In Country; Clear Springs), this abbreviated biography suffers fromthe series' length l"/>

ELVIS PRESLEY: A Penguin Life

Bobbie Ann Mason, Author . Penguin/Lipper $19.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-670-03174-0

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)

Reviewed on: 11/04/2002
Release date: 12/01/2002
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