drama teacher cast her as an intergalacticnfemale Elvis on a planet ruled bynwomen” and subsequently has seennthe singed image of Elvis on her kitchennwindow screen.nLess “preoccupied” and thereforenmore intriguing is auctioneer MikenAlbert, a Virgo from Ohio and anformer winner of the Elvis Olympicsnwho—let us imagine this — can “donan entire auction as Elvis.” Strange butntrue also is Nazar “The Singing Doctor”nSayegh, an anesthesiologist andntouring Elvis impersonator. “As henwheels his patients to the recoverynroom,” we are told, the doctor “softlynsings them an Elvis song.” I look at itnthis way: it can’t hurt, and it’s certainlynbetter, post-operatively speaking, thannbeing sung a Billy Idol song.nMany Elvis impersonators, it turnsnout, are holders of odd but unchallengeablenElvis-impersonator records.nRick Marino, for instance, performednin “The Elvis, Elvis, Elvis Show” atnthe Kookilkwan Show Room in Inchon,nSouth Korea, making him “thenfirst American act not associated withnthe military to ever work in a Koreannplace of business.” And Dave Carlson,na “recent inductee into the Elvis PresleynInternational Impersonators AssociationnHall of Fame,” is the only Elvisnimpersonator who conducts seminarsnon “the art of impersonating the Kingnof Rock and Roll.” This Hall ofnFamer’s artistic advice to budding Elvisites:n”I can’t grab a person’s leg andnsay, ‘Here, move your leg like this.’nMost of it has to come from thenindividual.” ‘Tis ever true of art.nAt different ends of the I-am-Elvisnspectrum are one fellow who simplyngoes through life dressed as the King,nhoping one day to become a “professional”nElvis, and another fellow whonwas inspired to impersonate Elvis notnby Elvis himself but by the act ofnanother Elvis impersonator, and whosendesire now is to marry whoever wouldnimpersonate Ann-Margaret in the inevitablenremake of the real Elvis’s unforgettablenfilm. Viva Las Vegas. It allncries out for some sort of psychologicalninterpretation, though I’m not sure I’dnlike to know what it is. In any case, thenmost likely source of such interpretationnin I Am Elvis, a bearded andnbalding Elvis impersonator who writesn”books about psychotherapy,” hasnnothing to say about the psychologicalnimplications of Elvisness. In fact, henhas nothing to say about how a beardednand balding writer goes about impersonatingnElvis Presley. He doesnreveal, however, that his “most memorablenperformance was at a TexaconEat-In in Lampasas, Texas,” adding,nperhaps redundantly, “I’ve been complimentednin all kinds of places for mynsinging.”nThe most interesting of all Elvisnimpersonators are those whose point isnthat they aren’t Elvis. Clarence “BlacknElvis” Ciddens asked, “What? A blacknElvis?” when a friend suggested henperform professionally, and it’s impossiblento argue with the friend’s response:n”Why not?” And then there isnEl Vez, “The Mexican Elvis,” completenwith a jumpsuit bearing “a sequinednVirgin of Guadalupe on thenback,” not to mention “a matchingnsombrero.” (No sewing mothers for ElnVez. His stage clothes are custommade,nbut he “does all the stud worknhimself.”) El Vez performs literalnSpanish translations of Elvis standards,nincluding that classic about rock andnroll footwear, “Huaraches Azul.” Hisnpre-performance ritual involves notnprayers to Elvis but “a shot of tequila,”nand he is backed up on stage by thenElvettes — Gladysita, Priscilita, LisanBRIEF MENTIONSnISAAC AND HIS DEVILSnby Fernanda EberstadtnNew York: Alfred A. Knopf; 338 pp., $22.00nMarie, and Que Linda Thompson —nand accompanied by the MemphisnMariachi Band. El Vez’s plans focusnon an event to be called “El GrannCombo de El Vez — a mixture of anLas Vegas show and a Mexican BalletnFolklorico,” a blend of salsa and rockabillynthat would fuel a “show/operanrecounting the history of Mexiconthrough Elvis songs.”nThe history of Mexico through Elvisnsongs. To consider such a spectaclen(and me, I’d pay to see it) is to benbrought back to the original question:nwhat was the meaning of Elvis? Fornthat matter, what is the meaning ofnElvis impersonators? After lookingnthrough J Am Elvis, my conclusion onnboth counts is: Beats me, but there it is.nAs one Elvis impersonator, a Leo fromnEast Peoria, Illinois, said after his firstnpublic Elvis performance as the King,n”I thought it would be a flop, but mynpeers loved it, and the rest, as they say,nis history, or the future, depending onnhow you look at it.” Precisely. In thenmeantime, all I know for sure is thatnthere will never be a book called I AmnAbe: A Guide to Lincoln Impersonators.nJanet Scott Barlow covers popularnculture from Cincinnati.nIsaac Hooker, half-blind from nearsightedness, a little deaf, and far too intelligent for anhappy adolescence, lumbers through Fernanda Eberstadt’s second novel with thenpainful desperation of an overintellectual misfit trying to break out of middle-class,nsmall-town New Hampshire. Eberstadt is a skilled writer and her first novel, Low Tide,nwas moving even where slightly overwritten; in Isaac she has the same partialnsuccess with metaphor: some fit in to a scene seamlessly, but others do not. Therenis nothing sloppy or unfocused about her work; like her hero Isaac, when Eberstadtnfails it is from trying too hard.nThere is much to recommend the novel. The characters are well drawn and,nhowever selfish, very appealing: Isaac’s father Sam, too self-consciously ambitiousnto make more of himself than a high-school teacher; Isaac’s vigorous, unintellectual,nand unforgiving mother Mattie; his little brother Turner, who wants to blend innwhere Isaac sticks out and to take care of a family with which Isaac has always beennat war. In both Eberstadt’s books plot plays second fiddle to analysis of character,nand that is especially true of Isaac; those who read novels for the story will not findnmuch of one here. But the poignancy of this somewhat monstrous protagonist isnundeniable, and those many passages where Eberstadt’s risk-taking pays off bodenwell for a third book.n—Jack RamsaynnnJULY 1991/43n