What would propel Margo Jefferson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, New York Times critic, and self-styled intellectual (she spells Napoleon with an acute accent) write a mini-biography of Michael Jackson? In 160 very loosely packed pages, On Michael Jackson tries to rehearse and evaluate the life and oeuvre of this popular dancer, singer, and video creator, who may or may not be a pedophile, but is haunted by a bad childhood and badgered by the media. His fans are legion, as are his detractors, both of whom Miss Jefferson embodies as an egregious practitioner of Times-style criticism, i.e., talking out of both sides of the mouth.

It is, accordingly, impossible to determine whether she considers Jackson guilty or not of sexual acts with the boys he brought to his Disneyesque Xanadu, called, with appropriate Peter Pan-ishness, “Neverland.” The Southern California law courts, to be sure, acquitted...


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