A cynic might think that these writings on the roots and ramifications of Elvis Presley were put together just to cash in on a King-size observance this August of the 15th anniversary of Presley's death. But when you read that the editor directs the Toronto Institute for Elvis Presley Studies, you realize the extent of the myth-making machine.
Overanalysis characterizes many of the pieces, such as Linda Ray Pratt's ruminations on how Presley both epitomized and mocked traditional notions of Southern manhood. Some of the reprints of period newsmagazine articles are fun for their we-were-so-innocent-then quality. But best are the works of fiction that play on Presley's irony and sensuality—like an excerpt from Don DeLillo's novel White Noise and the odd and hilarious Elvis Bound, a tale by W.P. Kinsella of a woman so obsessed with the King that she must keep his poster within view of her marriage bed.
Like a barrel of popcorn at a revival of Jailhouse Rock, The Elvis Reader is hard to resist—but you'll end up slightly queasy and embarrassed for happily ingesting both. (St. Martin's Press, paper, $12.95)