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The Awfully Big Adventure Reviews

The Awfully Big Adventure by Paul Morley

The Awfully Big Adventure: Michael Jackson in the Afterlife

Paul Morley

2.25 out of 5

5 reviews

Imprint: Faber & Faber
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication date: 7 Mar 2019
ISBN: 9780571350049

Paul Morley's short biographical portrait of Michael Jackson looks at how we turned the most outrageous child star talent of the late 20th century into a monster; This is a rare piece of pop cultural alchemy that cuts through the myth in a way that only a writer as great as Paul Morley could do.

2 stars out of 5
6 Apr 2019

"Paul Morley mixes sharp critiques of Jackson’s music with frustrating detours"

What a mass of contradictions this book is. Or, to be more precise, what a mass of contradictions this 10-year-old long-form form essay is. Typical of UK cultural critic Paul Morley’s form, The Awfully Big Adventure is as much deliberate conundrum as self-confession, an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink treatise that was originally written after Michael Jackson’s death in late June 2009... A salutary tale about how delusion and a combined sense of entitlement and influence can persuade people to do things they would never rightly dream of, The Awfully Big Adventure isn’t the book you’ll want for a straight run through of the Michael Jackson story. Those enthusiastic, however, for a meandering, sometimes ostentatious overview of the man’s life and death will find much to occupy (and frustrate) them.


4 stars out of 5
28 Mar 2019

"buzzing with ideas"

This book, which I loved, which I whizzed through, and which left my mind buzzing with ideas, is about Michael Jackson, but it’s also about what will happen to Michael Jackson in the future. It’s about the process we go through when we decide what to think of a famous person. [...] “Ultimately,” he tells us, “it is the dark, afflicted side of him that actually seemed to eat into his face and mind ... that fascinates me more than the music.” He wonders about the rumours. Did the tip of his nose actually fall off, “to be stood on by a member of his dance troupe who thought he had stood on a snail”. In the end, the seediness of his death seemed inevitable. The afterlife continues.

3 stars out of 5
Kitty Empire
24 Mar 2019

"The recent disturbing Jackson revelations date this otherwise entertaining study of the man and his legacy"

Morley could have mentioned, but does not, how Jackson’s moves lent themselves to what became gifs in the digital age: curt, staccato metonyms. He doesn’t quite spend long enough on how this vitiligo-afflicted child-man began dissolving binary certainties – a very 2019 state of affairs. His book dwells on the cognitive dissonance, pre-Leaving Neverland, of loving the art but being troubled by the man, without being able to say that this very state of cognitive dissonance is exactly how we live now on so many levels.

1 stars out of 5
Clive Davis
15 Mar 2019

"all filler, no Thriller"

The piece started life in a magazine a decade ago and is reissued in expanded form to prepare us for the tenth anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death in June. Much of the prose reads like a clumsy translation of a pretentious French cultural historian who has made a good living writing about Pokémon. It’s the kind of thing you can get away with as a talking head on TV, when everyone is so distracted by your stubble and your cool leather jacket that they don’t pay attention to what you are saying. On a page, though, the words become fog.

2 stars out of 5
Fiona Sturges
13 Mar 2019

"his distinct style of musical analysis is undoubtedly an acquired taste"

This book is an expanded version of an essay that appeared in an arts journal named Loops shortly after Jackson’s death, though the author has had a full decade in which to flesh it out and construct an argument. Alas, the gift of time has brought little in the way of clarity. To put it simply – and simple really isn’t in Morley’s repertoire – there are moments here where, despite repeated readings, I haven’t a clue what he’s on about... there is little shape or structure. With the exception of some fairly straightforward passages about the making of the albums Off the Wall and Thriller, the book is largely made up of winding thoughts, fractured reflections and the same questions asked over and over. Regular syntax doesn’t figure; there are sentences here that go on for over a page.