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NOSTALGIA:STARSAND GENRES AMERICANPOP CULTURE PeterRist Jane and Michael Stern. EliĀ·is World. Markham: Penguin, 1987. xi + 211 pp. Illus. Eve Arnold. MarilynMonroe:An Appreciation. Markham: Penguin, 1987. 14l pp. Illus. Archie P. McDonald, ed. ShootingStars:Heroesand Heroinesof Jlestcrn Film. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. xv + 265 pp. Illus. Patrick Lucanio. Them or Us:Archetypal Interpretations of FiftiesAlien Inmsion Films. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. x + 194pp. Illus. Jim Freedman. DrawingHeat. Windsor: Black Moss Press, 1988. 190 pp. Illus. Heroes and heroines of American popular culture--the stars of HoUywm.)d and pop music--hold such a fascination for their fans that when they die their images rarely fade away. Often their individual popularity increases and morbid cults ensue. I can remember as an adolescent being devastated when Buddy Holly was killed in a plane crash. In retrospect, I realize that my admiration for Holly was the closest I ever came to an experience of fan idolatry. As a teenager growing up in England, I bought every one of his records as soon as it was released; most people only began to appreciate his music after his death. He reached the top of the singles charts in Britain for the first time after he died, with "It Doesn't Matter Anymore," in April, 1959. More recently, his popularity re-emerged in 1978 with the release of a biographical film starring Gary Busey (77zeBuddy Holly Sto,y). Strangely, the popularity of one of the other two pop stars killed in the same plane crash--Ritchie Valens--peaked nearly twenty years after his death with one of the biggest summer movie hits of 1987,La Bamba. The title song, performed. bythe group, Los Lobos, reached the top of the hit parade in North America, marking the first time since Valens's original version that a Spanish language song had done so. Even more remarkably, "La Bamba" topped the "pops" in Britain for the very first time in 1987. Clearly, it is not only personal reminiscence that causes nostalgia. In the last two decades in particular, nostalgiahas become a key component of contemporary popular culture. 112 Peter Rist The two greatest American stars who have shone even brighter after death are Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. Throughout the world, one need only pronounce their first names for anyone to recognize their identities. "Hundreds of books have been written about Elvis," is a quotation from one of the most recent: Elvis World by Jane and Michael Stern. The Sterns' volume is flashily presented in sturdy hard cover with a clear plastic outer sleeve. The shiny jacket contains the authors' names and ethereal musical notations. Miniature guitars and hearts float by a familiar image of the Elvis sneer surrounded by a representation of a record disc. The tackiness of this presentation is presumably deliberate and matches the writers' lack of condescension toward their subject. Elvis World is half-nostalgia and trivia catalogue and half-biography. Whereas the biography is very standard, shedding no new light either on Elvis's personality or on his music, the catalogue sections interspersed within the main text inject the work with some substance. Interestingly, there is no discography here, since it is the "world" of Elvis that is the focus. However, there is a very useful annotated bibliography, which amusingly quotes some of the more outrageous written material. For example, from May Mann's Elvis, Why Won't 11ieyLeave You A_lone?the Sterns extract this unintentional fictionalization of his death: "as he lay helpless in the bathroom floor, 'suddenly the thought flashed through him: this must be like what Jesus suffered."' In addition, under the heading "Elvis' pantry," the Sterns include a list of things that were "to be kept in kitchen and home for Elvis--AT ALL TIMES - EVERY DAY." They also include a collection of questions asked most frequently by guests at his home (and shrine) Graceland, complete with correct answers, and most usefully perhaps, four pages of addresses of "places in Memphis and Mississippi where Elvis lived, shopped, worked and played." Obviously Elvis World is primarily for fans and is most clearly structured around the family album or school yearbook. There is no place in it for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 111-117
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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