I was an Irish kid in Germany in 1958 (my Dad worked in the AFEX system as an accountant) when Elvis came over as an army draftee. A family friend gotI was an Irish kid in Germany in 1958 (my Dad worked in the AFEX system as an accountant) when Elvis came over as an army draftee. A family friend got his autograph for me which I lost soon after (damn & double-damn!)and this is the point where this book - the first of a two-part biography - closes. It takes us from Elvis' birth in Tupelo to his family's move to Memphis, his geeky high school days, the $12 guitar his father bought for him, and his burning desire to cut a record. This brought him to Sam Phillips and Sun Records. This early recording took off thanks to radio play throughout the South and a series of live gigs followed getting ever bigger and bigger. Soon things became so big they nearly got out of control. From some peculiar mixture of gospel, hillbilly, and Negro blues Elvis had hit on a new sound that caught the imagination of teenage America. By the age of 21 (1956) he was pulling in huge audiences and the music moguls were taking an interest. The predatory ex-Carnie barker "Colonel" Tom Parker moved in to guide this boy along and in his manipulatory and conniving ways made Elvis a national phenomenon.
What makes this story so fascinating is the way it is told. The author, an early fan of the music, spent 11 years tracking down all the surviving friends and associates of Elvis and tells the story as if he were looking through a keyhole, recording conversations and first impressions and opinions from such a wide number of people that you begin to feel you are there yourself. The way this book was put together is extremely impressive: by no means is it your "standard" biography. Whether you like the music or not (I did even then, I still do!) you cannot help but get caught up in the story. After such a meteoric rise you just know that a fall is bound to come: hubris, as we know from the wise old Greeks, is followed by nemesis.
A second volume of the biography entitled "Careless Love" charts the course of Elvis' career from the time he was released from the army to his early death at the age of 42. That will require another review....more
I thought I had made a mistake when I started reading this diary: date, three or four sentence entry; next date, another short entry; another date, anI thought I had made a mistake when I started reading this diary: date, three or four sentence entry; next date, another short entry; another date, another short entry, etc., etc.
This is definitely not a literary work, as such. It's just a record of what happened every day. What sets it apart from most other works of its kind is that the author ("Missy") a young exiled White Russian aristocrat more or less exiled in Nazi Germany has to make a living and deal with events as the war becomes ever more menacing, encroaching on the personal lives of herself and her sister Tatiana and their wonderfully large and diverse circle of friends and relatives, who seem to be fighting or suffering on all sides in the war.
As the diary progresses it takes hold. It is not retrospective, written at leisure in hindsight: it's a record of the war in triumphant and then losing Germany day by day as seen from the eyes of an apolitical young woman. She obviously doesn't like the Nazis but she works for a branch of the Foreign Ministry and likes some of her bosses and hates others. She's a moral person feeling rather helpless in a crazy upside-down world who just wants to get on with things. Her male acquaintances from her former life are in the German, French, British, Italian and American armies and she just hopes they'll all survive the madness. Obviously, some don't. She grieves the death of one young friend, a Luftwaffe pilot who shot down 63 American planes. He was no Nazi, in fact he wanted to kill Hitler, but just got caught up in his role in the war from which there was no escape -- except death.
Missy gets caught up in the conspiracy to kill Hitler which failed after the bomb attempt on July 20, 1944, after which the arrests and widening circle of executions began. This is probably one of the best first-hand records of that time that exists. And the bombing: few people remember or even realise that 600,000 people lost their lives in Germany compared to 62,000 in Britain during the Blitz. ...more