Dissecting Michael Jackson: a cultural critic takes the measure of the man captured in the mirror.

Author:Fullwood, Steven G.
Position:On Michael Jackson - Book review

In celebration of Black Music Month, BIBR takes a look at some recent titles about the musicians and the rhythms that have shaped the musical landscape in America.

On Michael Jackson by Margo Jefferson Pantheon Books, January 2006 $20, ISBN 0-375-42326-5

Which came first, myth or Michael Jackson? In Margo Jefferson's first book, On Michael Jackson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former cultural critic for The New York Times deftly poses this question as she tours readers through the fun house of the undisputed King of Pop. Jefferson illuminates the varied landscapes in which the consummate entertainer has both flourished and faltered as a ringmaster and freak, manager and minstrel, breadwinner and child, virgin and sex symbol, child protector and accused pedophile, whose questionable grip on reality isn't really the question. What Jefferson stays about her subject by default reveals more about the public and its obsession with celebrity than it does about her subject. We are implicated in this remarkable treatise.

Expertly crafted--and by turns extremely hilarious--On Michael Jackson reads like a satisfying conversation with your more critically inclined friends about pop culture iconography. Deconstructing the King of Pop is nothing new, but Jefferson's treatment--which, gratefully, isn't mired in congratulatory revelation--is refreshing because she unites the many fragments of a cohesive whole.

Is it tragic? Sure, we think. Gaze upon, among other things, his face. What happened? Five succinct chapters, "Freaks," "Home," "Star Child," "Alone of All His Race, Alone of All Her Sex" and "The Trial;' lay bare the conundrum: the idea of Michael Jackson versus the reality of Michael Jackson--both ideas...

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