Bill Clinton and Elvis Presley in a Land of No Alternatives
In this witty exploration of popular culture, critic Greil Marcus draws on several of his previously published essays to point out striking similarities between Elvis Presley and President Clinton. He also discusses other 20th-century celebrities who have helped shape American culture, including Sinead O’Connor, Andy Warhol, and Bob Dylan.
“For a man so fearlessly counter-cultural that he dares reprint an entire irrelevant essay on Marianne Faithfull (wherein he approvingly quotes the chanteuse saying ‘I identified with Ulrike Meinhof’), Marcus is oddly conformist when it comes to the staid old Democratic National Committee. He regurgitates, without the smallest digestive amendment, every morsel of its propaganda. Bill was set up by the extreme right wing, he was a hound dog who needed his space, he didn’t do it anyway, or if he did, they all do it….Please.” (Washington Post – Christopher Hitchens )
“As a whole, the book is split against itself; it wants to treasure Clinton and Elvis as symbols of cultural renewal while admitting, in its subtitle even, that their dominating presences have left America with “no alternatives”. Partly this ambivalence can be traced to a problem of method….DOUBLE TROUBLE suggests, almost despite itself, that there are quieter, more disturbing lessons about subversiveness and the practice of American democracy yet to be discovered in the orbit of Bill and Elvis. Marcus has led us halfway there.” (Times Literary Supplement – Scott B. Saulson )
Greil Marcus was one of the first to note that the moment in June 1992 when Bill Clinton appeared playing the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall Show was the turning point in the election. In Double Trouble, drawing on pieces published between 1992-2000, Marcus explores how culture is made and how, through culture, people remake themselves. This edition has a new essay written before the 2000 presidential election: an eerily prescient piece that looks forward to two very different futures for ex-President Bill Clinton.