Charles R. Larson reviews Javier Marías' Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico.
One of Spain’s leading writers, Javier Marías, undertakes quite a flight of the imagination in this skinny little novel—technically a long story or novella—Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico. The fact is that Elvis Presley was never in Acapulco—or at least not during the filming of Fun in Acapulco (1963), his thirteenth film, late in his movie career, and totally formulaic (unless you want to cite the presence of Ursula Andress as providing gravitas to the film). The movie was shot in Hollywood, though obviously some exterior scenes were taken on the assumed location.Click to read the full article
What Marías has undertaken is a broad re-envision of what might have happened to Elvis had the film been made in Mexico. The narrative is comparable to, say, Philip Roth’s The Plot against America, which speculates what might have happened to the United States if Franklin Delano Roosevelt had not won reelection in 1940. Obviously, Marías’s scope is nothing of the magnitude of Roth’s speculation of an alternate history for that presidential election. But that hardly matters, since Marías’s narrative is just as profound as Roth’s when the issue becomes societal differences: popular culture and cultural narrow-mindedness.