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On Michael Jackson
Margo Jefferson
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On Michael Jackson

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  196 ratings  ·  41 reviews
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 Jacks ...more
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Published February 7th 2006 by Books on Tape (first published January 1st 2006)
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Yes, my longest and most thoughtful Goodreads review is for a book about Michael Jackson. Since he died, I've been upset - more upset than I expected. Michael Jackson was for me what he was to many: always there in the background, whether it was his inspired music, dance, and presence in the early 80s, the speculation over his increasingly bizarre behavior starting in the mid to late 80s, or the more sinister role he took on as charges of sexual molestation were brought against him. Always there ...more
I read this book when it first came out, and ordered a copy when Jackson died. I appreciated, and appreciate even more so now, Jefferson's ability to discuss both sides of Jackson: his unquestionable talent and the irreparable harm caused to him in the name of that talent... and the possibility that he may have caused harm to others as a result. Jefferson's book is an example of how to talk/think about Jackson and his role in our culture without lapsing into the disturbing romanticization of him ...more
Elizabeth  Fuller
Terrific premise; disappointing execution. I think it's a great idea to examine Michael Jackson - as a persona, performer and phenomenon - from a multifaceted cultural perspective (including the histories of entertainment, race, family culture, legal precedent and more), which is exactly what this book does. The problem here is that although the perspective is broad and far-reaching, the author just doesn't delve very deeply into any of her subjects, and the result feels more like a brief outlin ...more
I was never a fan of MJ, although he was the biggest thing since sliced bread in pop culture during my formative years. I do like several of this songs, his dancing is phenomenal...but the evolution of his character, career, and physical being--the stuff of endless articles--is tackled in this short book, written with a more academic pen than a tabloid one. As other reviewers have noted, there is a lack of depth that leaves one unsatisfied.
Bookmarks Magazine

It's a high-wire act to admire and defend someone as genuinely bizarre and embattled as Michael Jackson. Most of the public has long come to a conclusion about him, so much so that his name rarely grabs tabloid headlines anymore. That Margo Jefferson, a Pulitzer Prize_

Turn off all the TV and internet coverage of Michael Jackson's death and pick up this slim book by Margo Jefferson. Love him or hate him, her observations are to the point and thought provoking. A riveting look at an icon and what became of him.
This sometimes feels like an overlong grad student paper. Although the author is quite intelligent, I often felt like she was more in love with her own writing than anyone else could ever be. She can be quite clever and occasionally tickled me with assertions such as, “Knowing Michael had not one, but two sons named Prince Michael, Jermaine would trump him, upping the ante on black nomenclature, by christening his son Jermajesty.” She is best when writing about the Jackson family, at which point ...more
Harker US Library
Margo Jefferson's On Michael Jackson is a cultural analysis of the King of Pop, ultimately providing readers with the reason behind his bizarre actions that eventually acquire the pop star the infamous nickname of "Wacko Jacko." While the first half primarily explores his childhood, the latter focuses on the notorious 2005 trial and his transformation from a reigning pop star to an erratic recluse. Additionally, Jefferson cleverly scatters a few of her unique interpretations of the pop star's vi ...more
so, i got through it. it took a little over an hour and i'm irritated that i will never get that time back. there's no reason to even review this piece of crap, so i'll just repeat what i said @ the book club meeting when asked, "what'd you think?":

it was like a really long magazing article. an article you'd only read b/c you were in the hair salon and the chatter of the other patrons and/or the stylist was somehow more annoying than the article. and you forgot your book. and there were no other
Janne Paananen
Jaahas. Tämä kirja tuntuu lähinnä siltä, että jollakulla gradun tekijällä on päässyt proggis lapasesta ja tuloksena on syntynyt tutkielma hahmosta nimeltä Michael Jackson. Kirja ei juurikaan keskity hänen musiikkiinsa vaan pikemminkin hänen tanssimiseensa, videoihinsa, oikeudenkäyntiinsä ja ylipäänsä hänen ristiriitaiseen persoonaansa. Hieman samanlaisella otteella kuin vähän aikaa sitten lukemani kirja Leonard Cohenista. Cohenin kirjasta paistoi läpi se, että kirjoittaja oli lukenut ja kuunnell ...more
Consider this a 3.5 star review rounded up to four, because there are no half-stars, apparently. I got this yesterday for (literally) a song--it was on the dollar rack at my Brookline Booksmith (I confess I go there far too often for someone like myself who has way too many books already and not nearly enough money).

