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Black Elvis

Geoffrey Becker

Publication Year: 2009

In this funny, touching collection about music, identity, liars, and love, Geoffrey Becker brings us into the lives of people who have come to a turning point and lets us watch as they take, however clumsily, their next steps.

In the title story, an aging black singer who performs only Elvis songs despite his classic bluesman looks has his regular spot at the local blues jam threatened by a newly arrived Asian American with the unlikely name Robert Johnson. In “Man Under,” two friends struggling to be rock musicians in Reagan-era Brooklyn find that their front door has been removed by their landlord. An aspiring writer discovers the afterlife consists of being the stand-in for a famous author on an endless book tour in “Another Coyote Story.” Lonely and adrift in Florence, Italy, a young man poses as a tour guide with an art history degree in “Know Your Saints.” And in “This Is Not a Bar,” a simple night on the town for a middle-aged guitar student and jazz buff turns into a confrontation with his past and an exploration of what is or is not real.

In his depictions of struggling performers, artists, expectant parents, travelers, con-men, temporarily employed academics, and even the recently deceased, Becker asks the question, Which are more important: the stories we tell other people or the ones we tell ourselves?

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction


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pp. v

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pp. vii

Thanks to the following people, who lent their own creative talents by providing editorial advice on one or more stories: Madison Smartt Bell, Jessica Anya Blau, Stephen Donadio, Michael Kimball, Steve Rinehart, Nora Sturges, and Ron Tanner. Big thanks, as well, to my copyeditor, Dorine Jennette, Series Editor Nancy Zafris, and to the ...

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Black Elvis

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pp. 1-12

At 5:00 p.m. precisely, Black Elvis began to get ready. First, he laid out his clothes: the dark suit, the white dress shirt, the two-tone oxfords. In the bathroom, he used a depilatory powder to remove the stubble from his face, then carefully brushed his teeth and gargled with Lavoris. He applied a light coating of foundation, used a liner ...

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Know Your Saints

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pp. 13-27

Back in May, about the time that Larry's fiancée, Gwen, was coming clean to him about the professor she had been sleeping with—apparently there was no book group or yoga class—his aunt Julia's boyfriend, Frank Packard, had run his Alfa Romeo right off the side of the autostrada. Frank, whom Larry had never met, was now ...

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Cowboy Honeymoon

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pp. 28-44

Kaufman drove from one fire to another. In Baltimore, there had been a train wreck in the Howard Street Tunnel, the northern end of which was not far from the small house he owned, tucked away on a side street behind the hulking wreck of a Victorian hotel, and three doors down from a gay bar with no sign or windows. The train was ...

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This Is Not a Bar

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pp. 45-57

I went to this new hotel downtown to hear my guitar teacher play. My girlfriend, Lorna, came along, although she doesn't care much about jazz—she plays classical piano. From the lobby, we made a left and passed along red halls with chandeliers lighting them, heading toward the hotel restaurant until we heard music. It was just a trio, ...

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Iowa Winter

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pp. 58-75

The week Junior died, the temperature dropped to fourteen below and stayed there. The seats on my Honda felt like they were made of plywood, and the engine groaned before turning over, a low sound like some Japanese movie monster waking up after a thousand-year sleep. I had long underwear on under my suit, but I could still feel ...

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Imaginary Tucson

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pp. 76-87

Joe can see it all in his head. At the president's reception in Byron, New York, there is caviar in silver dishes, expensive wine served by waiters in black tie. In a corner of the room, by an enormous window that overlooks the postcard-perfect, sloping front lawn of the college, its bright green tongue leading the eye to a horizon of ...

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Man Under

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pp. 88-102

In mid-July, our landlady removed the front door to the house to get it repaired, and the next day, when I came back from my shift at Café D'Oro, the failing sandwiches-and-dessert place I'd managed to get hired at as a waiter, I discovered that we'd been robbed. The thieves had taken our black-and-white television and about two ...

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Another Coyote Story

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pp. 102-112

By about the fourth somersault I knew I had no chance of surviving. A bouncing, limp puppet, I'd lost skis, poles, hat, gloves, glasses. Every now and then, in the tiny intervals when the ten guys in boots who were kicking me in the ribs stopped to catch their breath, I thought I saw the sky. My mind slowed way down the way it used to on rainy ...

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Jimi Hendrix, Bluegrass Star

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pp. 113-129

In front of the Pompidou Center, a pretty redheaded girl with a violin case took a position about fifteen yards to my left. She wore tight jeans and a black cowboy shirt with pearly buttons, and I kept one eye on her as she took out her instrument and applied rosin to the bow in brisk, short strokes. I finished up "All Along the Watchtower," ...

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pp. 130-144

The Australian girl and Harrison were standing about two feet apart in the center of the hotel pool, discussing the respective merits of the American and Australian versions of MTV. Rivulets of water ran down the pronounced V of Harrison's chest, the result of his last submersion. Every now and then, he dunked himself down into the ...

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The Naked Man

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pp. 145-157

I hadn't always been The Naked Man. While his head was mine—dark curly hair, glasses, an earnest, somewhat baffled look on a middle-aged face with an almost blue beard line and what I like to think of as a dueling scar on the left cheek (I had a cyst removed there and the doctor botched the job)—the body belonged to my wife's ...

Black Days

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pp. 158-173

E-ISBN-13: 9780820340289
E-ISBN-10: 0820340286
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820334103
Print-ISBN-10: 0820334103

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction