19 April 2009

J G Ballard

We take this quick break from poetry, to mourn the loss of British SF writer J G Ballard. Best known to mainstream readers as the author of the autobiographical novel, Empire of the Sun which Steven Spielberg made into a film (with the young Christian Bale as Jim), he was already well known as part of Science Fiction's New Wave of the 1960's. His books and stories are dystopian and intentionally disturbing -- and in some cases sadly precient. His novel The Drowned World, for example, posited an earth where the ice caps have melted, turning cities into overgrown tropical fantasy lands. As always with Ballard, however, the landscape characters move through echo their mental and emotional states.

For those new to Ballard, perhaps the later (somewhat related) novels Cocaine Nights and Super-Cannes might be the best place to start, before delving into the nightmarish, erotic, surreal worlds of, say, Concrete Island, The Atrocity Exhibition, or the literally auto-erotic Crash (also made into a film, by Canadian Auteur David Cronenberg).

Considering his interest in media, mass culture, and the horrors lurking under the seemingly placid, and increasingly anesttitized through technology, surface of the world, Ballard would have relished the irony of his dying on the weekend after the release of the Bush Torture Memos, stunning in both their disgusting disregard for basic human rights and the banality of its bureaucratic language. Somewhere he's thinking "I told you so"

Excellent overview of Ballard from the LA Times (PS: the story referenced in the article, whose title they cannot print in a family paper is, "Why I want to Fuck Ronald Reagan")

"Ballard articulates clearly to me the implications of living in an age of total consumerism, of blanket surveillance, of enslavement designed as mass entertainment. But he also speaks to me of resistance through irony, immersion, ambivalence, imagination — of remixing, recycling, remaking, remodelling."RIP at the Ballardian website

A review of his autobiography, Miracles of Life

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