Elvis Presley "King" Or Not "King"

Author: Céline Guillaume

Publisher: Masque d'Or

ISBN: not indicated (paperback, 101 pp.)


I really don't know how many books about Elvis have been written in French. I have several in my own collection, but one is a comic-book and two are translations, so the few remaining do not constitute a great source of information for French readers. Perhaps this is why the French publisher "Masque d'Or" asked author Céline Guillaume to write "Elvis Presley, 'King' Or Not 'King'," part of its "Biostar" series that already includes books about Boris Karloff, Léo Ferré, Edith Piaf and Yves Montand.

I also do not know if the other books in that series are as small, nor if they handle their subject in an equally superficial manner.

The book counts just 101 small pages, printed in relatively large type, so there is not a great deal of printed matter for your money. Furthermore, the last 34 pages are largely superfluous: inaccurate extracts from 8 songs, a "succinct" discography, which is no more than a list of 16 albums (including "Clambake"!), some of which are simple compilations, a bibliography of 7 titles (yes, it includes Goldman's "Elvis") a list of just 7 Internet sites (the Geocities site URL is incomplete and URL of the site supposed to be about Rock'n'Roll doesn't exist), and a brief timeline. The only saving graces of these additional pages are the filmography that provides the French titles for all of Elvis's films, some of which are even worse than the original English ones -- and they were bad enough! -- and an 8-page look at Rock'n'Roll in general.

We are, then, left with a mere 67 pages for a biography of perhaps the greatest entertainer of the 20th century. Well, not quite! The bio itself does not actually begin until page 5, so perhaps even "superficial" is rather too generous a description. To be fair, Guillaume does her best in the extremely limited space available. Unfortunately, her research has not always resulted in correct information: Bing Crosby was not black and "Heartbreak Hotel" was not the first gold record (perhaps she meant Elvis's first gold record), but other than those and her insistence that Elvis drank a lot of alcohol (a Goldman influence, perhaps?), there's really not a lot wrong. Well, there can't be, can there, as it is so very short! No need to look here for any details of Elvis's career, interests, friends, or anything else, as it is nothing more than a hop, skip and jump from one moment to the next.

Guillaume's writing is excellent, at times betraying her background as a poet. This is especially the case at the beginning of the chapter in which she deals with Elvis's death. Surprisingly, Guillaume was not even born when Elvis died, yet she demonstrates a better understanding of his influence and significance than many other commentators, even in the limited space. So perhaps this is the importance of this strange little book: it will stimulate others, even young people, to look again at the phenomenon of Elvis and thereby gain a better understanding of him.

"Elvis Presley, 'King' Or Not 'King'" really is a whirlwind look at Elvis's life and suffers because of that approach. Céline Guillaume was asked by the publisher to write the book and admits to not having known too much about the man prior to commencing her research. Equally, she admits to having become entranced by the magic of Elvis during the course of her writing. It is, then, a pity that Guillaume did not use her newly-gained knowledge and clearly excellent writing talent -- she is a prize-winning author and poet -- to create a full-blown, more detailed biography.

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