[Graceland: Going Home with Elvis, by Karal Ann Marling]

From Graceland: Karal Ann Marling describes the Shotgun House of Elvis's birth, Tupelo, Mississippi:

"The birthplace is a shotgun house, a wood frame house perched up on piles of rocks to let the rainwater and the spring floods pass underneath. One room wide, two rooms deep, a shallow gable end facing the street, with the roof extended to form a porch supported at each corner by a spindly two-by-four. There's no porch in back, just a stoop. If you were to open the front door on the right-hand side of the porch and the back door over the steps, you could fire a shotgun right through the house without hitting anything...

"Posthumous fiddling with the birthplace has prettified the sullen face of Southern poverty: the Presleys pumped water by hand and used an outhouse, like characters in a Faulkner novel. The walls were bare boards. Gladys didn't have rugs or curtains, checkered tablecloths or a sewing machine. For many years to come, the family wouldn't have a radio, either...The birthplace of Elvis Presley wasn't cute in 1935...

"If you had to have a house like that in a city park [built later in Presley's honor], it had better be a pretty-as-a-picture, snowy white shotgun house with crisp black trim floating on a nice green lawn. Vaguely Old South. A spit-and-polish shotgun house right out of a Hollywood movie about cheerful sharecroppers. Something like Graceland, only smaller. A sort of backwards prophecy, the new and improved birthplace offered for inspection the 1970s read Elvis Presley's past by the blinding light of his eventual stardom. Improving history is a process not without its hazards. In Tupelo, on the green lawn of his birthplace, the gilded present met the well-scrubbed past and the circle of life snapped shut. There was, it appeared, no undiscovered future still ahead, at the end of Highway 78, no more dreams to come true."


August
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches
35 line drawings/288 pages
ISBN 0-674-35889-9
World price: $24.95 / 16.50 cloth
Cultural Studies
Copyright © 1996 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College
All rights reserved
Illustrations: Karal Ann Marling
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