Crump, Simon Richard (2014) My Elvis Blackout and Neverland: Truth, Fiction and Celebrity in the Postmodernist Heterobiographical Composite Novel. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

A PhD by publication comprising two of my books, My Elvis Blackout and Neverland, accompanied by a reflective and critical exegesis, which examines notions of truth, fiction and celebrity in the composite novel through a broadly analytical and practice-based methodology. The exegesis begins by exploring the links between the methodology of the fine artist and the new creative writer. It then demonstrates that My Elvis Blackout and Neverland represent an original contribution to knowledge in the way that they explore and develop literary form (the ‘composite’ novel), and, in their exploration of celebrity, myth-making and fictional hagiography, and that the two books function as performative critiques which probe the boundaries between fiction and the fabricated reality of celebrity culture. My exegesis analyses Linda Boldrini’s term ‘heterobiography’ (2012) with particular reference to Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy The Kid (1981), which as a bricolage relies upon the reader’s pre-conceived recognition of the historicity of its protagonist and continually tests the boundaries between fact and fiction. In this section of the exegesis, I propose that what sets My Elvis Blackout and Neverland apart from Billy The Kid is that whilst Ondaatje’s book certainly does exploit the confusions between fact, fiction, autobiography and history, it remains firmly set within the timeframe that its historical protagonist inhabits. My Elvis Blackout and Neverland remain grounded within their readers’ expectations of American settings contemporary to their nominative protagonists, but both books also feature dilations in both historical and geographical setting. Through analysis I have come to perceive ‘the celebrity persona’ as an identikit image assembled by thousands of witnesses. A photo fit photomontage tiered with impressions of subjective provenance, each layered transparency filtered through the fears and desires of fans and critics. Whereas other historiographic metafictions use historical figures as singular characters, My Elvis Blackout and Neverland can be seen to be utilising an ‘identikit’ concept to present their respective protagonists as manyheaded Hydras, or multiple probability ‘versions’ from parallel universes. By a conflation of terms, Hutcheon’s ‘historiographic metafiction’ (1988) and Boldrini’s ‘heterobiography’ (2012), My Elvis Blackout and Neverland are in fact historiobiographic metafictions. The exegesis concludes by establishing my own works’ live impact on the overarching celebrity metanarratives, and their inevitable organic status.

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