The Memphis Lullaby

Author: Linda Ann McConnell

Publisher: Pressley Publications

ISBN: 0-9548254-0-3 (paperback, 98 pp.)

 

Is it me, or are there just too many Elvis biographies out there? "The Memphis Lullaby" is another biography to add to the pile, but at least author Linda Ann McConnell has tried to freshen up the concept by presenting her version in the form of a play.

Indeed, "The Memphis Lullaby" is a play in five acts, though perhaps "monologue" would be more appropriate, as the bulk of the play is performed by a single actor, representing Elvis. This monologue forms Acts 1 and 2, the remaining acts being used to present a review of Elvis's funeral, his achievements, and a short closing.

Now let's be quite clear that I am no drama critic; I know little about plays, preferring farce to Shakespeare. I am therefore not about to judge the dramatic qualities of this work, as others who are better informed than myself will be more able to do so. I look at the book, then, with the eye of a book-loving Elvis fan -- nothing more.

As a biography, "The Memphis Lullaby" stands up quite well against many others. It is no "Careless Love" or "Last Train To Memphis," of course, but in its context one would not expect this to be the case. The information that is presented is generally well researched and accurate. But what makes this particular biography so attractive and unusual, is that McConnell has incorporated Elvis's actual words into it. Remember, this is a monologue: the reader (audience in the correct environment) is being spoken to by Elvis himself; Elvis is telling his story, in other words. Contrived? Perhaps, but it works, and even though many of the quotes that are incorporated into the monologue are out of context, McConnell makes them work, too. Very clever. And, of course, using Elvis's own words provides an added edge of reality, so that the rest of the monologue also becomes more believable.

The scene is set on 10 August, 1977. Elvis is in the living-room at Graceland and starts to reminisce. This develops into a long monologue in which the Elvis character speaks about the most significant aspects of his life and career: his parents, his early days, his army life (though somewhat briefly, I thought), his film years (clearly indicating his own disappointment), his return to live performing. The audience will certainly better understand Elvis for this, but perhaps even more so for his discourses relating to more spiritual matters, his use of prescription medicines (and how careful and naive he is to point out that he does not use illegal drugs), his worrying health, and especially his annoyance at the recent publication of the book, "Elvis, What Happened?" During the play, the scene changes to the bedroom in Graceland, offering the actor who has to perform this tour-de-force a break between Acts 1 and 2.

The remaining acts are less of a play and more of a multimedia presentation (the book provides fairly detailed descriptions of what must take place) of the death, funeral and achievements of Elvis.

The book also includes the song, "The Memphis Lullaby," written by Linda Ann McConnell, which formed the inspiration for her play.

There are some lapses in what is otherwise an accurate biography (perhaps the strangest being the statement that Graceland is just 15 miles south of Tupelo!), but these distract little from the whole. The careful reader will also notice numerous misprints, but these are perhaps inevitable in a project of this nature. The book carries some black and white illustrations, but these are not well printed and some are deformed -- the illustrations are, in any case, unnecessary.

"The Memphis Lullaby" is published in a limited edition of 1,000; a portion of the royalties from the book will be donated to the charity founded by the author, The Symphony of Dreams Trust, which is a registered Scottish National Charity set up to benefit terminally ill children.

The recommended price of "The Memphis Lullaby" is just 9.99 (15 euro/$18) and it is available online at Amazon.co.uk. Additional information, including purchasing details, can be found at http://www.thememphislullaby.com/

 

David Neale

copyright December 2004

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