L.S. Klepp
August 23, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

”Elvis lives in us…. There is only one King and we know who he is.” This guidebook to ”Elvisism” demonstrates that this near-religion has devotional orders (the fan clubs), priests in ornate vestments (the impersonators), sacred music and images (e.g., Fun in Acapulco), shrines (Graceland), and High Holy Days (each August, some 40,000 worshipers descend on Memphis to commemorate the King’s 1977 death). Other celebrities who died young — James Dean, John Lennon — have their devout flame keepers, but only Elvis Presley actually turns up in apparitions, like the Virgin Mary (each year countless fans claim to have glimpsed him). John Strausbaugh transforms what might have been simply an occasion for irony into a tough-minded and incisive study of religious psychology. The result — E: Reflections on the Birth of the Elvis Faith — is a triumph of skeptical curiosity — worthy of an inquisitorial bonfire in the Elvis-ruled future. A-

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