Rushing to Paradise
That's the title of J. G. Ballard's new novel, due to be published by HarperCollins in September 1994. The few facts I know about Rushing to Paradise are as follows: it's set mainly on a South Pacific atoll, where the leading character, one Dr Barbara Rafferty, goes in an attempt to save the local albatross. I'm told it's "an allegory, a satire and an action story" and it involves a serial killing. It also takes a rise out of the extremes of feminism and the green movement (see JGB's own brief comments at the end of his letter, below).
Those last aspects may make the novel controversial -- Ballard's equivalent of Amis's Stanley and the Women? (I just hope the literary editors don't give the book to too many green feminists for review.) The "imaginary island" setting also suggests that this is going to be much more of an imaginative novel in roughly the same vein as The Day of Creation, rather than in the realistic/retrospective vein of The Kindness of Women. What will it be like? Island, albatross... "Storm-Bird, Storm-Dreamer" meets "Dream Cargoes"?
Letter from J. G. Ballard on His "Lost" 1950s Novel
20th December 1993
Thanks for the latest newsletter [JGBN 21]. The profile in New Worlds [December 1956] was written by me, as were most of the others that Carnell published. To be honest, I think I was over-gilding the lily when I said that I'd already written a first novel (the Finnegans Wake/ Engelbrecht pastiche) and was about to finish a second (You and Me and the Continuum). While I was at Cambridge I'd written about 50-60 pages of an experimental novel (the hot, steaming confection), which I added to over the next few years until I had a totally unpublishable farrago of apocalyptic material on which I drew when I produced the collage pages in '58/59. As for the theme being the second coming of Christ, you may be fairly close to the mark -- I'd been bowled over when I first read Graves's White Goddess and Joseph Campbell's Hero With 1,000 Faces, and also Graves's King Jesus, and I think my "novel" was trying to be an updating of the heroes of religious myth -- but it was all totally mad as well as unpublishable, the product of too much scattershot reading.
Yes, George MacBeth's "Ski Murders" did impress me, and "You and Me and the Continuum" was prompted by it, though in fact I think I would soon have found my way to The Atrocity Exhibition had MacBeth never written his piece. "Terminal Beach," in '63, was pointing the way, with its non-linear narrative and section headings, and there are hints of the Atrocity Exhibition technique in "Build-Up" ("The Concentration City") and in one of my earliest sf efforts, "Passport to Eternity" -- I loved all those lists and paragraphs which carried the real story, and which I took from Jack Vance's marvellous "Meet Miss Universe" (I think I read it in Canada, actually) -- it struck me as so intelligent and witty and imaginative, though most sf was really very traditional in its story-telling. I'd been very impressed by Limbo '90, which I'd read in '53/54 (if I'm right), and by the visual panache of the whole thing -- the headings and diary inserts and the full-page YES and NO which were in the original hardback edition. I loved Ape and Essence with its story within a film-script, and Nigel Balchin's experimental novel Lord, I Was Afraid, now totally forgotten, like the Auden/Isherwood plays, Ascent of F6 and so on.
You're right about all these early ideas being buried like fossils in "You and Me and the Continuum" -- in many ways "You and Me and the Continuum" is a later and more accessible (if anyone can believe that!) version of the earlier "novel."
Speaking of Aldous Huxley, I've done a short preface to HarperCollins' new edition of The Doors of Perception, which they will publish in February or so. The new novel, by the way, is called Rushing to Paradise, a satire (of a special kind) of feminism and the ecological movements.
-- J. G. Ballard, Shepperton
Right, some readers of this newsletter will no doubt be searching out copies of Robert Graves's King Jesus, Auden and Isherwood's Ascent of F6, Nigel Balchin's Lord, I Was Afraid and so on. (If people do, I'd be grateful for accounts of their impressions.) Can anyone supply me with a copy of Jack Vance's "Meet Miss Universe"? I've never seen it. I don't think it has been in any of his British-published collections, though it's very likely to have appeared in one of those small-press Underwood/Miller clean-up volumes of Vance's work in the USA.
JGB's Critical Coverage -- Reviews
The following list of book (and film) reviews follows on from the column entitled "JGB'S Media Coverage" in JGB News number 17 -- which covered material up to the end of 1987. For recent longer articles, critical essays, books, etc., see the listing headed "JGB's Critical Coverage" in JGB News number 19. As usual, I'm grateful to all those persons who have sent me cuttings or photocopies, and hope that they will continue to do so.
1) Leiber, Fritz. "Moons & Stars & Stuff" in Locus no. 326 (March 1988): 13. Brief review of Empire of the Sun. Says that he "greatly enjoyed" the Spielberg film of the novel, and that he "first became aware of Ballard's cinematic talent back when Judith Merril was calling attention to him in her anthologies, and his novel The Crystal World presented itself to me as a film without any imaginative effort on my part whatever."
2) Kadrey, Richard. Untitled review of The Day of Creation in Science Fiction Eye no. 3 (March 1988): 46. "Imagine the landscape of Heart of Darkness transfigured by Dali's 'paranoid-critical' method and you'll have some sense of Ballard's new novel." Describes the narrative, and concludes: "Ballard constructs a world that is at once as tenuous as a dream and as real as an infected insect bite."
3) Gill, John. Untitled review of the film Empire of the Sun in Time Out (March 16-23, 1988): 31. "Despite some minor changes in the story by script-writer Tom Stoppard, Ballard's book and Ballard's point survive. Young Jim Graham is Ballard, an obnoxious expat brat separated from his parents as the war overwhelms Shanghai... Ballard's basic text is about what shits we are all prepared to become in order to survive. Unsurprisingly Spielberg includes a strand of populist heroism, yet even this finally fails to dent the awful message."
4) Malcolm, Derek. "Ballad of a Child at War" in The Guardian (March 22, 1988): 21. Review of the film Empire of the Sun. "Without question the most mature film Spielberg has made... It is not quite as iron-hard as the book but you get no feeling that Tom Stoppard's screenplay is making concessions or that the film-maker is determined to popularise at any costs." Continues to describe the film generously, reiterating that Spielberg "has served Ballard well" and concluding that the movie should have been nominated for an Academy Award.
5) Walters, Margaret. "The Glory Boy" in The Listener (March 24, 1988): 46. Review of the film Empire of the Sun. Generally critical of Spielberg's contribution, but comments that "Ballard's novel... has obviously spoken home to the director -- it's as if the nightmare lurking in all of his work has crystallised out in this movie."
6) Robinson, David. "Slow Setting of the Sun" in The Times (March 24, 1988): 18. Review of the film Empire of the Sun, among others. In this movie "two masters of science fiction revert to historical reality." Praises Christian Bale's characterization of Jim but is critical of the "two-dimensional" depiction of the other people in the story.
7) Greenland, Colin. "Icons of Omnipotence" in Times Literary Supplement (March 25-31, 1988): 332. Review of the film Empire of the Sun. Contrasts with John Boorman's movie Hope and Glory: "What takes Spielberg's film far beyond Boorman's is... [the] notion that Jim's dislocation permits him to see somehow under the skin of the war, into its undeclared arenas and unconscious pleasure zones. This view, which frees the ironies of the situation and gives them moral force, Spielberg owes to J. G. Ballard's original novel." Criticizes some details, but adds: "What is remarkable is the fidelity and clarity with which Spielberg delivers the heart of the book, or rather its mind: the singular moral vision of Ballard's esemplastic imagination, with all its characteristic inversions." Concludes by extolling Christian Bale's performance.
8) French, Philip. "Lucky Jim Shanghai'd" in The Observer (March 27, 1988): 40. Review of the film Empire of the Sun, among others. Asserts that this was "precisely the right team to adapt and direct the film version of J. G. Ballard's great autobiographical novel" -- Spielberg because he has a feel for epic, is good with children and has a passion for sf, Stoppard because he "understands the surreal landscape, and his father died in a prison camp after despatching his wife and young family from Singapore shortly before it fell to the Japanese invaders." Praises many details of the film, including Bale's and Malkovich's performances, pointing out that the latter's character is "a variation of that played by William Holden in Stalag 17 and George Segal in King Rat." Criticizes the later scenes, concluding: "you'll wonder how a film that comes to look like a sanitised fusion of The Go-Between and Tenko can have been derived from a novel that has been favourably compared with A High Wind in Jamaica and Lord of the Flies, not to mention the treatment of adolescent heroes in Dickens and Stevenson."
9) Johnstone, Iain. "A Nightmare Journey to Maturity" in The Sunday Times (March 27, 1988): C9. Review of the film Empire of the Sun. "Before Spielberg was involved, Tom Stoppard was commissioned to write a screenplay which treats the original text with reverent fidelity. Indeed, future Eng. Lit. GCSEs might well include questions on whether such phrases as 'perhaps God's our dream and we're his,' or Nagasaki being 'like God taking a photograph,' originate from Ballard or Stoppard. This spiritual aspect -- the very essence of the book -- gives the film its strength but makes it dramatically vulnerable." Describes various details which make for "illustrious literature but cold cinema." Comments that "Christian Bale, as Jim, appears almost to enter Ballard's soul, blending the facts and fantasies of a child's existence as in no other performance I have seen before. For the first time I realised the play on words in the book's title -- the camp truly is the empire of the son."
10) Adair, Gilbert. "E. T. and a Half" in Sight and Sound (Spring, 1988): ?-?. Review of the film Empire of the Sun. A piece which is interesting on Spielberg but has little to say about Ballard: "What is most remarkable... is the almost seamless fashion in which a faithful adaptation -- from that awful, corny title onward -- of a pretty harrowing English novel in the realist tradition has nevertheless contrived to become a proto-Spielbergian affirm-ation of faith and optimism in the universe, a completely personal work..."
11) Combs, Richard. "Empire of the Sun" in Monthly Film Bulletin no. 651 (April 1988): 95-97. Review of the film Empire of the Sun. Points out the many movie references in Ballard's novel, and the text's intense "pictorialism." Although much of this is lost in the film, "the director has duplicated and deepened the author's movie consciousness in other ways. If forebodings of war turn the mind of Ballard's hero into a deserted newsreel theatre, here they effectively turn the thronging streets of Shanghai into one huge auditorium, a 'screen' world framed by the windows of Jim's parents' Packard." Gives an account of various subtleties and repeating patterns in the film, including many images of human eyes. Compares with the films of David Lean, and concludes that the result is "a masterpiece of popular cinema."
12) Petit, Chris. "One Shot at a Time" in New Statesman (April 1, 1988): 29-30. Review of the film Empire of the Sun. Describes Ballard's book as "inspired by the rich odours of the Orient... Perfumes, rank and sweet, saturate the novel, acting as tiny detonations that explode huge, vivid images that one is tempted to call cinematic... Empire of the Sun is so much about lost private images of childhood that reading the book is like watching a highly developed, secret home movie... This quality is inevitably lost in the book's translation into a major Hollywood film." Calls the film a "respectful" adaptation, in which "the highly imaginative becomes the highly organised." Points out that much of the best imagery comes directly from Ballard, and that "Spielberg's problem throughout is that he offers flat-footed alternatives to Ballard's own conclusions to scenes." Speculates that the young hero must have been "alien" to the American director: "if England and the past are other countries, then Shanghai in 1941 is for Spielberg another planet... and he shoots it like a good tourist."
13) Weeks, Brigitte. "J. G. Ballard: Voyaging to the Source" in Washington Post Book World (April 17, 1988): 3. Review of The Day of Creation. Warns that many of the author's newer readers "are going to be in for a shock... Ballard has returned to his roots with a vengeance here, leaving us wondering where to place Empire of the Sun in his puzzling but distinguished career." Describes the plot, and adds: "What is absolutely right with this novel is Ballard's writing." Admires the landscape depiction and imagery, but goes on to find something "profoundly wrong with this strange but potentially wondrous tale... Ballard has failed to make the fate of either the river or its creator matter. His complex message of fruitless effort, decline, disease and death weighs so heavily upon the narrative that not even his magic voice can keep it afloat... This is a maddening book: a fable written by a veritable wizard of words that fails to connect with the reader."
14) Delany, Samuel R. Review of The Day of Creation in New York Times Book Review (May 15, 1988): 28. [not seen]
15) Lowe, Nick. "Mutant Popcorn" in Interzone no. 24 (Summer 1988): 32-33, 45. Review of the film Empire of the Sun, among others. Remarks that the film has not been a commercial success. "This seems a shame, because for all the film's subtle failings and longueurs it remains an amazingly creditable attempt at bringing an impossible vision to the merciless screen." Quotes a passage from the novel, and comments: "All else apart, how do you make a model in light of Ballard's use of the demonstrative pronoun?" The film is "loyal to Ballard's text in objective details... but to see the events of the book on screen stripped bare of their narrative voice is a strangely diluted experience." Claims that Stoppard's script fails to convey "the novel's most wilfully mischievous suggestion: that there is no perceptible moral difference between the wily American scavengers with their impossible magazine dreams and the grimly disciplined ritual of the warrior Japanese."
16) Benford, Gregory. Review of Hello America in New York Times Book Review (October ?, 1988): 22. [not seen]
17) Chow, Dan. "Reviews" in Locus no. 333 (October 1988): 23-25. Review of Hello America, among others. "Seldom has Ballard been so explicit about his love(?) affair with America." Describes the plot, finding the novel full of action. Concludes: "a very clever, amusing book, commenting on Ballard, his other works, America, and sf."
18) Catton, Judith. Untitled review of The Day of Creation in Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review Annual 1988, edited by Robert A. Collins and Robert Latham. Westport, CT: Meckler, 1988, cloth, p. 89-90. Describes the book as "a coldly brilliant tale" and its setting as "a Central African nation out of Raymond Roussel via Graham Greene." Believes that the author's style has improved and that he has now "completely mastered it, its every mandarin nuance and potent nonsequitur. This is the voice of the unconscious captured and rationalized, and it is mesmerizing." Describes the plot, and comments: "one of the more intriguing facets of this gemlike novel is the fascinating dialogue it establishes between a deracinated British modernism and a renascent international postmodernism: here we find Heart of Darkness instantaneously satellized around the globe, a neocolonial adventure story serving as a prophecy of 'the electronic world order to come.'" Concludes: "the work of a metafictional master -- one might almost say, of a British Calvino. It is destined to join Ballard's best work... one of the finest speculative novels of the year."
19) Feinstein, Elaine. "Recherche for Lost Proust" in The Times (November 3, 1988): 21. Review of Running Wild, among others. Claims that the author's imagination has been "fired by the Hungerford murders." Praises the "telling image" of the deserted village, but states that "Ballard's interest in the mystery is more diagnostic and clinical than in creating suspense. His hatred for the people whose lives he is investigating is too manifest for us to develop many alternative hypotheses... He offers instead an eerie footnote to the Hungerford disaster; the fear that intelligent understanding can do as much damage to the human psyche as more commonly established schizogenic behaviour."
20) Coe, Jonathan. "The Chilling Children" in The Guardian (November 4, 1988): 27. Review of Running Wild. Describes the novella as "a tight, macabre little tale... which holds the attention despite suffering from a major strategic flaw... While appreciating that reviewers aren't supposed to give away too much of the plots of mystery stories, I have to say that it's obvious, from the very beginning, that the children did it... The strategic flaw, then, is Ballard's initial attempt to cloud the issue by spinning a variety of rival theories." States that "Ballard scatters his story with topical references... It takes the brief, genuinely unexpected postscript, though, to make it crystal clear that he intends Running Wild as a political parable." Goes on to disagree with what he takes to be the political message, though describing the novella as "superbly written," and concludes: "Ballard tries to have it both ways: to give his story both psychological plausibility and political resonance. The two levels may overlap, now and again, but they don't cohere, and so Running Wild never clicks shut in the way it seems to promise."
21) Mackay, Shena. "Case Notes on a Village Massacre" in The Sunday Times ("Books" section) (December 4, 1988): G11. Review of Running Wild. Describes the mystery of the plot at some length, and concludes: "The writing is elegant, taut and economical, the story (accompanied by Janet Woolley's grey, angry illustrations) gripping, but the imposed brevity of the work... leaves many logistical and psychological questions unanswered. There is material here for a bigger book."
22) Freely, Maureen. "M for Massacre" in The Observer (November 6, 1988): 44. Review of Running Wild, among others. "The novella is deliberately slight, though there is an attractive malice in the way Ballard describes the victims... Its conclusion -- that madness is the only freedom in a sane society -- is a familiar one, but it is always welcome."
23) Leiber, Fritz. "Moons & Stars & Stuff" in Locus no. 335 (December 1988): 13. Brief review of Memories of the Space Age, among others. Refers to the space-shuttle Challenger catastrophe and the woes of the American space programme, adding that "it's appropriate this pessimistic book be published by Arkham House, traditional vendor of supernatural horror, the literature of cosmic fear and defeat."
24) Lewis, Peter. "Fiction at the Centre and on the Fringe" in Stand Magazine vol. 30, no. 3 (? 1989): 66-73. Review of Running Wild, among others. "The snobbery of the literature establishment in England has often resulted in proper recognition being refused to authors like J. G. Ballard, who make extensive use of popular genres (in his case fantasy and science fiction) and who are consequently not considered sufficiently 'literary'. Recently, however, Ballard's importance as a writer with something to say to the late twentieth century has been increasingly acknowledged." Describes the novella with approval, and concludes: "At her trial Ulrike Meinhof talked about 'the consumer terror'... Ballard's disturbing thesis is that violence and urban terrorism are not curable aberrations in the postindustrial society we are creating but necessary and inevitable ingredients. Short though it is, Running Wild contains far more food for thought than many 'literary' novels."
25) Milton, Edith. "The Year in Fiction: 1988" in The Massachusetts Review vol. 30, no. 1 (1989): 102-121. Review of The Day of Creation, among others. Discusses the novel alongside Ghosts by Eva Figes, and contrasts both to American works: "These are novels written for the sake of writing, demonstrations of form and exercises in subtle intellectual modulation. I think it is safe to say that if Figes and Ballard lived in America they might have written these books, but they would probably not have developed the sort of broad following which allows for their present, commercial publication. As Americans they would have been condemned to academic presses for life." Describes The Day of Creation as "a visionary, prophetic, wonderfully titillating mess of a novel... From the beginning it is clear that the river is both hallucinatory in origin and iconographic in purpose. It is the emblem if Imperialism's effect on the Third World and contains the flotsam and jetsam of Europe's disintegrating influence... There are more than a few echoes here of Heart of Darkness, Naipaul's A Bend in the River and Flaubert's Salammbo... [The author] is himself a brilliant dreamer, and the river, like any worthwhile dream and like all the signposts and landmarks of Ballard's eerie landscape, moves in several directions at once, exists in several dimensions at once, defines nothing, suggests everything." Describes the characters, and concludes: "If, in the end, all this completely worked, [it] would be a great novel. It is only a good one, with flaws both as fiction and as visionary prose: Mallory is too thin a character to sustain the novel... But even the failures in this book give it more interest than is granted to most successes."
26) Bishop, Michael. Untitled review of The Day of Creation in Thrust Science Fiction & Fantasy Review no. 32 (Winter 1989): 22. Comments on the novel's superficial likeness to a modern action story, but claims that it "more nearly resembles Green Mansions as told by a medium-cool late 1980s cynic." Describes the book at length, then quotes the author's assertion that this is a realistic novel, commenting: "If The Day of Creation is a realistic novel, then it is a thoroughly Ballardian 'realistic novel.' Every character and event appears to carry an allegorical, a symbolic, or at least a poetic freight that few self-acknowledged realists try to smuggle aboard their narratives... Mallory's obsessiveness strikes me sometimes as defiantly Ahabian, as if this were a novel about man's place in an indifferent universe, but at others as that of a deliberate artist like Ballard himself, as if this were a novel about the redemptive power of the creative act." Concludes: "The Day of Creation is a lovely piece of prose in search of patient, collaborative-minded readers."
27) Chow, Dan. "Reviews" in Locus no. 336 (January 1989): 17-19. Review of Memories of the Space Age, among others. "Gathers together Ballard's Cape Canaveral stories for the first time... To read 'The Cage of Sand' again is a jarring experience; it shows that even Ballard was once a young writer with some rough edges... It would be all too easy to interpret these stories as a foretelling, in the light of the Challenger tragedy and the bureaucratic bumbling it has revealed. Despite the Outer Space cast to these stories, however, they are still set in the Inner Space that Ballard has come to explore so thoroughly."
28) Dirda, Michael. "Ballard's Bizarre Mindscape" in Washington Post Book World (February 21, 1989): C3. Review of Memories of the Space Age and Hello America. Says the books "conveniently draw together most of Ballard's fiction about America, or rather the America of his imagination." Quotes from "A Question of Re-Entry," and describes it as "probably the best story in Memories of the Space Age." Of the remaining tales, says: "Told with melancholy equanimity, these case studies of alienation quietly lure a reader to the edge of madness -- and then push him over." Claims that Hello America is "like one of Ballard's early disaster novels... played for laughs... It's clear that Ballard is having fun, picturing sand dunes on Fifth Avenue, talking about setting up a Western White House in Beverly Hills... With nonchalance he makes lots of mistakes about American history, for instance having FDR serve only three terms instead of four." Comments that the President "Manson" who appears late in the novel is "the spitting image of Ballard's admired William Burroughs." Concludes: "I can't imagine anyone taking Hello America seriously, but it's a lot of fun, Ballard larking about with his own obsessions and having a rollicking time of it."
29) Berry, Michael. "Parallel Worlds and Cyberpunk Overtones" in San Francisco Sunday Chronicle ("Review" section) (March 5, 1989): 8. Review of Memories of the Space Age, among others. "Taken all at once, the stories... suffer from a certain degree of sameness. Some share plots, characters and effects too similar to be placed in such close proximity. Nevertheless, the book offers up poetic apocalyptic visions that will not soon be forgotten."
30) Handel, Peter. "Games Children Play" in San Francisco Sunday Chronicle ("Review" section) (?, 1989): ?. Review of Running Wild. Paraphrases the novella's plot and quotes copiously from the text, but has little of interest to say about it.
31) Kincaid, Paul. Untitled review of Memories of the Space Age and Running Wild in Vector no. 149 (April-May 1989): 16. A note states this review was first published in the Times Literary Supplement (January 13, 1989): 42. Praises the short-story collection but is lukewarm about the novella: "He cannot get as close to this derangement as he can to the man who imagines he was an astronaut, or those who follow the corpses in perpetual orbit. There is no crumbling icon that adequately contains the nullity that is today's horror."
32) McAuley, Paul J. Untitled review of Memories of the Space Age in Foundation no. 46 (Autumn 1989): 82-85. "This collection... forms a neat vertical section through Ballard's career as our foremost exponent of surrealistic literary terrorism... The stories plot an asymptotic rise out of the genre restrictions that necessitated grafting unconvincing expository lumps onto visions of terminal entropy, to purer forms of dream, internal voyages indistinguishable from mainstream magical realism except that their central concern is the invisible ravages wrought by technology upon the human psyche." Criticizes the earlier tales for various kinds of clumsiness and reserves praise for the later-published works: "As in his seminal trilogy of disaster novels..., Ballard's characters do not recoil or strive against disaster, but instead learn to accept and vanish into it, for it may be an evolution into something greater. This theme of prignogenic transformation has since been embodied in other sf works, notably those of the core cyberpunk Movement, but no one has been more rigorous in its explication [than] Ballard himself, nor has anyone yet bettered his use of the analytical jargon of science to codify a mythology of the unconscious, creating an intense epiphanic style whose sentences, unlike most of those in mainstream sf, are open rather than closed."
33) Marcus, J. Review of Running Wild in New York Times Book Review (December ?, 1989): 19. [not seen]
34) Cramer, Kathryn. "Raising Utopians" in New York Review of Science Fiction no. 18 (February 1990): 12-13. Review of Running Wild. Describes the book as "simultaneously a detective novel, a psychological horror novel, and a dystopian political novel," but argues that it is also science fiction. Finds the younger characters, with their rebellious underground newspaper, "reminiscent of the children of Daniel M. Pinkwater's Young Adult Novel minus the merry tone. (Pinkwater and Ballard are probing the same area of adolescent alienation, but from different perspectives.)" Analyses the plot in some detail, and concludes: "The book's detective and psychological aspects serve its dystopian message: that we cannot construct a utopia from the outside. Nowhere else have I seen this point made so convincingly ... If it gets the notice it deserves, Running Wild may well be remembered as one of the major political novels of our time."
35) Andrews, Graham. Untitled review of Running Wild in Paperback Inferno [fanzine] no. 84 (June-July 1990): 12. "Strikes me as a mainstream rewrite of The Midwich Cuckoos... Ballard's novella could be retitled Village of the Damned (from the 1960s film version of TMC)... [It] suffers from the same structural handicap... Like Wyndham's even more faceless narrator, Greville is -- at best -- a semi-detached observer... The real story lies with the (justifiably?) homicidal children, and because Ballard keeps them firmly in the background, until a too-little, too-late scene near the end the essential why? behind this amorality tale is never adequately explored."
36) Beswick, Norman. Untitled review of The Drought and The Unlimited Dream Company (paperback reissues) in Paperback Inferno [fanzine] no. 85 (August-September 1990): 9. "Rereading The Drought after twenty-five years reminds one of what was then so startling about Ballard novels... I had forgotten its hugely visual quality, every moment imagined through the eyes and described in strong, elegant sentences. Equally visual and elegant is The Unlimited Dream Company... At first I thought, 'How different from The Drought.' Certainly, Dream Company has a playfulness the other lacks. But acceptance runs like a thread through so much novel-length Ballard: that's why the main characters never try to change anything (they like it) and that's what disturbs and challenges."
37) Schwartz, Stephen. "J. G. Ballard's Techno-Dada Prose" in San Francisco Sunday Chronicle ("Review" section) (September 2, 1990): 5. Review of The Atrocity Exhibition, new edition. Comments that the Ballard of the 1970s "anticipated today's post-modernist and cyberpunk writers with their combination of sexuality, alienation and cool, descriptive language." Finds the book "remarkably fresh... Here black humor reaches a unique depth, in a genuine masterpiece of satire, comparable not only to Burroughs but even to the great master, Swift."
38) Chow, Dan. "Reviews" in Locus no. 357 (October 1990): 21-22. Reviews of The Atrocity Exhibition, new edition, and War Fever, among others. Comments on Doubleday's pulping of the first American edition of The Atrocity Exhibition in 1970: "Perhaps, if it had gotten through the system at Doubleday without notice, it might not have become as much of a legend today as it is"; but the book "remains a definitive work despite its reputation as Ballard's most difficult." The author "chooses to write of politics, the media, and the iconic figures whom the television screens and tabloids transformed into a language which we still use... It is something of a commentary on The Atrocity Exhibition to note how strongly these figures linger in our consciousness, 20 years later." Goes on to praise the author's new annotations. Also praises various tales in War Fever, describing some of them as "horror" stories, and saying that "'Report on an Unidentified Space Station' gives us pause to wonder how often in his work Ballard has presented us with the notion of prayer."
39) Hughes, David. "Bizarre Foray Into a Frightening Future" in Mail on Sunday (November 4, 1990): 42. Review of War Fever. "His method is to take a commonplace of our fearful world -- air crash, toxic waste, threat of holocaust -- and pursue it with horrifying logic to an extremity, often bizarre." Describes several stories, and concludes: "In this fine array of inventions, the old master of sophisticated science fiction displays his skills in not only fitting big ideas into small frames, but in making a weighty point with an uncomfortably light touch."
40) Selway, Jennifer. "World Wars, Walkmans and Wild Oats" in The Observer (November 4, 1990): 61. Review of War Fever, among others. [not seen]
41) Carter, Angela. "Space for Surrealism, with Poodle Pie and Princess Di" in The Guardian (November 8, 1990): 25. Review of War Fever. "The aficionado will find beloved old Ballardian obsessions richly represented here." Adds that "there is always that sense, present in everything J. G. Ballard writes, of a unique and profoundly original mind discussing with itself pressing questions about the nature of our species' experience on this planet." Commends those stories which utilize "an extraordinary variety of narrative styles," and refers to "the narratives of men with Conradian names, Mallory, Galloway [sic], doomed to Conradian fates marooned in abandoned parts of the earth, where, however, most unConradian things happen to space, time and matter in landscape borrowed from the paintings of Douanier Rousseau and Max Ernst." Comments on the odd and distinctive use of language, and states that Ballard "can produce writing that is both very funny and breathlessly romantic at the same time." After describing "The Enormous Space" concludes: "There is surely a PhD to be written on the influence of J. G. Ballard on the work of David Lynch."
42) Kimberley, Nick. "Earthly Aliens" in The Listener (November 8, 1990): 27. Review of War Fever. Claims that Ballard has followed a "trajectory, from science fiction disreputability through disruptive modernist experimentation, finally arriving at the pinnacle of respectability with his Booker Prize nomination for Empire of the Sun." Of the collection to hand, states that "Ballard's oddly unemphatic prose is well suited to the short story, and several pieces here find him at his best... Each seems urgently of the present even when historical detail has overtaken the narrative circumstances." Commends various stories, particularly "The Enormous Space," then concludes: "Holed up in middle-class Shepperton, Ballard has made himself the poet-surveyor of Suburbia... There is a sort of ecological vision at work here, but it is radically separated from vaguely green notions of wholeness and rightness. To call the story an allegory would be to burden it with a superfluous didacticism, and to diminish its eerie imaginative power."
43) Glendinning, Victoria. "Infinite Space -- with Bad Dreams" in The Times (November 8, 1990): 23. Review of War Fever. A sub-heading describes Ballard as "our witty wizard of the fifth dimensions." Glendinning states: "Short stories are short cuts into a writer's mind; they are repositories of condensed obsession in a way that novels, even brilliant Ballard's own, are not... Most fiction writers, even science-fiction writers, fall back gratefully on the redemptive power of love. Not Ballard. He seduces our timid minds with visions of space-time, light, and solitary flight." Describes several stories, adding: "And then, he is so funny. There is a gruesome wit in every one of these stories." Approves of "The Index," concluding that it "isn't exactly writing, it is ingenuity in print; but there is plenty of good, vital, luminous writing elsewhere in this fine collection of divagations."
44) Mathieson, Kenny. "Embroiled in a Fever of Ideas" in The Scotsman (November 10, 1990): ?. Review of War Fever. "Ballard's willingness to engage with ideas, often on a grand scale, is occasionally pursued to the detriment of genuine fictional subtlety. Some of the stories... have a slightly perfunctory feel to them." Describes a few tales, and adds: "Where he excels, though, is when he fuses that fertile fascination with ideas with an exploration of the internalised, psychic fantasy worlds which so many of his characters occupy." Approvingly describes several more stories, including "Memories of the Space Age" and "The Enormous Room" [sic], before concluding with special praise for "The Air Disaster": "One of the most genuinely powerful and chilling stories in the book... While there are peripheral fantasy elements, the emotional charge of the story depends on the very personal reactions of the central character when confronted with a nakedly human horror."
45) Strawson, Galen. "Welcome to Ballardland" in Independent on Sunday (November 11, 1990): 31. Review of War Fever. Begins with a list of the author's favourite objects and themes, stating: "Ballard's haunts and icons do not change and they are all represented in War Fever..." Approves some of the stories' technical innovations, and adds that the author "moves more lightly than before. He has lost the descriptive encrustations that clogged some of his earlier work. He is not free from cliche or the mournful pluperfects of rapid narrative infill, and many of his sentences are merely serviceable, laying themselves down like sleepers as a story moves quickly forward in pursuit of a single idea. But there are also passages of great tightness and some wonderful images." Comments on the dislocations of time and space in several stories, saying: "In Ballard's case, one feels that the extraordinary facts of physics and spacetime have taken over his everyday life. They have moved through his intellect and imagination -- in a manner which suggests some fairly unforgettable personal experiences with psychotropic drugs -- to give rise to a magic state of highly secular spiritual detachment." Concludes: "what most especially distinguishes him, as he travels upwards and outwards on a flux of photons towards his essentially corny dreams of light, flight, sexual freedom and eternal life, is the way in which reality and fear travel with him: a constant knowledge of mortality, an oddly innocent proclivity to the macabre and a dazed sense of always falling short."
46) Thomson, Ian. "Conflicts This Side of Poodle Pie" in The Independent (November 24, 1990): 32. Review of War Fever. [not seen]
47) Harrison, M. John. Review of War Fever in Times Literary Supplement (November or December?, 1990): 1271. [not seen]
48) Parrinder, Patrick. "Superhistory" in London Review of Books vol. 12, no. 23 (December 6, 1990): 24-27. Review of War Fever, among others. Describes various stories, commenting that "Memories of the Space Age" is "a sort of grand theme-park of the Ballardian imagination, arousing intense nostalgia if one has followed his work... Ballard celebrated his 60th birthday this year, and his view of what is in store for his fictional protagonists has scarcely changed in the last three decades... If, despite his bestselling Empire of the Sun. Ballard seem essentially a short-story writer rather than a novelist, it is because of his incessant, unashamed repetition of themes and settings, which suggests the work of a painter (such as one of his beloved Surrealists) rather than a narrative artist... Perhaps the central figure in these stories, as in earlier works such as 'The Terminal Beach' and the novella Concrete Island, is the latter-day Robinson Crusoe, a voluntary castaway or recluse." Finishes by describing "Dream Cargoes" with approval, concluding (erroneously): "I would guess that this strongly Wellsian story is early work, though no date is given."
49) Lowe, Nick. "A Ballard Reborn" in Interzone no. 43 (January 1991): 68. Review of The Atrocity Exhibition, new edition. Criticizes the illustrations and the Burroughs preface, but states that "the indispensable thing here is the commentary, some 12,000 all-new words of Ballard's finest essay art: tiny gems of anecdote, explication, wit, observation and polemic strung along the margins like medieval scholia... It genuinely makes a new book of the original, a 1990 Dr Nathan voicing-over the dreams of Ballard's 1967 Traven, and reflecting twenty years forward on the mythic convulsions of the sixties..." Of the main text, the "condensed novels" seem to grow in stature: "In 1970, these were perceived as difficult, dangerous, and rather mad, a reaction that now seems both embarrassing and mildly incomprehensible. In 1990 they seem almost innocently accessible... and what read then like obsessive and dehumanized modernism seems quite movingly compassionate and humanistic today. And the writing is simply more beautiful than anything you remember."
50) Lowe, Nick. "Pop-up Book of the 80s" in Interzone no. 44 (February 1991): 64. Review of War Fever. Describes the volume as "largely the product of a tight, recent burst of very high-quality short fiction that cries out to be collected while it's fresh, with a cladding of more variable older items to fill out." Refers to "The Air Disaster" as "Ballard's ex post facto Lockerbie story, though written in 1975 and inexplicably overlooked in both the '76 and '82 roundups." Believes the book to be "not just the strongest Ballard collection in a couple of decades..., but unexpectedly the most coherent," with its touching on such contemporary themes as world peace, European unity, AIDS, the Reagan legacy and environmental conscience. But the tales are not merely topical: "they're still simultaneously exploring more private, perennial, and unjoking Ballardian themes. Thus, there's the familiar crop of queasy messiahs, time diseases, and liberating surrenders to delusion and atrocity: little sign of exhaustion here, though the surface treatment gets ever more farcical and ironic... Ballard's glee at the absurdities of the ongoing global soap, and his unshakeable faith in the crassness of fashionable optimisms, has never been better fed than in the last couple of years."
