Beginning with his final departure from Neverland, Untouchable takes listeners through Jackson's final four years, as he shuttled from California to the Middle East, Ireland, Asia, the East Coast, and Las Vegas, planning to recapture his wealth and reputation with a comeback album and a series of 50 mega-concerts, for which he was rehearsing until the day before his death. Sullivan also delves deep into Jackson's past, and the man that emerges is both naive and deeply cunning, a devoted father whose parenting decisions created an international outcry, a shrewd businessman whose successes blew up in his face and whose failures nearly brought down a megacorporation, and an inveterate narcissist who wanted more than anything a quiet, solitary, normal life. Sullivan has never-before-reported information about Jackson's business dealings and the pedophilia allegations that irreparably marked his reputation. He had exclusive access to inner-circle figures, including Jackson's former attorney and business manager. The result is a remarkable portrait of Michael Jackson, a man of uncountable contradictions who continues to reign as the King of Pop.
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First thing to get on the table - Michael Jackson fans can be as crazy as their idol was. No doubt about that. He was so iconic - like very few others have been, Elvis is the obvious comparison - and both men had their share of crazy fans who would/will hear no wrong.
Did Michael Jackson do wrong things in his life? Yes, of course he did. He wasn't a saint. His list of controversies include his money, his private relationships, his business relationships, his family, his skin colour, his use of prescription drugs, his children, whether he did or did not abuse children, his relationship with the media, his plastic surgery - wow - the list continues. Anyone who thinks that he strolled through all of these issues without doing wrong to anyone and whilst maintaining a position only as a victim of exploitation - they're wilfully determined to deny the truth of the man.
This book comes across as being balanced. At times it paints a picture of a likeable human being and you can't help but think - 'how could this man find a well adjusted adult condition in his life, after what he went through?'. At other times the book is unflinching and presents the reader with compelling evidence of where Michael Jackson lied to the world, his fans, the media - and probably himself. The overall impression that I've been left with is that Michael Jackson was thoroughly untrustworthy - sometimes telling barefaced lies, sometimes telling people what they wanted to hear, and often hiding from himself.
The book doesn't shy away from the ugliness that surrounded Michael Jackson's genius. It isn't determined to press the reader into drawing specific conclusions either - particularly on the issue of whether he was or was not a child abuser. I find this refreshing. This isn't a monochromatic telling of his life - it is vivid, it has colour and it has personality. At times it is geniunely shocking. At times your heart goes out to Jackson, and at times you will find him incredibly deplorable.
The accuracy of the book? I can't say. The author is detailed and corroborates and references himself meticulously, but I haven't checked his sources. I have read other reviews that suggest that Jackson was significantly misquoted by the author at significant points. In the section where it tells of the 'Life Time Achievement Award' given to Jackson in London, where Jarvis Cocker took to the stage in protest, Sullivan is definitely misleading though:
He suggests that Cocker mounted the stage, interrupted the performance, and mimed a fart at Jackson. Sullivan states that afterwards British pop culture was enraptured with Cocker for the protest and he became a icon.
The truth is that Cocker had been a brit pop icon for some years, and if anything, at the time he was on the way out of the public eye. He didn't mime a fart at Jackon, he struck a characteristic pose that was part of his well known, slightly nerdish but stylised act. Afterwards people did applaud Jarvic Cocker, but he wasn't hoisted onto anyone's shoulders. Sullivan references Noel Gallagher (from Oasis) who apparently said that Cocker should've got a knighthood from the palace - I've no doubt that Gallagher did say that - but it's a throw away sarcastic northern comment, not a genuine endorsement for an honour. Neither Jarvis Cocker nor Noel Gallgher would be likely to bother with the British Honours system anyway.
So this moment gave me the idea that, as compelling as the book it, and as clear and transparent as it appears to be - no matter how well researched it seems to be - it is still a prism though which you're looking at a profoundly post-modern icon - and there is always going to be some measure of discolouration and inaccuracy as a result.
Over all, if you're a fan, if you simply curious, if you're someone who loves biographies (as I am) - yes, I would recommend this. It is entertaining and you'll enjoy it.
If you're one of those people who takes to the internet in tears for St. Michael Jackson - don't bother, this is not what you're looking for. Cloud cuckoo land is somewhere else.