Someday, an enterprising huckster, the spiritual descendant of the first person to sell charts comparing the coincidences of the Kennedy and Lincoln assassinations, will market an item tracing the parallels between Bill Clinton and Elvis Presley. But he or she won't be the first to note them. From Clinton's Arsenio performance of "Heartbreak Hotel" onward, the similarities have long been out in the open for all to see. But do they mean anything? They do to Greil Marcus, and in Double Trouble he sets out to find the significance of what "began as a joke and has not quite held that shape." If that project sounds incapable of sustaining a book—even a book by Marcus, who has made a brilliant career of exploring the intersections of history, myth, and popular culture—it probably is. Something of a Trojan horse housing a collection of Marcus' Clinton-era pieces for various publications, Double Trouble features Clinton and Elvis only as the two most frequently recurring characters in an account that touches on everything from Geto Boys to Pleasantville. But, to borrow Marcus' own terminology, even when it fails to make the connections explicit, the book fits them all neatly in the socio-psychic landscape of the Clinton/Elvis matrix. One criticism of Marcus has always been that his critical skills serve him best when dealing with the past, but the passing of time between Double Trouble's earliest pieces and the present makes a pretty good argument on his behalf. "Images Of The Present Day," a 1992 tour de force for Esquire on the subject of the always-alleged death of rock 'n' roll, may at the time—and as recently as 1997—have seemed short-sighted for its failure to offer a wholehearted endorsement of Nirvana as rock's savior. But take a look at today's pop charts and, oops, what kind of music is topping it again? Does Marcus stretch too much at times? (Describing the end of Red Rock West: "Nicolas Cage, Lara Flynn Boyle, J.T. Walsh, and Dennis Hopper are jammed into a car… and they all look like Elvis.") Probably, but his great strength, from Mystery Train through the present, is his ability to make others see the connections he sees, whether readily apparent or not. The similarities between Clinton and Elvis (the poor Southern background, the easy charm, the perennial failure to live up to expectations), like those between the deaths of Kennedy and Lincoln, may be merely coincidental. But, as Marcus writes, "Coincidences make metaphors and metaphors make culture." It's a statement that justifies the entire book, and perhaps an entire career.

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