51) Le Guin, Ursula. Review of War Fever in New York Times Book Review (April ?, 1991): 9. [not seen]
52) James, Edward. Untitled review of War Fever in Vector no. 160 (April-May 1991): 14. Asserts that the publishers try to hide the fact that Ballard was once a science-fiction author. In fact, this "collection is almost nothing but sf, is rather more traditional sf than Ballard was writing 20 years ago, and it reveals some, at least, of Ballard's own sf roots." Gives an account of several stories, commenting: "Humour is... the element which is rather too easy to forget is often present in Ballard's work, lurking shyly at the bottom of dried-up swimming pools." Concludes by describing "The Enormous Space" as "My favourite story... a marvellous enigmatic unravelling of suburban life from that most unreliable of narrators -- a madman."
53) Wallace, David Foster. "Exploring Inner Space" in Washington Post Book World (April 28, 1991): 6. Review of War Fever. Asserts that "Ballard is not a great fiction writer, but he is an important one." Describes his main genre as "Psy-Fi..., [a] weird allegorical techno-lit" comparable to works by Anthony Burgess and William Burroughs. "Clinical, dogmatic, relentlessly reifying and world-class imaginative, Ballard is really more a social critic than a storyteller." Gives sketches of several stories, and says: "War Fever is an unusually tight, unified story collection, not only because its author has three or four basic Psy-Fi obsessions he simply works and reworks, but also because Ballard uses such a distinctive set of styles and techniques. Structurally, every one of the book's stories is exoskeletal: its symbols and meanings are right on the surface, right in your face." Praises "Notes Towards a Mental Breakdown" as "my favourite in the collection... a Borgesian marvel of involution." Goes on to describe the author's three "biggest weaknesses," namely: "his tone is so very cold," his "prose isn't all that great" and "he's about the least subtle major writer going... Ballard's stories wield their themes like blackjacks... His narrators pontificate constantly, declaiming on the meaning of symbols, the irony of twists..." Nevertheless concludes: "Short, dense, vivid, hallucinatory, sometimes pompous, often truly disturbing, these pieces... are Ballard's Psy-Fi gems, and they have value."
54) Upchurch, Michael. "Science Fiction Stranger Than Fact" in San Francisco Sunday Chronicle ("Review" section) (April? 1991): ?. Review of War Fever. "Ballard's fictional world has always had a gleefully nasty way of anticipating reality... Anyone worried that Ballard's imagination or clairvoyant abilities were running dry with Running Wild, his thin follow-up to the glories of Empire of the Sun and The Day of Creation, should take heart. It's the newest work that's sharpest and funniest here." Describes a number of stories at length, concluding: "Each piece... is impeccably crafted, trenchantly witty and strikes frighteningly close to home."
55) Woolf, David. "The Life of a Survivor" in Books vol. 5. no. 5 (September/October 1991): 10. Review of The Kindness of Women. [not seen]
56) Murray, Charles Shaar. "Psychic Alien Aloft in Suburban Eyrie" in Literary Review (September 1991): 9-10. Review of The Kindness of Women. "Sexuality is something which has never troubled Ballard's protagonists too much; but here the balance is redressed... The Kindness of Women is soaked in the tangy juices of the sexual life, in semen, milk and sweat." Adds that with this novel "and its predecessor, Ballard has produced what is effectively the autobiography of a sensibility. For my money, that sensibility is the most unusual and stimulating to have emerged in English literature since Graham Greene... At a time when the 'legitimate' British novel is dominated by an unholy (and profoundly uninteresting) alliance between post-mod academic trickery and bourgeois realism, we need Ballard more than ever."
57) Tomalin, Claire. "Playground for a Survivor" in The Guardian (September 19, 1991): 25. Review of The Kindness of Women. Is this "a novel or a memoir? Ballard himself would smile at the question... In any case, it doesn't matter. The book is a dazzling construction, a sequence of chapters almost every one of which is a tour de force in its own right." Says of the writer: "You feel he is a nice man who has been thrown into the worst this century can offer, and sometimes used the worst as his playground; yet somehow emerged as nearly sane as any writer can be." Describes the narrative, and concludes: "He has put together the pieces of a fractured life here with honesty, humility and real brilliance. In its way, this is quite as extraordinary an achievement as Empire of the Sun."
58) Kemp, Peter. "Atrocity as Art-Object" in Times Literary Supplement (September 20, 1991): 22. Review of The Kindness of Women. "In an impressive tour de force, the book's first chapter heaps fresh pages of brilliant description on to those in which Empire of the Sun so dazzlingly conjured up the hectic glamour of 1930s Shanghai." Gives a resume of the narrative, approving of various metaphors, then states: "Rather dismayingly, at the centre of The Kindness of Women is a muddled bundle of notions about dehumanization"; the chapters chronicling the decade of the 1960s "are at once the most strident and feeble in the book." However, later passages such as the "scene in which by-standers battle to rescue a child from a car that has rolled into the Thames" are approved: "that scene is a masterly suspense sequence embellished with glacially chilling cameos... Whenever Ballard stops pronouncing generalized observations on contemporary life and starts looking at it (fortunately, most of the time), the novel immediately becomes almost hallucinatorily vivid." His scenes "excel in endowing queer juxtapositions of people and objects with a Pre-Raphaelite precision."
59) Hope, Mary. "Possessed by Obsessional Love" in Financial Times (September 21, 1991): XVII. Review of The Kindness of Women, among others. "Ballard is, as ever, compulsively readable. but the main function... was to lead me back to Empire of the Sun which is a miracle of the imagination." Praises the older work, complaining that the new book is less unified. Concludes: "There are unbearably moving sequences about domestic contentment, the death of 'Jim's' wife, the pleasures of suburbia... But he never recaptures the spark which those exciting (by his own admission) times in the prison camp struck in his creative mind."
60) Wollaston, Nicholas. "Chasing a Nightmare" in The Observer (September 22, 1991): 59. Review of The Kindness of Women. Reminds readers of Empire of the Sun, then gives a detailed account of the new book, and concludes: "This is autobiography taken to the highest reaches of fiction, another wonderful novel of scorching power, shot with honesty and a matter-of-fact lyricism that seems to catch even the author by surprise."
61) Hughes, David. "J. G. Sets Them a Prize Puzzle" in Mail on Sunday (September 22, 1991): 42. Review of The Kindness of Women. "Fiction? Or heightened documentary? Or veiled memoirs? Whichever it is, when the Booker judges meet to determine their shortlist of the year's best novels, they will find Ballard's sensational sequel to Empire of the Sun as hard to ignore as to classify." Concludes: "he writes so confoundedly well that it never matters whether his book is fish or fowl."
