Monday, June 11, 2007

On Michael Jackson, by Margo Jefferson

This book is more an impressionistic portrait of Michael Jackson, using broad brush strokes of cultural analysis. It’s all written in an overly thoughtful, literary way. So don’t expect hard hitting journalism , poring over Jackson in a forensic fashion. Rather the book suggests different ways of looking at Jackson, citing Jackson’s own musical and cultural influences, and how they may have influenced him in turn. It’s pretty tame stuff.

Overall, the this essay is perhaps a bit too light and airy. It’s great that Margo Jefferson has had the smarts to write a book taking Jackson seriously. But I wish the book was more substantial, more opinionated. Someone like Jackson should surely provoke a much more passionate book. At some points I wondered if Jefferson had the intellectual depth to pull off what she’d proposed. Her use of source material seems lazy: Michael and LaToya’s autobiographies! Plus some of the reviewers have pointed out several mistakes. I hate that sort of sloppiness.

In the end, this book doesn’t reveal anything new about Michael Jackson. Nor does Margo Jefferson have any new thinking to add to her subject. You leave the book mildly disappointed.
This is not to say don’t read it. It does have its moments. But you might find the big, tabloid biographies more stimulating. Or indeed, read Michael’s own autobiography, which is surprising good – well, that’s what I thought anyway.

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