. (The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The San Diego Union-Tribune
If you're going to read one book to find out what Elvis was all about, Mason's is a good choice. She brings to the task a novelist's eye and the sensibilities of a Southern girl who came of age in the 1950s.
James Sullivan
As scores of Elvis Presley biographies will tell you, Elvis was born alongside a stillborn twin. For bestselling Kentucky novelist Mason (In Country), the beating of that other heart in the womb is only the first mythic episode in a life that transcended the most imaginative fiction. Elvis "began his life with a backbeat," she writes in this highly enjoyable rendering of the Presley folklore. There can hardly be anything left unsaid about Elvis, and Mason acknowledges as much. Gliding through the particulars—the dizzy rise to superstardom, the development of the quintessential Vegas act—she is at her sharpest when analyzing Presley's inner turmoil. In later years, his sometimes bizarre antics were symptomatic: "He seemed to plead with the audience to see through his act—to reject him," she writes. The pressures of being Elvis were colossal, and Mason's little bio ably illuminates them.
Publishers Weekly
Written by fellow Southerner Mason (In Country; Clear Springs), this abbreviated biography suffers fromthe series' length limitation but makes up for it by hitting the significant points. Mason credits Elvis with inventing rock and youth culture and "[puncturing] the balloon of 1950s serenity and conformity." She posits that the result of his stint in the army "was to erase his rock-and-roll rebel image and turn him into a mainstream all-American boy next door," and that in 1969, after almost a decade spent making bad films, "he was genuinely invigorated by making good music again." It's when Mason offers her insight into Southern culture that the biography turns superficial, like her attempt to contextualize the bloated figure of the drug-addled singer's late years by noting that "in the deep-fried South, his shape was a familiar sight, typical of his age group." On the other hand, she does intrigue, stating that Elvis "was innocently authentic, but he craved the inauthentic, as country people, who are so close-uncomfortably close-to what is starkly real, often do." Unfortunately, Mason doesn't have the room to explain because she has to get back to zooming through the rest of Elvis's life before her space is up. As such, this intro to Elvis will be useful, but is still no substitute for Peter Guralnick's definitive two-volume biography (Last Train to Memphis, Careless Love), which Mason praises in her acknowledgments along with many other sources. (Dec. 30) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
In her story of the man with arguably the most famous hips of all time, Mason creates a worthy addition to the Penguin Lives series of bite-sized biographies of famous folks penned by contemporary novelists. Here teens will get a good idea of where today's boy bands got their roots. As Mason generously dishes the dirt that teens will probably be most interested in, such as Elvis's adventures in excess with his infamous entourage, the "Memphis Mafia," and his doomed romance with naïve teen Priscilla, she is always compassionate in her telling and often makes Elvis out to be a victim of his unprecedented fame: "Elvis, the consumer supreme, was consumed, both before and after his death." Mason's storytelling skills really shine when she describes two of the more bizarre episodes of Elvis's life: his impromptu jam with the Beatles-during which Elvis reportedly said to the star-struck Mop Tops, "If you guys are just gonna sit there and stare at me, I'm going to bed," and Ringo ended the evening playing roulette with Colonel Parker-and his strange meeting with President Richard Nixon, at which "he almost surely was stoned." Mason's novelistic approach will appeal to teens who are looking for an entertaining biography that does more than list names and dates. Mason's main theme-that fame is often an unquenchable fire-will be a familiar litany to those raised on the sounds of 'NSYNC. Mason provides a worthy general purchase for most public and high school libraries. Source Notes. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Viking,192p,
— Jennifer Hubert
Children's Literature
