Forever Jong: Writer-Provocateur Michael Malice Takes on the Ghost of North Korea’s Eternal Leader

Inside the mind of a maniac

book coverAt one point in the book, for instance, a friend commits suicide, but Mr. Malice expresses no sympathy or regret or sadness whatsoever. “Now I don’t understand why, if you are planning on killing yourself, you wouldn’t sleep in,” he scornfully notes.

Mr. Malice doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and neither did Mr. Pekar, whom Mr. Malice befriended through a mutual acquaintance. “He finally met a Jew who was more obnoxious than him,” Mr. Malice quipped, explaining that Ego & Hubris, which he never expected to come about, is true to life. But it’s only an accurate portrayal, he added, insofar as it represents one part of his identity—albeit a big one.

“He projects an air of trollish bitchiness,” said the writer Cole Stryker, a friend of Mr. Malice’s. “But I think that anyone who knows him well would actually say that he’s quite sincere, viciously loyal to his friends and to his ideals.”

The comedian D.L. Hughley agreed. “I don’t know him to be an overly angry cat,” said Mr. Hughley, whose book, I Want You to Shut the F#ck Up, was written by Mr. Malice. “But I know he sticks by his convictions.”

Mr. Malice is an avowed anarchist. He doesn’t vote, he doesn’t believe in marriage, he doesn’t believe in God. But according to his friends, he’s extraordinarily open-minded. He has to be, one would imagine, given the career he’s chosen.

“I hate this idea that the personal is political,” Mr. Malice said. “Especially with the nature of my work, I’m collaborating with people of all sorts of perspectives, and if they’re living their truth, I’m their biggest fan.”

One wonders, then, how Mr. Malice is faring as he takes on “the ultimate celebrity ghost,” as he calls Kim Jong-il.

Of course, his latest endeavor, to be titled Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il, isn’t a collaboration. But over the past few months, Mr. Malice has become quite intimate with the late dictator’s thoughts, at least as they appear in the books of propaganda he picked up in North Korea.

“I’m getting a little bugged out,” Mr. Malice told The Observer. “I have to put myself in his high-heeled shoes as much as I can. He was painfully aware that when the people cheered for him, it was fake. And he’s an evil, horrible man with the blood of millions on his hands, but you have to humanize him a bit.”

In that way, Mr. Malice acknowledged that the book will be harder to write than previous ones. He genuinely likes the people he has ghostwritten for and keeps in touch with them to this day. Kim Jong-il? Not so much. But, he added, the “Dear Leader,” as he was known, was such a boring thinker that it won’t be much of a challenge to get inside his head. (The first sentence of the book: “I remember the day that I was born perfectly.”)

“His worldview is very simplistic,” Mr. Malice noted. “When you’re not in touch with reality, you don’t have to have a nuanced philosophy.”

While Mr. Malice plans to make the book comical, he wants more than anything to draw attention to the plight of the North Korean people. To do so, he will have to play devil’s advocate, a role he is not unfamiliar with.

In the book, which Mr. Malice plans to have finished by October, readers will find a defense of the North Korean prison camps, among other things.

“I think it’s really important that people are aware of the extent of what’s going on there,” Mr. Malice explained. “So I have to have him talk about it, which he wouldn’t really do otherwise.”

Mr. Fazio backed up his ghostwriter: “Even with the sarcasm he brings to the project, what I sense is that he’s horrified.”

At his apartment not long ago, Mr. Malice seemed less horrified than wired to the point of fatigue. For the past several months, he has been slogging through dozens of volumes of North Korean propaganda, with titles like Kim Jong Il: Lodestar of the 21st CenturyKim Jong Il: The Leader of Youth Movement and A Paean of Great Love: Kim Jong Il and the People.

The books’ sentences alone—syntactically tangled and rife with Communist double-speak—are mind-numbing, he said, and he plans to use them in the autobiography, mixing them up among his own words.

When asked for an example, Mr. Malice, who has a near-photographic memory, jumped up to retrieve a slim volume, called Kim Jong Il: The Great Man, from his bookshelf.

He flipped through it, settled on a page and read a sentence aloud: “A person with superb brain is the one with an extraordinary capacity of memory to store vividly in his memory bank more than others for a long time.”

It’s a sentence Mr. Malice could have easily written about himself.