I, ELVIS by William McCranor Henderson


Confessions of a Counterfeit King
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 A rollicking piece of gonzo journalism by a novelist whose first book, Stark Raving Elvis (1984), was a fictional take on the same subject. Gamely accepting a challenge from his editor, the 52-year-old Henderson set about making himself into a plausible Elvis impersonator: He acquired a brass-studded jumpsuit, wig, and karaoke tapes; scoped out other working Elvises; practiced the songs and the moves. A musician friend let him try out a mini Elvis set in the middle of an outdoor concert, then he entered a contest in New Hampshire (he came in last) and performed in an Elvis showcase in Jacksonville, Fla., in preparation for the grand prix of the mock-Elvis circuit, Memphis's annual Images of Elvis competition. Henderson's project actually required two visits to Memphis: On his preliminary visit to ``the holy city,'' an old pal with the immortal name of Fetzer Mills showed Henderson the highlights, including Sun Studios, Graceland, and an Elvis shrine outside of town called Graceland Too, an antebellum house crammed full of Elvis memorabilia and open 24 hours. (Fetzer, who sings rockabilly, bounces between jobs, and tries to market fat brown ``Elvis Buddha'' figurines to the local souvenir shops, is one of the best literary characters in some time, fiction or nonfiction.) Henderson captures without fuss or condescension the gut-level fandom that makes people, including himself, want to impersonate Elvis, and he is dead-on about the cultural divide, largely along class lines, that separates Elvis fans from those who have never really gotten it. (Fetzer offers another theme for the book: ``It's the generation war between the young Elvises and the mutants.'') But Henderson's great achievement is to convey, in elegantly droll prose, what it's like to imagine being a great performer--``the Elvis equivalent of flying dreams''--in the face of real-world evidence to the contrary. A jolly, sparkling trip through Elvis country. (photos, not seen) (For another look at Elvis impersonators, see Leslie Rubinkowski, Impersonating Elvis, p. 858.)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 1-57297-255-6
Page count: 304pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1997