I wanted to like this book more than I did. It's certainly the start of something important and worthwhile (it was published in 2006, not long before his death), and it contains many
Though it includes a variety of factual errors in regard to Michael's career and life, it's worth noting that many of these essays were written while he was still alive (and even today there is very little legitimate research on hand for authors to consult). For the position Jefferson was in as a writer, she does an admirable job of being relatively accurate, but that's not really the main point — her goal with this collection is more creative interpretation of the man's work. Some passages — he ...more
Beautiful, lyrical prose offers the reader a different way to think about Michael Jackson by addressing the idea of a "monster child." Sometimes, the writer meanders and the voice is extremely present, which makes the book a bit disconcerting at first (and hard to get through). But once you start reading it on its own terms rather than your own, you start to wonder more and more about the voice telling the story. The voice implicates us, the reader, the audience, in a clever way so by the end of ...more
Crystal Belle
One would think that a book titled "On Michael Jackson" would attempt some kind of objectivity in writing about such a controversial mega-star. Unfortunately, the author says everything we have already heard: he is a freak, he is odd, he is asexual, etc. What disturbed me most was the voice, which was very "matter-of-fact" when it is clear that nobody really knows all of the facts of Jackson's life. I wanted more, so much more, and it just wasn't there. There were a few strong points regarding J ...more
This is a pretty shallow book. Jefferson opens promisingly, tracing Jackson's life against some of his lesser-known heroes; P.T. Barnum, Edgar Allan Poe and J.M. Barrie. But soon enough she takes the tone of preachy first-year psychology lecturer and the insight quickly becomes minimal. "I Want You Back" gains nothing from her sterile deconstruction, and her flat dismissal of Janet as "the hardest-working sex toy in show business" is frankly just offensive.
Nicole ( Colie )
--not in German when I read it, which was four days after his death on my fire escape in the sun. It was the absolute best way to combat or correspond with the radio and television marathons, the general conversational obsession (two people running by me in the park [who I heard for maybe 7 seconds:] were talking about whether or not Quincy Jones was a paternal stand-in), and the unexpected sadness of the world sans this strange little enormous man.
Brain candy or junk food for the brain - quick to read, hard to put down (Lay's - you can't just have one!), and about as substantial as fast food. But it was a page-turner. The book was written three years before Jackson's death, but it pretty much summarizes what anyone with half a brain was already thinking - that Michael Jackson ceased to exist as a human after Thriller. Highly recommended for those stuck in a traffic jam/standing in a line.
Found on the Salvation Army shelf in the wake of this past summer's morbid Jackson frenzy, took it over to one of Woodside's few cafes, and read the thing. Jefferson provides a useful biographical sketch and poses a few interesting questions, that's all, and that's all that really can be done on MJ beyond a more complete appreciation of his music. Everything else is just voyeurism that isn't even fun.

As a huge Michael Jackson fan, it was difficult for me to accept the author's critical tone. However, she made me see him more as a cultural representative and demonstrated how we sexualize and abuse child actors and performers. She is also a very intellectual writer, so I had to respect that. And I still love Michael Jackson, plastic surgery and all.
Like so many, I have gotten sucked into the post mortem Michael Jackson craze. Jefferson provides an interesting assessment and critique of Michael Jackson from young African American boy to androgynous, white-skinned adult. If nothing else, this book will make you think about how our society has changed in terms of what we desire and what we will tolerate.
Tuomas Hiltunen
I just reread this excellent book. If you were impressed by Joan Acocella's piece on M.J. in 27 July 2009 New Yorker (for 3 days she watched and analysed his music videos), you are going to be blown away by Margo Jefferson's marvelous book. 5 stars.
Really great book! I'm a huge fan of Michael Jackson but I believe this book really explained who and what he was as a person. It was veryu insightful and it was definitely worth reading for those of you who are King of Pop fans.
A fascinating portrait of a child star transformed into a monster. It doesn't read like a typical biography, but more like a psychological investigation of Jackson, his fans, and American popular culture.
I thought this was an excellent investigative piece that didn't ever objectify Jackson as a cultural oddity, but instead treated his subject as a human being with problems, successes and emotions.
Pretty good, but not the best. I would not choose it, but I had to.. I read it for a school presentation. I recommend it for those who like MJ, otherwise you will be disappointed.
Kathleen O'Neal
Michael Jackson is a fascinating artist and personality. Unfortunately this book did not do justice to him or his work. Fairly disappointing.
Interesting, well-researched, and sympathetic portrait of a complex public figure, but this book reads like a first draft.
This book is more on the psychology and transformation of Michael Jackson than his life story. It's a brilliant read.
A incisive survey of Jackson's place in our culture and a great example of the strengths of cultural criticism.
Raka Kurnia
A brilliant thoughts on Michael Jackson. Margo Jefferson's style in explaining Michael is fascinating.
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