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ABOUT The World ...  

Par Claude Chastagner, professeur d'anglais à l'Université Paul Valéry à Montpellier.

 Down Memory Lane Inc. - A visit to Graceland

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Everything is on sale, everything is available but not the magic room, the inner sanctuary, the Holy of the Hollies: the room where he died, the toilet seat where he relinquished his soul, in a fascinating maelstrom where the sacred and the sordid, the sublime and the derisory, life and death coalesce. This is in fact the only reason for our coming to Graceland and of which we are frustrated, of which our mystic rather than pernicious curiosity is deprived. Unless we are secretely relieved to be denied entrance to that room; who wants myths to lose their mystery, after all?

Graceland, more than a place of memory, is place of storage. The worried accumulation of traces from the past, the petrification of memory reveal an uneasiness regarding the present and underline the highly symbolical role of Graceland. Graceland is a unifying factor. It represents the transformation of the past into a refuge, a past recast and idealised so as to offset a pervading feeling of loss and deprivation. Graceland has become the symbolic representation of the myth of permanence, the timeless shelter of the imperishable American Dream. 
As Bruce Springsteen said, stressing the ambiguity of such representation, 'for me, Elvis had the same dimension as this country, the same dimension as the dreams of this country. He represented the object of this dream and was at the same time engaged in a hopeless struggle against it' (quoted by ). But he added 'the TV, cars & houses [which we precisely associate with Graceland and Elvis] that's not the American Dream. Those are booby prizes, consolation prizes for the not careful, for selling yourself, for believing this is the end in and for itself, for being suckered in', however, despite his warnings, this is not what most people still believe in and what Graceland has come to stand for' (quoted by Marcus, 1995, 130).

Graceland is the embodiment of the archetypal success story, from rags to riches. A proof of its reality. But it is also on a more personal and intimate level, the symbol of the Golden '50s, a time when everything was possible, or so it is recalled by the majority of visitors who grew up as teenagers in the '50s. As such, Graceland stands for youth, not only the visitors' youth but the youth of a new culture, of a new world, the world of rock music, sexual freedom and fun, a world made for young people.

Graceland is the place of our youth, a youth that never really came of age or did it at a steep price: forsaken hopes, dreams turned sour, betrayals and surrender. Graceland is the place where it all began, and where most of it stopped. As Aaron neville sings in his song Young and Beautiful , 'Elvis, you could have stayed young and beautiful for ever, and I too, if only you'd never stopped ringing clearly'. Ringing clearly, that was the secret. But the sounds have become fuzzy and muddy, lost in a haze of time. Gone are the days of youth and beauty. At Graceland we all come looking for this lost chilhood, but the frantic scramble for memory that takes place there cannot recapture what is irretrievably lost.


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° Rubrique About The World