Book One: Elvis and Gladys

Elvis and Gladys, Elaine Dundy

This was a birthday present from Chris last year, but it took me a while to pick it up and really get into it. It combines two of my favorite people: Elvis and Elaine Dundy, who wrote one of my all time favorite books, The Dud Avocado (which, as an aside, looks like it's finally going to be available in the US in the next few months). Admittedly, I struggled through the first few chapters, which detailed Elvis's maternal family tree, and often read like, "and Clettes begat Fannie Mae, and Fannie Mae begat Jimmie Dale," (names changed because I'm too lazy to look them up) and on and on and on. But it really picked up steam once it got to Gladys's life and the birth and childhood of Elvis. You can tell that Elaine Dundy did an enormous amount of research, as it includes interviews with nearly every person who was at all involved in Elvis's life before he became truly famous, and apparently she corrects a lot of false information about Elvis's early years that probably still continue to perpetuate. I very much enjoyed Peter Guralnick's first book about Elvis, which I think was a little more complete than Elvis and Gladys in terms of details about his recording and movie career, but Dundy's biography does a much better job at telling the human story about Elvis and his relationship with his mother. Interestingly, both of these books stop at the same point--when Gladys dies and when Elvis is inducted into the army--as it marked a major turning point in his life.

Sometimes I think Elaine Dundy pushed it a bit in terms of trying to create thin threads of connections or attempting to establish major themes in Elvis's life or perhaps projecting feelings or emotions onto people long dead without really telling us how she might have known how they felt or what they thought. But I suppose these are the types of things we should forgive biographers for if they can just tell us a good story. Otherwise, interesting if you love Elvis (and Elaine Dundy) and much as I do.


Blogger Chris Mealy said...

I love this blog!

January 11, 2007 at 10:45 PM  
Anonymous emeraldtiger said...

yay it looks i'm the 1st to leave book recommendations! you may have read some of these, but if not, here's several to help get you started: 1) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon), 2) Salt (Mark Kurlansky)--admittedly the salt shaker on the cover drew me in, but the fact-packed text held my attention, 3) Malcolm Gladwell's writings (Tipping Point is good, but I loved Blink), 4) anything by Jodi Picoult (I've read Plain Truth, and My Sister's Keeper. Both are good, esp the latter, although I wonder how you feel reading a book containing a character with childhood cancer? I couldn't put the book down). 5) Her Fork in the Road (Lisa Bach)--read if you like essays on food/travel. 6) The Bonesetter's Daughter (Amy Tan). 7) 1421 (Gavin Menzies)--see for more info. 8) and OK, i'm throwing in one last title i have to read for school: The Lady Tasting Tea (David Salsburg). alas, i might be the only one excited about this last title b/c school is turning me into a social scientist and statistics geek. ;-) still, it's worth a peek IMHO. and that, my friend, makes a lucky eight.

January 13, 2007 at 10:51 AM  

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