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Customer Review

168 of 352 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't do justice to Jackson, November 11, 2012
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This review is from: Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson (Hardcover)
I hear complaints that nobody wants to read the book. I have suffered through this book, and let me leave an honest review.

First of all, I have to say that it was incredibly long and boring. I fell asleep twice while reading it, and I barely made it to the end. The book is exactly what New York Times called it - "dreary" and "bloated". The narrative is sketchy, jumping from last years of MJ's life to his childhood, then back, then to the 80-s and 90-s, and then to the last years again, making the story really hard to follow. The text is overstuffed with numbers, dollar amounts and loads of minor details that seem to bear little significance for understanding Michael Jackson or his life. I would have never thought that you could turn Michael Jackson - the fascinating, magical, lively Michael Jackson - into such a boring subject, and yet Sullivan managed to do just that.

Which brings me to the main complaint: this book completely misses the point of who Michael Jackson was. If you read memoirs of people who met him - even for a brief period of time - you can't help but be mesmerized by the image they all paint. By the tangle of contradictions so evident in his persona - his shyness and his sexuality, his kindness and his ruthless business grip, his message of racial harmony and his bold challenging of racial norms, his humility and his larger than life persona. Michael Jackson was the dazzling star who learned his dance moves from wild animals, danced on the fence in Neverland, wrote songs in branches of a tree, loved to explore Disneyland rides at night, compared songwriting to catching falling leaves, believed in magic and made it happen, caused people to cry, scream and pass out and was described by his collaborators as "he changed the structure of molecules in the room." I dare you to find a single person who met him and wasn't completely charmed and taken by his wit, charisma and unstoppable creativity. That is what made him one of a kind; that is what kept people interested and engaged in him. In this book, however, you'll see and feel none of that. His genius is dismissed; his artistic personality is ignored in favor of dull trivia and recycled rumors. The majority of this hefty book consists of re-packaged tales form Taraborrelli's biography, news articles and other books and publications, while the author's own contribution, it seems, lies mostly in the area of factual mistakes and speculation. Yawn.

It has already been mentioned that the book is full of embarrassing inaccuracies, and unverified information. The author makes mistakes such blatant as stating that Michael Jackson's wife was adopted by a millionaire and had no boyfriend till the age of 30 (when in fact she was raised by her mom and married at 24); alleging that Rowe's lawyers said MJ's children weren't really his (never happened); confusing the two MTV VMA events that happened a year apart, and so on. Not to mention an assortment of small misstatements and mixed names of people and organizations that would take too long to list. Such things may not seem very important in the big picture, but they clearly testify to the shallow research and lack of credibility of the author's sources.

And then there is absolute nonsense. Just when you start thinking the author may have been genuinely misguided in his attempt to write a true account of events, he leaves you stunned by statements such as that Jackson faked his heterosexuality, died a virgin or that he kept a collection of plastic noses in a jar. The passage about the noses seems the most bizarre. The author goes on and on about it for two pages, somehow mixing it with the topic of Bobby Driscoll in the process, and the whole thing is just.... either utterly pathetic if Sullivan really believes in this (which is hard to imagine), or utterly bewildering and makes you question his mental state if he's making it up as he goes.

Generally, Sullivan tries to play into all hands: he describes that MJ had vitiligo but then speculates that MJ had been bleaching his skin prior to the disease and maybe he just didn't want to be black; he presents facts pointing to Jackson's innocence against accusations in improper behavior, and yet he makes sure to list every groundless insinuating tabloid story he could find and gives a free rein to publicity suckers such as Ray Chandler. Why blow up the book by repeating things that have no merit to them, you'd think? For extra sensationalism, I guess. On the other hand, in cases where it would be justified to give different accounts of the story because contradictory versions exist (the relationship of MJ with Debbie Rowe is one example), he fails to do so. Instead he opts for a more sensational version, the one that paints MJ as "abnormal" and a freak. That is not, in my opinion, what a real biographer should do. In fact, I noticed that Sullivan quite often distorted facts and quotes or presented them out of context in order to support his personal reductive opinion of Michael Jackson as asexual, artificial, weird creature, incapable of relationships and unwilling to father children.

Sullivan evidently is no expert on Michael Jackson's life, and many things that are obvious to any fan were a late-stage "revelation" to him, as he himself admits (for example, how good a father Michael Jackson was). It is understandable then, that in many cases he failed to get through the layers of fiction to the bottom of things. But it is absolutely not excusable for someone who claims to be a biographer.

His list of sources, although seems long and extensive, for some reason does not include any of MJ's creative collaborators of last years, such as Brad Buxer, Michael Prince, Will.I.Am, or Theron Fimster. I wish Sullivan covered Jackson's creative side with at least half of the passion he devoted to depicting him as a drug addict. Music and artistry were always central to Michael Jackson's identity, and I honestly don't understand how one can claim writing a full account of his life (or even a period of it) without exploring that part of his personality. But, after all, Sullivan freely admits that he got "tired" of MJ's music after Thriller album. And his tiredness shows throughout the book. He really shouldn't have written it.

I did appreciate that the author gave the floor to Mr. Mesereau to speak about the 2005 trial and Michael's state during the ordeal. It's always a pleasure to hear from Mr. Mesereau, and I found the chapters about the trial to be probably the most substantial in the whole narrative. However, the progress Sullivan had made was swiftly erased by lengthy insinuations and offensive conclusions in the last chapters. Despite the fairly honest trial coverage, I couldn't bring myself to rate the book even with 2 stars, given how grossly it misrepresents Michael Jackson's personality.

