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Biggest Elvis: A Novel
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About the Author

P.F. Kluge is Writer in Residence at Kenyon College. He is the author of Gone Tomorrow and A Call From Jersey, published by Overlook. Two films, Dog Day Afternoon and Eddie and the Cruisers, are based on his work.

Reviews

The author of Alma Mater (LJ 11/1/93) returns to fiction in a well-written, highly entertaining novel laced with dark commentary on Filipino life and American imperialism in the 1990s. The Lane brothers and Ward Wiggins do two shows a night at Graceland, a crummy bar in Olongapo, Philippines. They impersonate Elvis at the various stages of his life for an enthusiastic audience of sailors on shore leave and their "dates," the bar girls who make a meager living satisfying the desires of Americans on the nearby naval base. Chester plays "Baby" Elvis (the handsome, sexy Presley), Albert is "Dude" Elvis (during the movie years), and ex-English professor Wiggins (the conscience of the novel) portrays "Biggest" Elvis (Presley during his last, sad, drug-addled years). The Lanes regard this gig as just a temporary job, but Biggest Elvis takes his role much more seriously and involves himself in bettering the life of the bar girls. Kluge has created a diverse group of sympathetic, three-dimensional characters who take turns telling the story. Each responds differently to the redeeming possibilities of love and the opportunities for betrayal that life offers them. An excellent choice for public libraries.‘Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle

Offers up all sorts of surprising truths about love, greed, faith, and the Pacific Rim Elvis can never look the same again. "Boston Globe"
A serious book as well as a very entertaining one. "Los Angeles Times"
?Offers up all sorts of surprising truths?about love, greed, faith, and the Pacific Rim? Elvis can never look the same again.? ?"Boston Globe"

?A serious book as well as a very entertaining one. "Los Angeles Times"

Elvis lives again as symbol of the American character in this insightful, entertaining fable set in the Philippines of the early 1990s, the final years of the U.S. military presence at Subic Bay. Failed English professor Ward Wiggins finds his true calling as the senior of a trinity of Elvis impersonators that becomes the hottest act in Olongapo, the nearest town to the naval base. Chester Lane portrays the youthful Elvis, his brother Albert the more worldly "Dude" Elvis of the movie years and Wiggins the "Biggest Elvis," whose heartbreak and tragic fate are apparent in each mournful refrain and every gyration of his sweaty, bespangled bulk. Ward does not think of their act as imitation or shtick, but as an extrapolation to spiritual heights the original could never achieve. "We went way beyond him. We crossed borders he never traveled, lived in a time he never saw, played in places he couldn't picture.'' Indeed, Biggest Elvis becomes something of a religious figure among the local people and the vivacious bar girls of "Graceland." But while he has some success in improving these people's lives, there are powerful, destructive forces at work beyond Biggest Elvis's ken. Kluge (Eddie and the Cruisers) tells his story through revolving first-person narratives in the voices of the Elvises and others, providing a nuanced look at U.S. imperialism‘Americans' good-natured exploitation and Filipinos' ambivalent responses‘and at more transcendent issues of faith and destiny. Eschewing the empty kitsch of some other Elvis invocations, Kluge fashions a resonant, often poignant tale full of humor and, ultimately, hope. (Aug.)

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