Solemn Friday

What a weird week. Globally, of course, the world is reeling from the unexpected death of pop icon Michael Jackson. I remember having a discussion with someone about who was the most well-known person around the world, and we settled on MJ. How bizarre that someone with that much notoriety, that much at his disposal, seemed to have had such an unhappy life, and definitely had an abrupt ending.

One of my first records ever was the Jackson 5‘s Greatest Hits. I was so young I scrawled my name–only my first name, mind you, since I couldn’t yet spell “McLaughlin”–across the front cover. I listened to that record a whole lot, and bought Jackson 5 45s later on with my allowance.

I remember when Elvis Presley died; I was about to be 13, and I just didn’t get the whole deal, why people were so upset and all (I grew up in a musical household, but we were more likely to be listening to Arthur Crudup, from whom Elvis lifted a lot of his songs).

I get it now, though.

The death of an icon makes us reflect, perhaps selfishly, on our own mortality. Which of my childhood touchstones will be next?

And next month is my son’s tenth birthday, although we are having his birthday party this Saturday (pray for me . . . ). That reminds me just how much has happened, and how he’s not my little boy anymore. Thankfully, he still likes getting hugs from his mom. But who knows when that will change? And who will his childhood touchstones be?

Maybe, to bring it back around to the books we love to read, that is why we love to read romance: It depicts a crystallized moment in time where the main characters are young, interesting and, we presume, destined to have a long, happy life together.

What are you thinking about today?

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Jane Austen
13 years ago

I was helping with a father/son wrestling camp happening this weekend where I work and these little boys (the camp is for 4-10 year olds) were coming in holding big stuffed animals and the lanyards we gave them for their keys and meal plans were hanging down around their knees. They were the cutest little boys, but I’m hoping the dads and the wrestling coaches aren’t too hard on them. Some of the fathers were really nice and this seemed like maybe a nice bonding weekend, but other fathers were yelling and being very much like a dictator. I hope these fathers are doing something their child wants and not doing this so their child gets free ride to college. I also hope the little boy with his stuffed puppy dog isn’t the one who gets picked on.

Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

Such a sad day yesterday. MJ was certainly a strange, troubled person, but it has to be admitted a darn fine musician and a genius entertainer. I was in about the second or third grade when “Thriller” came out, and all my little friends had the album! I begged and begged until my parents bought me one, too, though they drew the line at a little red leather jacket. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s tragic how so many gifts and so much potential went so wrong.

Last weekend I was at a party where we “discussed” (argued?) over what was the most perfect album ever made. I said it was Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue” (and I stand by that!), but could it have been “Thriller”?

Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

BTW, I also loved your point about one the (many) reasons we love romance novels. I do like it that the characters are at the pinnacle of their youth and energy and potential, and that they seem to have many happy years to look forward to! A long time ago I read a romance (can’t remember the name, but I think it was a pirate story–the h/h had their own island), and in the epilogue their great-granddaughter comes to the island and sees their gravestones. I hated that! Yes, I know that if the characters were really alive in 17?? they would not be alive now, but I don’t like to think of that. ๐Ÿ™‚

Janet Mullany
13 years ago

The Jackson Five’s music was great and Michael Jackson was a good singer and dancer, but I fail to see why so many people are scrambling onto this mourning bandwagon of epic, media-inspired proportions. The truly sad thing about Elvis and Michael Jackson was that both of them isolated and dehumanized themselves years before their deaths. It doesn’t leave a great deal to mourn.

Megan Frampton
13 years ago

Janet, I agree to a point, but I think that people are mourning their youth as much as they are mourning the actual guy. Plus he seemed like an immortal, so if HE can die, then anyone can, right?

Amanda, I hate those kinds of epilogues, too.

Jane Austen, I cringe when I see those dictator Dads. Thank goodness my husband is not one of those.

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Janet, I agree! Why did CNN have NOTHING BUT Michael Jackson?

Amanda, I might say The White Album would be the most perfect, and if you don’t know what that is, you are very young!

About dying young, I don’t like to think of my heroes and heroines dying, my heroines in childbirth, my hero from consumption.

I remember a sequel I read where the original hero and heroine died in a fire!!! No!!!!!!!!

Megan Frampton
13 years ago

Diane and Amanda, I would say Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life is the most perfect album.

Although Prince’s 1999 is up there, too. Purple Rain also, actually.

Hm. I see a Music Throwdown amongst the Riskies–Janet? Carolyn? Elena? Wanna weigh in with your opinion?

Jane Austen
13 years ago

Well I think Pearl Jam’s Ten is the most perfect album. Every song is good. It was ahead of its time and it always makes me feel better. Especially on days like today when I just want to cry.

I do think we have a very tabloid mentality. We are so concerned with Jackson’s death, but not about genocide in Darfur or the violence in Iran or a possible second Cold War with Russia. Then I think, wait I’m Jane Austen….I don’t get involved in politics ๐Ÿ™‚

I think I’ll continue to write about the gentry and leave all this celebrity to someone else.

Louisa Cornell
13 years ago

Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

I tend to agree with Janet. Both Elvis and Michael Jackson allowed the people around them to isolate them and eventually they became caricatures of themselves. There are people who have achieved equal fame and still managed to maintain the person they started as.

The loss of talent is definitely something to be mourned, but I am far more interested in what is happening in the economy, with North Korea and in the “elections” in Iran.

And I much prefer to be entertained by a great romance novel than most of the stuff that passes for popular entertainment these days. And I prefer my epilogues to end as happily as the rest of the book!

Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

Of course I know The White Album!!! My dad is a big Beatles fan and would be furious with me if I didn’t. ๐Ÿ™‚

I still say it’s the Davis, though…