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."
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches
35 line drawings/288 pages
World price: $24.95 / 16.50 cloth
Copyright © 1996 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College
All rights reserved
Illustrations: Karal Ann Marling