62) Robson, David. "The True Joy of Sex" in Sunday Telegraph (September 22, 1991): X. Review of The Kindness of Women. "How much is fact and how much is fiction, one can only speculate... He has done his best to lick the material into shape, but the finished product still has a meandering quality." Recounts some narrative highlights, and concludes: "For such an episodic book... the sense of harmonious resolution in the final chapter is unexpected and moving... It is like a ship entering harbour after a long and stormy crossing."
63) Sexton, David. "Peace by Rum Sex" in The Times (September 26, 1991): 16. Review of The Kindness of Women. A puzzled reaction: "Does J. G. Ballard know how strange he is? Perhaps not. The Kindness of Women appears at first to be a cool analysis of his perverse obsessions, tracing them back to their source in order to bring them under control. But actually the book is also itself another expression of his peculiar sensibility, no exorcism of it." Recounts the narrative, then quotes a passage from late in the novel, with the comment: "This last is a sweet remark, worthy of Patience Strong at her best, and quite inappropriate to the book, as is its title... Ballard appears to believe he has written a hymn to regular domestic intimacy. Does he think that the sexual life he credits Jim with here is normal?" Concludes that the book "should make you realise that other people act on moral convictions different from your own. In that respect, it certainly has a great success."
64) Kimberley, Nick. "The Sage of Shepperton" in New Statesman (September 27, 1991): 52. Review of The Kindness of Women. States that the novel to which this is a sequel "gave Ballard access to the full trappings of literary success: reviews, TV profiles, large royalty cheques, even a Hollywood film. But the man still seems to be playing hide-and-seek with the literary establishment." Adds: "Ballard's greatest gift is to make strange the most familiar scenery... His prose is stripped of ostentation, except in the matter of simile and metaphor, which are encrusted on almost every sentence." Describes the book is some detail, and concludes: "Is Ballard our best novelist? Perhaps. He's certainly the most interesting, the one whose account of the last half of this century has the most to tell us."
65) Montrose, David. "After the Sun Had Set" in The Spectator (September 28, 1991): 41. Review of The Kindness of Women. States that the preceding book's "subject matter conferred an enormous advantage. That its successor represents a distinct flop is not due to any shortage of exploitable material, however, but to authorial selection and treatment." Describes the narrative, commenting on the late 1960s chapters: "Only here does Ballard convey any real sense of period and even this is diluted by the approach that impairs the book throughout. Relying heavily on summary and narrative, he seems less a novelist than an autobiographer, and a lacklustre one at that... [He] comes across as one looking back over a discredited decade through jaundice-tinted spectacles... It was a time of false hopes and charlatanism, certainly, but Ballard's hindsight-dominated angle understates the excitement of being there." Concludes: "The most interesting aspect of The Kindness of Women is that it demonstrates how strongly Ballard's preoccupations and experiences conditioned his finest, and strangest, fiction. Unfortunately, these case notes are far less rewarding than those symptoms."
66) Boyd, William. "Intoxicated by a Rogue Intelligence" in Weekend Telegraph (September 28, 1991): XXVI. Review of The Kindness of Women. Commences with general thoughts on autobiography and fiction, praising Empire of the Sun and referring to the new book as "this extraordinary hybrid -- part novel, part autobiography, part epiphanic meditation." Describes the story, and states: "It is a history of key occasions, of events gravid with metaphorical and poetic power... Ballard offers us a fugal rather than a chronological version of his life... [He] is the most modern of writers; his art engages with the artefacts and obsessions of the second half of this century in a manner and with an intensity unmatched by any other writer I can think of. The book is full, also, of mesmerising writing, classic examples of the Ballard style, paragraphs and pages that disturb and enthral." Concludes: "a force is operating in this astonishing book that is hard to resist: a rogue intelligence in tandem with a febrile, yet lucid, imagination, that is at once mercilessly honest, trenchant and exhilaratingly extreme."
67) Hornby, Nick. "Shanghaied in Shepperton" in The Sunday Times ("Books" section) (September 29, 1991): 9. Review of The Kindness of Women. Claims that "those who have no time for Ballard's 'weird stuff' (although of course books such as Crash and The Atrocity Exhibition are among the most literate, challenging and provocative of the past 30 years) will be perplexed" by this new novel. Gives an account of the narrative, and states: "Ballard's prose throughout is cool, glassy, almost eerily unengaged." Adds that in the 1960s chapters "readers might find their energy flagging and irritation setting in, not because of the material, but because of Ballard's attempts to summarise in one-liners the abstruse messages of the fiction he produced at the time. His characters stop speaking and start opining in daft and dated Warhol slogans... At this stage, the novel veers perilously close to collapse, but when Ballard abandons the instant punditry and returns... to crafting his novel, he rediscovers the richness and texture of the first half." Concludes that the book is "in its own chilly way, enormously tender and likeable, with huge, messy and unmanageable vision and ambition."
68) Crane, David. "Dreaming of Shepperton" in London Magazine (October-November 1991): 148-150. Begins by quoting a substantial passage of dialogue, then comments: "If there is one thing about the women in Ballard's new novel it is that they have all learned their lines." Finds the book "ruthless in its autobiographical focus... Characters move in and out of Jim's dream, grow older, go shopping, have babies and die, but there is something missing, some active engagement with the realities of other lives." Refers to "Ballard's powerful and autocratic imagination" and "the strangely inept dialogue that is symptomatic of a more general failure... But these are in a sense criticisms that the novel itself pre-empts. Call it self-absorbed and Ballard might well agree, obsessive and the same -- of course it is obsessive, obsession is what the book is about. But it is not just what the book is about but what in a more damaging way the book is."
69) Massie, Allan. "Facing the Hard Facts of Life" in The Scotsman (October 12, 1991): ?. Review of The Kindness of Women. Describes the novel as "a fictionalised autobiography, but it is more interesting and moving than autobiography usually is, because Mr Ballard's main purpose is to try to make sense of what has happened to him." Adds: "It is not too difficult to make out a case against this book. There is not even, rather surprisingly, any real feeling for period or place." Of the 1960s episodes, says: "Ballard conveys none of the excitement that was genuinely there in that time, however spurious and self-deluding it may seem in retrospect. There is no emotional involvement..." Continues: "Yet it is here that one begins to be aware of the real distinction of the book. Jim/James/Jamie, the narrator, is, whatever happens to him, an actor in a film which he cannot credit... Everything the narrator does seems a desperate attempt to fill [a] void, to try to make some sense of the cruelties and horrors he has known... Mr Ballard reminds us of aspects of humanity which it is more comfortable to forget, and shows us why such forgetting is unforgivable."
70) Upchurch, Michael. "Struggling Back to Humanity" in San Francisco Sunday Chronicle ("Review" section) (October 13, 1991): 3. Review of The Kindness of Women. Calls the book a "brilliant sequel." Describes the story, commenting on the sex scenes: "Ballard's rendering of eros as spiritual sanctuary is unadornedly clinical, yet oddly poetic." Adds: "Ballard's wit has never been livelier" and, as always, he is "an eerily visual writer." Concludes: "Raw and tender in its beauty, and dark in its hilarity, The Kindness of Women is the capstone to a magnificent career."
