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Inner Elvis: A Psychological Biography of Elvis Aaron Presley Paperback – August 1, 1997

4.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Just why was Elvis all shook up? According to clinical psychologist Peter Whitmer, Ph.D., the King suffered as a "twinless twin," and was forever tormented by the death of his infant twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley. Some of the conclusions in this hefty psychological analysis of Elvis may raise eyebrows, as will some of the odd nuggets of information Dr. Whitmer offers, but even readers who take this book with a healthy dose of skepticism will have to admit that it's an interesting and offbeat look at a life that, 20 years after it ended, remains a perennial object of fascination.

From Publishers Weekly

The central argument of this dicey Elvis bio (which, at least in the galley, misspells Presley's middle name throughout) is that the defining moment in the King's 42 years was the death at birth of his twin brother, Jesse. That psychological wound, contends clinical psychologist Whitmer (When the Going Gets Weird, about Hunter S. Thompson), shaped Elvis's life. Perhaps; but what is certain is that this book has personality problems of its own. While Whitmer hews doggedly to his central thesis, he is, ironically, at his best when the text reads as a straightforward life and times, offering detailed accounts of such subjects as rural Southern culture, Elvis's film career and his lurid decline. When the book returns explicitly to its main theme, however, it seems too insistent, even grasping; an argument about Elvis's androgynous appeal is backed up by no less an authority than Phyllis Diller. Ultimately, readers' responses to this book may depend on whether they believe that this author, or anyone for that matter, can accurately diagnose the psychopathology of someone he's never met, and whether they find illuminating or foolhardy such statements as: "To fully understand the emotional turmoil Elvis would suffer throughout his forty-two years, it is necessary to begin in utero...." While more nuanced and compassionate than Albert Goldman's hatchet job, this bio hasn't usurped Peter Guralnick's more rounded and better-written Last Train to Memphis as the definitive portrait of an American icon. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; Reprint edition (August 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786882484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786882489
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,921,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

POW - born: Boston. Raised: Salzburg, L.A., Washington, D.C. Education: University of California, Berkeley. Degree: Ph.D. Clinical Psychology. Sports: First US Rugby Team to tour South America [wing-forward]. Music: First drummer for the Turtles. Interests: Civil Rights, Latin American/Caribbean History. Personality Theory. PTSD. Twinless Twins [hence: Elvis bio.]
Lives: Montserrat, British West Indies. [see: scribd.com]

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on April 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I read this book AFTER reading the 2 book biography of Elvis by Peter Guralnick and I think that is how best to read this. While Guralnick gives the 'definative' story of Elvis and what happened to him, I think "The Inner Elvis" explains the WHY of it all. There is in this book the 'missing link' the explanation of why, and how Elvis was so affected by the early years of his life and the psychological effects of such things as his mother's over protection "enmeshment", his dead twin brother amongst other things. This book, I found, was a fascinating read but if you haven't read the full biography of Elvis' life and were looking for it here then there's a lot of detail missing, but that isn't what the author intended, I believe. His point and explanations are very well made & I rate this a 5 star read.
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A different and valuable analysis of Elvis Presley presenting the basis for his behavior in later life. I found a great deal of it plausible and very helpful in my understanding of the man. However, much of the reasoning seemed contorted and overextended with rambling, sometimes disjointed and overworked passages. It was like listening to Allen Greenspan before a congressional committee. I felt that the author made some conflicting statements. Most difficult for me to accept was the degree to which Elvis's life was supposedly shaped by the death of his twin at birth. But then I'm no psychologist.
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Format: Paperback
This is a great work not to be missed, for those looking for exceptional insight and value into Elvis's world.

The analysis of "Twinless Twins" was priceless in its value at showing who Elvis was as a person, and I had to call home to see if I had been a twinless twin myself, since I have felt many of those same feelings (other than having my long standing invisible friend revisited, mom said no...).

The Inner Elvis takes the reader into how the closeness of being twins in the womb can change a person forever, even when they grow up distanced from their twin by death or physical separation.

Add to that a mother who was unable to cope with the loss of one son and the abuse of a wayward husband. She heaped the love and the fears of their spartan early existence onto the one son remaining.

Combining all of this offers a fascinating read into Elvis' motivations.

I did take some objection to the author's obvious atheistic viewpoint, as God was very real to Elvis, his mom and also to me, and He isn't some crutch to the weak masses as Peter likes to put forth here. But, Peter, like everyone, will find that out for himself one day too.

All in all though, The Inner Elvis is a worthwhile read for the "why's" about Elvis. I always wondered why Elvis didn't stand up and tell the near-criminal Colonel Tom Parker to shove off in the 60's when the incredibly selfish and controlling manager forever damaged Elvis' movie career potential, and now I know. It was Elvis' fatal flaw, now understood a bit better.

RIP Elvis, you were a wonderful, warm and brilliantly gifted man who shared his talents and love with the world. You left the world so much better for having been in it. And, say Hi to Jessie Garon for me.
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Format: Paperback
The Inner Elvis was, for me, an identical twin, like reading a highly suspenseful mystery or spy novel. I devoured each page, each new pyschological insight.
As the author reveals through extensive research of events, interviews, recordings, Elvis Presely was, in large part, shaped by his lost (br)other and their one source, their mother.
Dr. Whitmer's "discovery", so to speak, of the origin of Elvis' unique musical style is nothing short of brilliant, spot on. I am sure music critics and scholars would scoff at his view but as an identical twin and a musician I understood it perfectly.
I look forward to any further explorations Dr. Whitmer may pursue in the psychological study of twins.
A great read.
Charlie Wine
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Format: Paperback
Sometimes I wonder if formal "counseling" would have helped Elvis - before too much damage set in, and this book confirms those doubts. This book takes the cake. Its theme of the "missing twin" is worn, frazzled, and this volume makes Elvis's very real sense of being an unjustly "lonely only" something that no writer will even touch again. Which is unfortunate, because it is but one more "symptom," if you must, of Elvis's difficult, if not untenable life. Elvis grew up in severe rural and urban poverty, and as much as we Americans like to ignore the very idea that class not only exists here, but often hurts and even kills, it does. Elvis himself knew he was just one among millions: one listen to "Long Black Limosine" is enough to "explain" this with more clarity and power than just about any psychohistory {or psychobabble, for those less charitable}.
There are, though, things written here that are simply unfair and not based on empirical evidence, but on gossipy old cliches. Vernon Presley was not "shiftless": he worked from the age of 12 and didn't stop working a mind-numbing and literally painful job until his son implored him to do so when his career began to take off. Soon, taking care of his son's personal business, he studied books on "bookkeeping" and worked hard at it - often to his son's irritation. Part of the "shiftless" label comes from the fact that Vernon Presley was a gentle parent and man. This is often just not acceptable in our society where men are supposed to be "disciplinarians" -- the parent who frightens his offspring into good behavior. Vernon made a conscious choice - early on - not to do so. Sure, Gladys was overprotective, but in a culture where most have many children, she was very afraid for her only one.
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