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Tag: Herman Melville

That’s All Right, Elvis

Wednesday, 16 August, 2017 0 Comments

The best serious book about rock ‘n’ roll takes its title from the last single Elvis Presley recorded for Sun Records. Mystery Train by Greil Marcus was published in 1975 and when the second edition came out he was asked to amend the chapter on Elvis by putting everything in the past tense but he refused, saying, “Elvis’ presence was so powerful, I felt he’s always in the present tense.”

Marcus bases his argument for the central place of rock ‘n’ roll in American culture on the “democratic assumption” that “Presley and Herman Melville are already cultural and political equals.” Melville wrote Typee, his first book, in the summer of 1845 and Elvis recorded his first single in July 1954. That’s All Right was originally performed by blues singer Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup and the Elvis version is as revolutionary as ever as we observe the 40th anniversary today of the death of The King.


Seven short sentences

Friday, 22 May, 2015 0 Comments

In the fiction business, crafting that captivating opening sentence requires a special gift. Some writers have managed it using just three words; others needed more but they still had the knack of making a dozen sound compact. Seven examples:

“Mother died today.” Albert Camus, The Stranger

“Call me Ishmael.” Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

“I am an invisible man.” Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

“The moment one learns English, complications set in.” Felipe Alfau, Chromos

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.” Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” George Orwell, 1984

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between