How could a mouse be born into a human family? Critics and librarians in 1945 fretted that children would never accept a notion so unbelievable or a story without a neat ending. They need not have worried; New Yorker writer E. B. White's first children's book, Stuart Little, was a huge success. Since he is so tiny (only two inches tall), Stuart suffers many mishaps (such as getting rolled up in a window shade or being dumped onto a garbage scow), but he experiences triumphs, too, like sailing a model schooner safely through a storm on Central Park's boat pond. The little mouse's romantic nature sends him on a journey north in his tiny motor car to seek the beautiful bird Margalo; his more assertive side allows him to cope with a classroom of children on an unlikely assignment as a substitute in a rural school. After several more adventures and a conversation with a friendly and rather poetic telephone repairman, Stuart decides to keep on going. "As he peered ahead into the great land that stretched before him, the way seemed long. But the sky was bright, and he somehow felt that he was headed in the right direction." Garth Williams's perfect pen-and-ink drawings, scattered throughout, rival Ernest Shepard's at their best. In 1970 White received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for this book and Charlotte's Web. Although at the end, the heroic little mouse disappears down the road leading north, it's unlikely that Stuart Little will ever disappear from print. 1945, HarperCollins, Ages 7 to 12.
—Barbara L. Talcroft
Library Journal
Award-winning novelist Mason spins a tragic tale of Presley, who tried to fill his role as the great American hero but could never escape his poor Southern background. She covers the familiar terrain of his impoverished youth in Tupelo, MS; his initial success at Sun Records; his rise to fame and army draft; his mother's death and his own early drug experimentation; his 1968 comeback; his sequined Vegas persona; and his increasing loneliness, drug addiction, and premature death in 1977. Throughout, Mason casts Presley as a complex figure, a man who was consumed by low self-esteem and fears but driven to succeed, who symbolized teenage rebellion yet called his mother everyday, and who became the ultimate American icon but could not shed his white-trash roots. Though clearly written and accurate, this addition to the huge Presley bibliography seldom provides any new insights and sometimes embellishes basic facts with overly imaginative conclusions. Part of the "Penguin Lives" series, this slender book will satisfy only the few who have never read much about the King. An optional purchase. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/02.]-Dave Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A noted fiction writer (Zigzagging Down a Wild Trail, 2001, etc.) applies a bracing working-class sensibility and a native understanding of Elvis Presley’s southern roots to the familiar tale of his meteoric career. Penguin Lives are not usually based on primary sources, and Mason acknowledges as her main reference Peter Guralnick’s definitive two-volume biography (Last Train to Memphis, 1994; Careless Love, 1999). She didn’t need to do original research to feel close to the King. Raised on a farm in Kentucky, the author absorbed the same diverse musical influences, from R&B to gospel to opera. "When he emerged with his own startling, idiosyncratic singing style, we recognized its sources," she recalls. "Elvis was great, so familiar—and he was ours!" It wasn’t just a musical heritage they shared. Mason, who has written about her own feelings of inferiority as a country girl attending the University of Kentucky in Lexington, nails the opposing drives that sent a polite mama’s boy onstage to drive girls wild with his gyrations. "Elvis was born into the mind-set of poverty," she reminds us: "the deference toward authority and the insolent snarl underlying it." This instinctive understanding is particularly helpful in addressing the thorny question of Presley’s loyalty to Colonel Parker, whose focus on the fast buck played a major role in his artistic decline. Elvis and his parents knew the Colonel was a con man, Mason believes; they wanted someone unscrupulous to "maneuver among the bankers, lawyers, company executives . . . because they knew the big dudes would just stomp on them." Her take on Presley’s drug use as a means of suppressing his insecurities is similarly convincing. Readerslooking for evocative descriptions of the King’s boundary-smashing music will do better with Greil Marcus’s Mystery Train or Dave Marsh’s Elvis, but Mason’s plain prose and blunt opinions are the perfect vehicles to convey his utterly American life. Although the complexities of Elvis’s character and his place in American culture can’t be entirely explicated with such brevity, Mason grasps the essentials with perception and passion. Author tour

