Thursday, November 22, 2007

Family Albums from Little, Brown and Company: A Warning

Reality tampering alert! There are two new books from Little, Brown and Company that present very sanitized portraits of their subjects. Frank Sinatra: The Family Album by Charles Pignone and Elvis Presley: The Family Album by George Klein are books written by personal friends with the support of family estates wanting to influence public perceptions. In both books happy times prevail.

The Frank Sinatra book is especially guilty of omitting anything unpleasant. After looking through it, I was almost convinced that Old Blue Eyes had been happily married to one woman all his life. He is shown in many home photos with his first wife Nancy, including some in which their grown children appear. His daughter Tina also looks a lot like her mother, perhaps aiding the illusion. Wives Ava Gardner (1951), Mia Farrow (1966), and Barbara Marx (1976) do not appear and are not mentioned in this book. I guess they are not considered family by the Sinatra estate.

While there are many photos of Sinatra with his entertainment friends, there are few with men who might be mob connections. Photos of his bad behavior are also missing. I guess this is to be expected from a book that suggests that it is a leather bound family keepsake.

The book about Elvis Presley is equally cleaned up. I think there are only a couple of photos that date after 1970. Elvis still looks young at the end of the book. In fact, there is no suggestion that Elvis died. On the other hand, there are some pretty scary-looking characters in the wedding photo on page 131 - especially the bride.

I searched through the Little, Brown website and the databases of Baker & Taylor to see if any more Family Albums are coming. I did not see any. I can imagine more of them: Ronald Reagan, Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland, etc.

Libraries may still want these attractive books, as fans will like them and students can find lots of photos to copy for their reports. We do present all points of view in the public library. These books are living proof.

Pignone, Charles. Frank Sinatra: The Family Album. Little, Brown, 2007. ISBN 0316003492

Klein, George. Elvis Presley: The Family Album. Little, Brown, 2007. ISBN 0316003506

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