When Michael Jackson gave up the ghost recently, we may have witnessed an eerie embodiment of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. In both F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel and in the Oscar-nominated film version starring Brad Pitt, Benjamin Button ages in reverse: Born a shriveled old man, he dies a newborn baby.
As an 11-year-old prodigy, Jackson burst into the public as a miniature adult, seemingly immune to small talk and child’s play. His singing erupted into a volcano of sound and buried his youth beneath an implausible, though irresistible sophistication. If he knew too much for his age, he may have also known too much for his own good.