Andrew O'Hagan on Margo Jefferson's On Michael Jackson at the LRB (no subscription required):
What is it about fame that can make people unbearable to themselves? In the right conditions - the wrong conditions - a dreamy and over-watched person of sizeable talent can turn steadily into a tragic being, as vulnerable to the psychically destructive forces of the age as the great heroines of the 19th-century novel or the doomed figures of Romantic opera. Moral captives such as Emma Bovary and Tess Durbeyfield have destruction written into their code of happiness, as does Cio-Cio-San or Verdi's Desdemona, suffocated by bad men or bourgeois custom but most effectively by a public (an audience) that loves to be complicit in the undoing of women and the aestheticising of their pain. Once you get to Judy Garland or Marilyn Monroe or Billie Holiday or Lena Zavaroni, the thrill has become a fetish, and you can see how self-change and death-throes have become in a rather naked way the bigger part of their performance. Michael Jackson has all of that by rote, and is distinguished among such figures as a black man who wants to be a white woman; a person who wants to unperson himself, to become something beyond nature, something entirely concocted of private fears and public desire.
I really liked O'Hagan's novel Personality; he's got a new novel coming out later this summer, a curiously empty US Amazon page says the book will be published here by Faber and Faber in August (that is something I must read) but here is a more convincing page for Be Near Me at Amazon UK.