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.
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.