Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Margo Jefferson

Margo Jefferson is the author of Negroland: A Memoir, which won a National Book Critics Circle award, (for autobiography) and was shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford prize, and On Michael Jackson.

From her Guardian Q&A with Arifa Akbar:

You write that Michael Jackson, since his death, has been rehabilitated into the music canon – that “he got it all back with his art” after his death. Do you think we can separate his music, wonderful as it was, from the allegations that dogged him?

No, we can’t. But his death allowed the canon simultaneously to reacknowledge the greatness of his art and to look at him as a damaged, harmed, and harming person. I have to live with, and keep analysing, this contradiction. In deciding I love Michael Jackson I take it all in – his music, the crimes he may have committed, his inner turmoil. I need the pleasure and the complications he gives me. As F Scott Fitzgerald said: “The test of a truly first-rate intelligence is to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

Jackson the child star was thrown into an adult world and abused by his father but you also call him a pioneer. Can he be both victim and pioneer?

I’ve long been interested in child stars. It’s a fascination that goes back to watching Shirley Temple, but in his case, a gifted child star becomes an equally gifted adult, and a ground-breaking figure. Was he a victim? He was conscripted by a domineering father into very tough, demanding work. There are accounts of the hours of rehearsing he did and the travelling. But he was also pioneering. The black child in American culture tended to be seen as someone too young to be dangerous yet. He was the male version of Topsy from Uncle Tom’s Cabin or the hired “piccaninny”. What he managed...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue