Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Definitive Elvis Biography

On this day in 1935, Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Miss. In 2012 Andy Warhol's "Double Elvis" sold for 37 million dollars. What made Elvis the subject of Andy Warhol's art? Elvis went from just another kid in a Southern grade school to cultural icon. Cultural icons were Warhol's schtick, as he himself became one. 

About 15 years ago, reading a bio about Elvis led to an idea for a short story about a man who made it his mission to write....

The Definitive Elvis Biography

J. Franklin Harris III believed there was nothing he couldn't do if he but put his mind to it. His talent for excellence appeared early in life. By age ten he spoke three languages with fluency. In his early teens he excelled in football, wrestling and baseball, as boys often do, with no detriment to his studies, still finding time to be the social phenom of his class. In scouts, he became the youngest in his state to attain the Order of the Arrow for which he also wrote an exemplary study of the virtues of selflessness as practiced by the Native Americans who inhabited our land before the arrival of white men. At 16 he gained admittance to the Massachusettes Institute of Technology, where he achieved his masters degree in engineering by age 20.

These items fade in importance next to his career successes, rising to the top of a fortune fifty company in less than eight years, masterminding a marketing coup in the booming electronics industry and stumbling upon a solution to the problem of applied polymorphic synthesized neural implants for chimpanzees.

In 1980, at age 30, he founded a consulting firm and began real problem solving in a big way, his earnest desire: to keep America competitive in the global marketplace. (Such idealism is typical among our youth.) He had seen the handwriting on the wall, that U.S. industry was losing ground and would have to wake up if it were not to be irretrievably lost.

One success followed another. Numerous articles appeared in business journals citing Harris' achievements. But by 1988 the laudatory articles and speaking opportunities failed to garner Harris the real prize he coveted. It was not enough to be lauded within his industry, or by his hometown. He coveted the earnest worship of global masses. It struck him odd that genius goes unheralded in this country, while being a Celebrity -- whether in sports, entertainment, Hollywood or at the Capitol -- captures the imagination and true adulation of the man in the street. Even dolts, properly packaged, can be household icons these days. It disgusted him when he met a famous actor who knew nothing about science, economics, literature or world affairs (other than that Charles and Di were having a few.)

Ultimately, what Harris wanted, above all else, was to be recognized by commoners, to have children run up to him as if they knew him, to have men seek his counsel and, occasionally, to have women swoon at his feet. It was a small thing, he told himself, because it was only what he deserved. To this end he dedicated all of his genius for problem solving to a singular, distinctive task: to write the Definitive Elvis Biography.

He had been careful in selecting the achievement that would etch his name in the panoply of time. He had drawn up lists of projects, weighing the merits of each task, the probability of success, the tangible and intangible factors, the cost -- both financial and personal -- to succeed, the risks, the resources available, the special knowledge or skills required. He then prioritized, submitting numerical values to the various components of his decision.

He likewise set a deadline for his decision, but when the day came to take action, he demurred.

The next day, and the next, he sat about the various rooms of his estate overcome by a black despair. There was no certainty in his heart. He could not begin without certainty.

So it was that he acknowledged his mortality and his smallness, opening up the possibility of a higher power than himself, for he had become suddenly and acutely aware that he was not a god. In this attitude of abasement, he rend his clothes and raised his hands toward the sky. "If there is a god, if there is a god in heaven, show me the way."

Night came and morning followed. When he woke, there in his consciousness was a shard from the overpowering images he had dreamed during his profound sleep. The notes from his diary indicate that he had been profoundly moved, and that a vibrant certitude had taken him captive in its talons. He realized, too, that as Dante so many centuries previous had written, logic is still only a high hill in hell.

He no longer saw himself an engineer. He had become a writer, an artist, a poet, a historian. And he was on his way....


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