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Penguin Lives Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.98(w) x 11.04(h) x 0.53(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

In the Drain

When Mrs. Frederick C. Little's second son arrived, everybody noticed that he was not much bigger than a mouse. The truth of the matter was, the baby looked very much like a mouse in every way. He was only about two inches high; and he had a mouse's sharp nose, a mouse's tail, a mouse's whiskers, and the pleasant, shy manner of a mouse. Before he was many days old he was not only looking like a mouse but acting like one, too-wearing a gray hat and carrying a small cane. Mr. and Mrs. Little named him Stuart, and Mr. Little made him a tiny bed out of four clothespins and a cigarette box.

Unlike most babies, Stuart could walk as soon as he was born. When he was a week old he could climb lamps by shinnying up the cord. Mrs. Little saw right away that the infant clothes she had provided were unsuitable, and she set to work and made him a fine little blue worsted suit with patch pockets in which he could keep his handkerchief, his money, and his keys. Every morning, before Stuart dressed, Mrs. Little went into his room and weighed him on a small scale which was really meant for weighing letters. At birth Stuart could have been sent by first class mail for three cents, but his parents preferred to keep him rather than send him away; and when, at the age of a month, he had gained only a third of an ounce, his mother was so worried she sent for the doctor.

The doctor was delighted with Stuart and said that it was very unusual for an American family to have a mouse. He took Stuart's temperature and found that it was 98.6, which is normal for a mouse. He also examined Stuart's chest and heart and looked into his ears solemnly with a flashlight. (Not every doctor can lookinto a mouse's ear without laughing.) Everything seemed to be all right, and Mrs. Little was pleased to get such a good report.

"Feed him up!" said the doctor cheerfully, as he left.

The home of the Little family was a pleasant place near a park in New York City. In the mornings the sun streamed in through the east windows, and all the Littles were up early as a general rule. Stuart was a great help to his parents, and to his older brother George, because of his small size and because he could do things that a mouse can do and was agreeable about doing them. One day when Mrs. Little was washing out the bathtub after Mr. Little had taken a bath, she lost a ring off her finger and was horrified to discover that it had fallen down the drain.

"What had I better do?" she cried, trying to keep the tears back.

"If I were you," said George, "I should bend a hairpin in the shape of a fishhook and tie it onto a piece of string and try to fish the ring out with it." So Mrs. Little found a piece of string and a hairpin, and for about a half-hour she fished for the ring; but it was dark down the drain and the hook always seemed to catch on something before she could get it down to where the ring was.

"What luck?" inquired Mr. Little, coming into the bathroom.

"No luck at all," said Mrs. Little. "The ring is so far down I can't fish it up."

"Why don't we send Stuart down after it?" suggested Mr. Little. "How about it, Stuart, would you like to try?"

"Yes, I would," Stuart replied, "but I think I'd better get into my old pants. I imagine it's wet down there."

"It's all of that," said George, who was a trifle annoyed that his hook idea hadn't worked. So Stuart slipped into his old pants and prepared to go down the drain after the ring. He decided to carry the string along with him, leaving one end in charge of his father.

"When I jerk three times on the string, pull me up," he said. And while Mr. Little knelt in the tub, Stuart slid easily down the drain and was lost to view. In a minute or so, there came three quick jerks on the string, and Mr. Little carefully hauled it up. There, at the end, was Stuart, with the ring safely around his neck.

"Oh, my brave little son," said Mrs. Little proudly, as she kissed Stuart and thanked him.

"How was it down there?" asked Mr. Little, who was always curious to know about places he had never been to.

"It was all right," said Stuart.

But the truth was the drain had made him very slimy, and it was necessary for him to take a bath and sprinkle himself with a bit of his mother's violet water before he felt himself again. Everybody in the family thought he had been awfully good about the whole thing.

Stuart Little. Copyright © by E. White. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Bobbie Ann Mason is the author most recently of the novel An Atomic Romance and Nancy Culpepper, a collection of stories. She is also the author of Shiloh and Other Stories, winner of the PEN/ Hemingway Award; Feather Crowns and Zigzagging Down a Wild Trail, both of which won the Southern Book Award; and the bestselling novel In Country. Her memoir Clear Springs was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She is currently writer-in-residence at the University of Kentucky.

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Elvis Presley 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im the worlds biggest Elvis Presley lover and this made me love him even more!!!!!!!"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He has cool hair and he ricks
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Christina Drill More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im not going to buy this because i dont care about a dead guy with poofy hair. But i like 1of his songs. Dont waste ur $$ on this book.