Thursday, 12 July 2012

THE LONESOME DEATH OF MICHAEL JACKSON

I have to admit that when I first realised that my postbag contained an A4 and slightly luridly covered graphic novel about the life and death of the late Michael Jackson, my heart fell. I had never been a fan of the so-called King of Pop except perhaps for his very early days with The Jackson Five, and always thought that – at least in the last couple of decades – he had been an increasingly grotesque and sad figure. The joyous, multi-talented song and dance man of the ‘70s and early ‘80s had been replaced by an isolated and misshapen figure whose messianic pretentions were – to me at least – more than slightly unwholesome.

I never believed that he was guilty of the acts of sexual battery with which he was charged on at least two occasions, but I thought that the parents who allowed their children to share the bed albeit platonically of a multi-millionaire, middle-aged pop singer with a plastic surgery fixation were themselves guilty of child abuse. I saw the interview with Martin Bashir and felt sorry for Jackson, but still felt that he was such a damaged personality that whatever influence he exerted upon the world at large, it was not going to be a good one.

I put off reading this book for some time. I had not asked for it, and didn’t think that I could possibly come up with anything positive to say about it. It was , therefore, much to my surprise, that I found that reading it was a far more edifying experience than I had feared.

Because of its very size, it is perforce a very impressionistic work, and does not give anywhere near as much character analysis and development as did the other two graphic novels that I have reviewed in these pages. But it does chart the slow, inexorable, and desperately sad decline of the immensely talented boy as he became the immensely unhappy and mutilated man. This book doesn’t go into much detail about music, but it does show how a predisposition towards mental illness (because I can understand perfectly well, because I have one myself) combined with appalling familial abuse (something else with which I can emphasise, although mine was so much less severe that it wasn’t even on the same planet with Jackson’s) shows starkly, sympathetically, and with an admirable use of emotional restraint how this decline took place.

Although we will never know, because as the late Gerald Durrell once said, nobody can talk with any conviction about the after-life because no-one has ever yet faxed back a convincing account, we can never be sure (or not until after our own deaths) whether the events shown on the last two or three pages are true, but it would not surprise me if they were. It would not surprise me if Jackson did indeed embrace his own death gladly as the only possible release from an increasingly impossible nightmare of a life.

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