71) Slavitt, David R. "The Monster He Became" in New York Times Book Review (November 10, 1991): 21-22. Review of The Kindness of Women. "A compulsive womanizer, Jim jumps the bones of virtually every female who crosses his field of vision in a series of couplings Mr Ballard describes with a somewhat quizzical, almost clinical, specificity." Describes the story at considerable length before saying: "In many ways The Kindness of Women is a profoundly sad and painful book, rueful the way Primo Levi's work was. It is not so much a sequel as a reconsideration, a deepening, a revision." Concludes that the "conflagrations and disasters of our time have doubtless produced a large number of psychic and spiritual maimings, and it is a dreadful thought that Mr Ballard is but one of the maimed. For him to have scrutinized the wounds of his own soul was heroic. To have shared his findings with the world would have been noble, if he believed in the world. More likely he was merely putting these things down because that is what he has learned to do, because, even in great pain, it is a way of getting through the time. One might even suppose that this is a novel primarily because he can believe in the reality of fictional characters more than he believes in his own life."
72) Chow, Dan. "Reviews" in Locus no. 371 (December 1991): 31. Review of The Kindness of Women, among others. Asserts that "Ballard has written himself a place in 20th Century literature and redefined the possibilities of the [science-fiction] form." Now, "just when we have Ballard all nicely packaged and labelled for posterity, he has written the novel of a lifetime... At last, Jim Ballard has drawn upon himself so directly that a Ballard character is given to us in all his aspects. Whether it is Jim the character or Jim the author we are reading about, he is invested with all the emotions we have never been granted access to... As intensely personal as it is, The Kindness of Women is the best gift Ballard has ever given us."
73) Latham, R. Review of The Kindness of Women in American Book Review vol. 14, no. 2 (? 1992): 8. [not seen]
74) Platt, Charles. Untitled review of The Kindness of Women, in New York Review of Science Fiction no. 43 (March 1992): 1, 3-4. Describes the novel as "a compelling, sometimes overwhelming study of inhuman acts in the late twentieth century, from which a woman's embrace offers respite that is transitory at best. The material is so relentlessly disturbing, a reviewer in The New York Times took it upon himself to write a patronizing lament for Ballard's sanity. This, of course, was merely a tribute to the author's art." Describes Ballard's career, and adds that "he has managed to write a sequel which transcends its predecessor and is in many ways a more important work." Goes on to describe the book at length, commenting on the possible models for some of the characters (Dr Christopher Evans, Emma Tennant). "However, Ballard obviously didn't intend to write a straight autobiography, or even a roman a clef. Instead, like any good novelist, he used the events and people in his life as a starting point -- or, to put it more bluntly, as source material." Concludes: "Ballard's obsessive involvement with horror and decadence has been widely misinterpreted as symptomatic of a sick mind. Personally, I see him bravely confronting the biggest themes and the most frightening truths in himself and in the world at large."
75) Steele, Colin. "Steele Column" in SF Commentary nos. 71/72 (April 1992): 66-67. Reviews of War Fever and The Kindness of Women, reprinted from the Canberra Times. Briefly describes several of the short stories, commenting that "Ballard avoids glamour through bleak internal landscapes and flat impacted prose." Also describes the novel, and concludes: "It is unlikely to achieve the huge success of Empire of the Sun. Nonetheless, with Ballard providing a warmth and emotion missing from his earlier cold and austere novels, his new novel is sure to linger long in the memory of its readers as a remarkable portrayal of an unusual English writer."
76) Rogers, Bruce Holland. Untitled review of War Fever, in New York Review of Science Fiction no. 45 (May 1992): 12-13. Comments on thematic repetitiveness, pointing out that "the assassinated messiah" is used three times in these stories. Describes the tales, adding that "this kind of thematic repetition is anything but boring or predictable." Compares "The Index" to Nabokov's Pale Fire, and the volume overall to Coover's Pricksongs and Descants, "which was a collection of stories about the process of retelling familiar tales." States that "the two most powerful stories" are "The Air Disaster" and "The Man Who Walked on the Moon," both of which are "psychological horror written in a style that might be termed 'Latin Gothic.'" Finds several other tales minor: "None of these is really a bad story, but all of them share a slightly out-of-date feel, like last year's political cartoons."
77) Metzger, Thom. Untitled review of Running Wild, in Science Fiction Eye no. 10 (June 1992): 91. "This is horror the way horror should be... for grown-ups." Refers back to The Atrocity Exhibition, calling it "my candidate for the best book ever written about the post-war U.S.," and praises the clinical style which Running Wild shares with that work. Describes the novella, which "makes for heady reading and lingers long after fatter, fluffier, more congenial books are completely forgotten."
78) Kincaid, Paul. Untitled review of Vermilion Sands, in Vector no. 171 (February-March 1993): 35-36. Refers to the book's setting as "this universal Torremolinos, this suburb of the soul," and remarks on "the total absence of anyone who is not white, middle-class and usually Anglo-Saxon." Describes the stories briefly, and concludes that this is "a collection to be enjoyed simply for the pleasure of watching a craftsman shaping his vision with more care and subtlety than just about any of our contemporaries."
79) Hurst, L. J. Untitled review of The Voices of Time, in Vector no. 171 (February-March 1993): 36. Briefly praises several stories, and concludes: "This collection has been printed and re-printed ever since its first publication. Its effect in another thirty years, when Ballard is the grand old man of English letters, will still be as strong, I feel sure."
80) Steele, Colin. "Steele Column" in SF Commentary nos. 73/74/75 (October 1993): 98-99. Review of Vermilion Sands, The Venus Hunters, Low-Flying Aircraft and The Unlimited Dream Company, reprinted from the Canberra Times. Briefly describes the three collections and the novel, concluding that "Ballard's early visions remain as potent today as they did in the 1950s, perhaps even more so."
Please do send me copies of any reviews which you know to be missing from the above list. I'd also like to see those which I've marked "not seen" -- especially the ones by Greg Benford, Samuel Delany and Ursula Le Guin from the New York Times.
Out-of-Date, Full of Misprints, Still Available
Dear Mr Pringle:
A bit of news which may be of interest to anyone who doesn't have a copy of your book J. G. Ballard: The First 20 Years [1976; co-edited with James Goddard -- DP]. I have recently been in touch with the Hunting Raven Bookshop, 19 Cheap Street, Frome, Somerset and they still have half a dozen copies of the softback version which can be purchased for the princely sum of £2.95 including postage. I hope this may be of use to some of your newsletter readers.
-- Austin Reeve, Great Dunmow, Essex
Thanks for that, Austin. Thanks also to the other people who have written to me: John Brady, John Davey (who runs a Michael Moorcock fanzine -- more on that next time), Bob Doel, Malcolm Edwards, etc. I wanted to itemize all those old book reviews above in order to clear the decks for the appearance of the new JGB novel, Rushing to Paradise -- so there's no more space for letters in this issue, but I hope to run several next time, along with a listing of recent JGB non-fiction, interviews, etc.
I intend to continue producing this newsletter at approximately twice-yearly intervals. If you want the next issue, please send me relevant cuttings, photocopies or a letter of comment. If in doubt as to whether I may want an item, please phone (0273-504710). Failing those things, please send £2 (£3, or US$4 overseas) to help defray my costs. All back issues, nos. 1-21, are available at £1 each from me (£1.50, or US$2, overseas).
David Pringle, 217 Preston Drove, Brighton, UK