Biggest Elvis: A Novel

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Biggest Elvis: A Novel
Biggest Elvis book cover.jpg
Book cover for P. F. Kluge's novel Biggest Elvis
Author P. F. Kluge
Country United States
Language English
Genre Fiction
Publisher Penguin
Publication date
Pages 341
ISBN 0-14-025811-6

Biggest Elvis, also known as Biggest Elvis: A Novel,[1] is the first novel[2] written by American author P. F. Kluge, an ex-U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in the Pacific region[3] and writer-in-residence at Kenyon College.[4] This 1996 literary piece started out as a journalistic writing for Playboy magazine, to illustrate the nightlife in brothels and nightclubs when fleets of American naval servicemen dock for sailor’s shore-leave[2] on the port of Olongapo City.[4] It is also a portrayal of the entrapment of poverty-stricken residents of Olongapo within a "military economy" through the nightly and ritualistic on-stage rebirths, deaths, and resurrections of Elvis Presley by three American copycats living and making a livelihood while in the Philippines.[5]

Thematic description[edit]

In general, Kluge’s Biggest Elvis is the story of a former college professor and of America itself.[6] The "part mystery" and "part love story" novel[7] is set in Olongapo City, a Philippine town closest to Subic Naval Base, a former U.S. naval installation in the Far East during the 1990s. As a narrative and a commentary[8] regarding American "cultural imperialism"[3] – including "pop-culturalism"[5] – in the Asian region, and the final years of militaristic presence of the United States in Subic Bay, Biggest Elvis protagonizes three American Elvis Presley impersonators and caricatures[3] who performs in a nightclub known as "Graceland",[7] a building that started-out as a movie theater.[5]

Plot and character outline[edit]

The triad of reborn Elvises include the fictional persons of Ward Wiggins, Chester Lane, and Albert Lane. They were a representation of the changing roles of Americans in the world stage of the time, as "vigorous pioneers"[5] and "lean innovators" turned extravagant and colossal superpowers.[1][5] Wiggins was the eldest of the trio of impersonators and an unsuccessful English-language professor. Chester Lane, known in the narrative as Baby Elvis,[1] was the imitator of the youthful Elvis Presley. While his brother, Albert, revived the Elvis epitomized in American cinema, and called as "Dude Elvis".[1] The most senior and an obese personification[1] of Elvis, Wiggins, came to be regarded as the "biggest Elvis" – a religious symbolic figure and savior – of the local people and bargirls of Olongapo City,[1][3] Wiggins was the most serious entertainer among the three because he reaches out to the Olongapo bargirls in order to uproot and lift them up away from their current flesh-driven livelihood, while the Lane Brothers only regard their performances as a momentary engagement.[2] For Wiggins, his showbiz entanglement was a saintly and spiritual calling. He believed that he was indeed the real Elvis, not just a mimic of America’s King of rock and roll music.[5] However, their popularity as performers was overtaken in the end – prior to Wiggins final and greatest Elvis Presley entertainment act – by five bargirls, namely Whitney, Elvira, Dolly, Lucy Number Three, and Malou.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Biggest Elvis: A Novel by P. F. Kluge, ISBN 978-0-670-86974-9, ISBN 0-670-86974-0
  2. ^ a b c Pearl, Nancy. Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason,
  3. ^ a b c d Biggest Elvis by P. F. Kluge
  4. ^ a b Lobanov-Rostovsky, Sergei. Guns, Drugs, and Elvis: A Guide to Research for Fiction Writers, A novelist and creative writing teacher revises the injunction to "write what you know"],
  5. ^ a b c d e f Ferguson, Sarah. Graceland in the Philippines, Books in Brief: Nonfiction, Books, The New York Times,, September 1, 1996
  6. ^ Eder, Richard. Pretenders to the King's Throne, Biggest Elvis by P.F. Kluge, Fiction, Article Collections, Los Angeles Times,, August 04, 1996
  7. ^ a b Biggest Elvis: A Novel by P. F. Kluge,
  8. ^ Inskeep, Steve and Nancy Pearl. A Librarian Suggests Some Escapist Fare, Summertime, and the Reading is Easy,, July 23, 2004

External links[edit]