Graceland%20as%20Locus%20Sanctus - GRACELAND AS LOCUS...

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GRACELAND AS LOCUS SANCTUS GARY VIKAN r Guillaume Bij! (b. 1946). Corr.pasition Trouvee. 1990. Piaster, glass, mixe<l media, 102 x 8S\? x 20·, Courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery. New YorI\. (\; GUiUaume BijiNAGA. New Yorll1994.
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PROLOGUE: ElVIS AS SAItf1'2 So that the reader not stop at "saint" Elvis, a notion explicitly sanc- tioned not only by the tabloids 3 but also by the Washington Post!, the following points should be born in mind: • that saints, as charismatic mediating agents between our every- day world and remote and powerful spiritual forces, have existed in all religions, and outside conventional religion as well; • that within Christianity,de jure canonization, as now practiced by the Vatican, was a development of the second millennium, and that the Orthodox Church still follows a practice closer to the de facto form of canonization which dominateo early Christianity, whereby a saint was informally "elected" to sainthood by the col- lective belief and actions of his followers; • that Christianity has allowed for saints of vastly varying back- grounds and life-styles, including those despised by their con- temporaries; • that there is a profound difference between the image of the saint held dear by his followers, and the historical reality of the indi- vidual. who may not ever have existed; • and finally, that even within the 'conventional topology of western saints, comprising martyrs, confessors, ascetics, etc., Elvis, in the eyes of his ardent fans, has his place as a "martyr." The last point is abundantly clear from even a brief survey of Elvis vita literature, such as May Mann's Elvis, Why Won't They Leave You Alone? in which we learn the King's last thoughts as he lay dying on the floor of his bathroom: "This must be like what Jesus suffered."~ Purged from the singer's factual life history are any ref- erences to drug abuse, obesity, or paranoic violence. The vitae, most of which constitute an extended apologia responding to Albert Goldman's damning portrait of Elvis,6 speak instead of a dirt-poor southern boy who rose to fame and glory, of the love of a son for his mother, of humility and generosity, and of superhu- man achievement in the face of adversity. They emphasize Elvis' profound spiritualism and his painful, premature death-a death described as coming at the hands of his own fans, whose merci- less demands for Elvis entertainment exhausted and ultimately killed Elvis the entertainer ("uppers" to prepare for a concert, "downers" to get necessary rest afterwards). In their eyes, he had died for them, and any further revelations of his seeming debauch- . ery would, ironically, only reconfirm and intensify their image of his suffering. The stickiness of the word "saint" may be avoided entirely by adopting Max
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Graceland%20as%20Locus%20Sanctus - GRACELAND AS LOCUS...

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