Wednesday, April 22, 2009

the death of j.g. ballard

Crash. Until I'd read Ballard's book, I had no idea twisted metal, burning plastic and shattered bones could be considered by anybody to be erotic. I remember diving into the text on a flight home from Canada 15 years ago. The air hostess thought I was reading about aeroplane crashes... "Ahhh. Ummm. No. Actually the book is about sex in car accidents." I think that stunned her. She didn't pose any more questions apart from those she was paid to ask. "Tea or coffee?"

"J.G. Ballard died of cancer on the 19th August, aged 78", I read over my morning toast. The first thing that sprang to mind was Crash. Then by chance my eyes fell upon the water level indicator on the front page of the paper and a vague memory of The Drought returned... people travelling miles across barren salt plains created by desalination plants to capture sea-water with paddles and sweep it homewards... it has been a long time since I read this book. Concrete Island is fresher in my mind... an architect becomes trapped in a concrete space between freeway lanes. Unable to escape, he spends days, then weeks in the company of a couple of other outcasts who call the tiny island in urban hell their home. Shades here of one of my favourite books, Kobo Abe's The Woman in the Dunes. Ballard was that kind of writer.

I only know a half dozen of Ballard's books, but of those, I'd call Crash and Concrete Island "great" works of disturbing fiction. His comments on human psychology, the bizarre but believable views he takes towards humankind's future and that of our planet, all ensure I am saddened by his passing.

1 comment:

  1. Not familiar with his work, but after reading this I want to be. :)