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The Awfully Big Adventure: Michael Jackson in the Afterlife

Faber & Faber. Jun. 2019. 208p. ISBN 9780571350049. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780571350063. MUSIC
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A decade after his death, singer Michael Jackson (1958–2009) is still an enigma. How and why did he make such a significant impact on popular culture? What part does fame play in our society, and how did Jackson's celebrity shape his existence and fate? Cultural critic Morley (The Age of Bowie) attempts to address these and related questions in this eclectic narrative. There are observations on Jackson's public appearances and personal controversies including, very briefly, accusations against him of sexual abuse, as well as anecdotes, contextual background material, and biographical details, from his childhood days with the Jackson 5 to his iconic status to his ultimate decline. Unfortunately, the lengthy lists ("What is Michael Jackson according to Google?") variously inserted to characterize the artist are disconcerting, as are Morley's deliberations about his own possible responses to media requests for commentary on Jackson's death. The most engaging portions concentrate on Jackson's work, including the creation of memorable albums such as Thriller and his multiple collaborations with producer Quincy Jones.
VERDICT Many will find the author's approach almost as enigmatic as its subject, though serious fans and those interested in deconstructing Michael Jackson's life and death may appreciate it.

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