BEFORE ELVIS THERE WAS NOTHING by Laurie Foos

BEFORE ELVIS THERE WAS NOTHING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

After tackling wombs and walruses in her previous fiction, whimsical satirist Foos uses her fifth outing to showcase a human horn and an all-too-human King.

There are two sisters in Anywhere, U.S.A. One is beautiful and one is not (except for her feet). The beautiful sister (and narrator) does her best by the town’s unbeautiful by working as a hair-replacement specialist. Her name is Cass (after Mama Cass), and her sister is Lena (after Horne). Their parents were sad-sacks who never understood their daughters and whose only pleasure in life was Elvis. Our Father (as the girls called him) once worked as a roadie for an Elvis impersonator, and, when older daughter Lena was 18, on the tenth anniversary of Elvis’s death, he and Ma left home for parts unknown. Now, 18 years later, Lena still believes they may return. The more practical Cass thinks that’s hooey, but plays along because she feels sorry for Lena, who experiences panic attacks and hasn’t left the house in eight years, since her marriage ended badly. Suddenly, Cass has her own problem, a bump on her forehead that seemingly will grow into a horn. Any connection with her childhood fixation on rhinos, or even with Elvis’s rumored rhinoplasty? Wordplay and her metabolism dictate that she feel horny, like her boyfriend, Vance, who mounts her in a frenzy. Cass consults a dermatologist, then a surgeon, and she winds up in a nuthouse where all the patients have different animal parts, though otherwise the place seems like the same old refuge for writers stumped for inspiration: forbidding hallways, white coats. Elvis, whose spirit has hovered over every page, comes to Cass’s rescue. Once she dons his cape, proffered by a sympathetic nurse, she’s home free.

Foos strives for a light touch, but the recurrent references here (hair, feet, ham sandwiches, the allure of Jewry and Elvis trivia) seem more like nervous tics than prompts for a sympathetic chuckle.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2005
ISBN: 1-56689-168-X
Page count: 204pp
Publisher: Coffee House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2005




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