Black History Margo Jefferson On Michael Jackson

ISBN 13 : 9780375423260

On Michael Jackson

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9780375423260: On Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson was once universally acclaimed as a song-and-dance man of genius; Wacko Jacko is now, more often than not, dismissed for his bizarre race and gender transformations and confounding antics, even as he is commonly reviled for the child molestation charges twice brought against him. Whence the weirdness and alleged criminality? How to account for Michael Jackson’s rise and fall? In On Michael Jackson—an at once passionate, incisive, and bracing work of cultural analysis—Pulitzer Prize–winning critic for The New York Times Margo Jefferson brilliantly unravels the complexities of one of the most enigmatic figures of our time.

Who is Michael Jackson and what does it mean to call him a “What Is It”? What do P. T. Barnum, Peter Pan, and Edgar Allan Poe have to do with our fascination with Jackson? How did his curious Victorian upbringing and his tenure as a child prodigy on the “chitlin’ circuit” inform his character and multiplicity of selves? How is Michael Jackson’s celebrity related to the outrageous popularity of nineteenth-century minstrelsy? What is the perverse appeal of child stars for grown-ups and what is the price of such stardom for these children and for us? What uncanniness provoked Michael Jackson to become “Alone of All His Race, Alone of All Her Sex,” while establishing himself as an undeniably great performer with neo-Gothic, dandy proclivities and a producer of visionary music videos? What do we find so unnerving about Michael Jackson’s presumed monstrosity? In short, how are we all of us implicated?

In her stunning first book, Margo Jefferson gives us the incontrovertible lowdown on call-him-what-you-wish; she offers a powerful reckoning with a quintessential, richly allusive signifier of American society and popular culture.

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Review :

Book Description
Margo Jefferson’s On Michael Jackson is a lucid and elegant cultural analysis of the rise and fall of the King of Pop.

An award-winning cultural critic, Jefferson brings an unexpected compassion as well as her sharp intellect and incomparable insight to Jackson’s 2005 trial for child molestation, startling us with her erudite illumination of a media-drenched circus that we only thought we understood. As only she can, Jefferson reads between the lines of Jackson’s 1998 autobiography as well as published accounts of his childhood, his family, and Motown--where Michael and his brothers first made the Jackson 5 a household name--leaving us with provocative and perhaps unanswerable questions about Jackson, child stardom, and fame itself.


Margo Jefferson on the Life and Death of Michael Jackson
Pundits love to talk about the crises and cultural flashpoints that give Americans the chance to grow up and think outside of the usual dualities: this is good, that is evil; we hate her, we love him. Michael Jackson’s death gives us yet another chance.

Talent, scandal, sudden death, and a 24/7 media cycle make us very worshipful or very cynical. We can do better this time around. We don’t have to sneer or be pious. We know Michael Jackson was a genius, and we know he became a tortured soul. The first three days after his death were our grace period. We watched videos, replayed our favorite songs relived our youth, and waxed nostalgia about the good old days when all we had to deal with was his enormous talent. And though I never much liked the song, "we" were definitely the world--crowding onto streets, into theaters and parks, dancing (or at least swaying) to his music. North and South America. Europe. Africa. Asia. Only Antarctica and most of the animal kingdom stayed uninvolved.

Then the nasty stuff started creeping out again, like the ghouls in Thriller. Drug reports, rumors of custody wars, tours of an empty Neverland, memorial extravaganza plans; the sight of Michael’s father hustling family unity along with his new record company; the statements and counter-statements of siblings, lawyers, ex-employees, companions and bottom-feeders. And, of course, the three children. Whatever we don’t know about them, we do know they’re worth their weight in gold records and posthumous business deals. And it’s only just begun.

But we can live with the damaged life and the great work: both of them, all at once. We have to. So much of Michael Jackson’s damage reflects the worst in our culture, and so much of his talent reflects the best.--Margo Jefferson

(Photo © Brent Murray)

About the Author :

Margo Jefferson has written for The New York Times since 1993 and received the Pulitzer Prize in 1995. Her reviews and essays have also appeared in The Nation, Vogue, Grand Street, The Village Voice, American Theatre, Dance Ink, and Harper’s Magazine. She lives in New York City.

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