I'll also use the opportunity to recommend truly interesting and insightful books about Michael Jackson - books written by people who actually knew the man or understand what "research" implies:
Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson by Joe Vogel - about Michael Jackson the musician;
You Are Not Alone: Michael, Through a Brother's Eyes by Jermaine Jackson and My Friend Michael: An Ordinary Friendship with an Extraordinary Man by Frank Cascio - about Michael Jackson the man;
The King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson by Michael Bush - about Michael Jackson the icon.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 22 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 15, 2012 8:14:08 AM PST
jen says:
All of the books you recommended were obviously written by former sycophants. Of course you want people to read the nice, Disneyfied version, that had nothing but praise for him!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2012 10:55:22 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 15, 2012 9:07:17 PM PST
morinen says:
Wrong. Joseph Vogel is a researcher and a music critic. Michael Bush was a creative partner. And it's not sheer praise. Cascio's book, for example, does not paint Jackson in glowing light, especially towards the end. But it shows him as a FASCINATING ARTIST that he was in the first place. And it shows him as a HUMAN BEING.

Unlike this book, which paints a dull and freakish image stitched together from recycled stories copied off Trarborrelli's bio, quotes taken out of context, sensationalized groundless tabloid rumors, and author's imagination. I'm amazed by the amount of innuendos, speculation and inaccuracies in this book.

Sullivan states that Debbie Rowe was "raised as the adopted daughter of a millionaire Jewish couple from Malibu. Sheltered as a girl, she didn't have her first boyfriend until she was thirty" which is pure fiction - she was raised by a middle-class mother and married by the age of 24 - check the freaking Wikipedia!

Then in the same chapter he states: "Debbie's lawyers began to play rough, submitting court filings that for the first time made public what everyone already suspected: Michael Jackson was not biologically related to either Prince or Paris". This is BS Sullivan dreamt up - no such filings were ever "made public" or reported by anyone. His children are clearly biologically his, and Prince has even inherited MJ's rare skin disease Vitiligo, which is showing on his recent photos.

He states that MJ didn't know who Michael Jordan was when he visited the set of movie "Space Jam" prior to its release in 1996. This is laughable - Jackson featured Jordan in HIS OWN music video "Jam" in 1992.

And I haven't even got to the "plastic noses" and "he died a virgin" nonsense. The book is just full of it.

Books of this kind, blending grinded facts with fiction, are the most dangerous and harmful ones, because to an unsuspicious reader they seem "legit". While in truth they distort and obscure the identity of the artist. It is especially appalling that a music critic would do this to a part of his own country's culture.

Indeed, some people depart from this world leaving it a brighter place, and some will go leaving nothing but stains.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2012 8:55:12 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 15, 2012 8:59:30 PM PST
Katerina says:
LOL @ Disneyfied or "sycophants"

You have no idea what you're talking about. Sycophants would be people like Tohme, Schaffel, Bob Jones, Uri Geller, Mark Lester, etc. Useless people who only wanted to be around Michael to service themselves and told him how amazing he was all the time at the same time as they reached for his wallet and posed for photos.

I'd not recommend any books about Michael, but rather people read the 2005 court trial transcripts (something the author of this book obviously didn't) and watch the Murray trial. That was the worst of Michael up for offer there, wouldn't you agree? But I recommend them completely, at least they gave Michael the chance to have the evidence cross examined, pay particular attention to what the verdicts of both were.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2012 5:33:29 AM PST
marcella says:
obiouvsly u did not read frank cascio's book, because he did not describe Michael with a disnefied person. but just as a human being.
The difference is that Frank cascio's book is filled with FACTS, on the opposite of Sullivan's book.

Posted on Nov 19, 2012 5:35:33 AM PST
marcella says:
great review. but if i was you i would add "dancing the dream" (and even Moonwalk) written by Michael himself.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2012 8:48:43 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 19, 2012 8:48:49 AM PST
morinen says:
Cascio made certain mistakes too, to be fair, but I wouldn't demand 100% historical accuracy from him, as his book is a memoir, not a biography. But at least he writes about his first-hand experience and he definitely captures the essence of Jackson far better than Sullivan could ever hope to.

Posted on Nov 20, 2012 1:18:43 AM PST
Elena says:
Very good review!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 23, 2012 4:39:29 AM PST
marcella says:

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 27, 2012 6:00:32 AM PST
He states that MJ didn't know who Michael Jordan was when he visited the set of movie "Space Jam" prior to its release in 1996. This is laughable - Jackson featured Jordan in HIS OWN music video "Jam" in 1992.

OMG, you have GOT to be kidding me, right? Of all the outrageous things I've heard about this book and its many inaccuracies, that one just takes the prize!

Posted on Jan 2, 2013 11:31:56 AM PST
Vanessa says:
Thanks for your comment. I saw him promote this on Katie and already knew this was a tabloid book. Michael Jackson indeed had a nose. There are many pictures of him without make-up on that prove that. Also, I met Michael Jackson almost 10 years ago. First off, he was never shy towards me. In fact, I found his demeanor to be a bit cocky and flirtatious. I definitely don't think he was asexual. I mean, forget my brief experience with him, what about on stage? HELLO! The man oozed sexuality. Michael Jackson certainly contradicted himself from going from a very sexual being to a Peter Pan image, but all people have multiple layers to them. I love to play games, ball, and dolls with my children and yet, I'm an agressive business woman and a very sexual being with my husband. I think Michael Jackson was a lot more normal than this author gives him credit for.
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