As everyone knows, Michael Jackson died last Friday from heart complications in LA. While i wasn’t shocked by his death, I was amazed by the reaction both by people and the media. Some of my thoughts:
- First off, while it’s nice to see such happy thoughts and words coming out of the media and blogosphere, i can’t believe how everyone has sort of forgotten about the past 15 years of Michael Jackson. I mean, multiple child molestation charges with 13-year old boys. Whatever the cause of the guilt, do you know anyone who would leave their 12 year old with him alone?
- Some Good Articles: There is a great recount of all those stories listed here in Vantity Fair and Ebert has posted a great article that weighs both his greatness and his fragility in a good article here called “The Boy Who Never Gave Up“
- Thinking about his legacy, he’s definitely one of the best performers of all time – his dancing and on-stage presence seems unparalleled.
- While Elvis brought in Rock n’ Roll, i feel that Michael Jackson brought in pop music. He came to define the 80’s style while adding more production value to music. To me, he invented the genre “pop”
- It’s interesting to see how people react once someone dies. The immediately become forgiven and can easily take on legendary status. While that’s ok, i wish more people who feel this way while the artist is alive. Two months ago nobody was saying how influential MJ was. Then hie dies and everyone in the world starts blabbing off about how influential and transformative he was. Was he awesome? Yes. But why didn’t people post how awesome he was before? The same thing happened with Kurt Kobain, Johnny Cash, Elvis and others. As Chuck Klosterman says (who is an expert on his subject having written Killing Yourself To Live), “You’ll hear nobody stating how influential Boy George is, but the minute he dies it’ll come out with how he was able to break down the gender barriers before anyone else” And he’s right. In death, people are no longer people, they become symbols.
There’s a new novel by Chuck Klosterman who as many of you know is one of my favorite writers. While his past 4 books were all non-fiction, this new book, called Downtown Owl, is a fiction novel that takes place in 1983 North Dakota.
I think it’s a pretty good book and it definitely captured my attention. My big issue with the book is that it’s all description and details. There is very little interaction or plot. It’s a 300 page summary of a time and people in North Dakota with some interesting anecdotes. It’s funny, witty and well-written but it’s not necessarily a story.
That said, it’s very Klosterman-ish and has some great elements. As usual he explores deeply the frivolous. There are entire chapters about a theoretical fight between a hulking giant of a boy named Grendal and a smaller, wrong-side of the tracks type kid name Cubby who loves to fight. With a typical Klostermanish metaphor, the scenario is more than just a “who would win” but a nice little metaphor for what you believe in the world. Do traits like physical appearance or genes win out in our world or will characteristics like desire and passion? Peolpe will lean different ways and that debate is by far the best part of the book.
One thing i really like is how he sets up the small town feel. One character in high school relates Owl to the book 1984 – the Orwell book his class was assigned saying:
“Everyone knew everything. So how was ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ a dystopia? It seemed ordinary. What was so unusual about everyone knowing all the same things?”
“People always say that nothing changes in a small town, but — whenever they say that — they usually mean that nothing changes figuratively. The truth is that nothing changes literally: It’s always all the same people, doing all the same things.”
Discussing the differnce between literal thoughts and figurative is something Chuck loves to do. He’s typically done it with popular culture but in Downtown Owl he does it with a 1980’s North Dakota town. And it makes for a pretty fun read