A User's Guide to the Millennium
The above is the title of J. G. Ballard's collection of essays, book reviews and occasional non-fiction writings, mentioned in the last of these newsletters. Originally scheduled for September 1995, it has been put back until January 1996 -- but I have seen proofs: the book exists! Ballard's first-ever non-fiction volume gathers about 90 pieces, mainly short, written for magazines and newspapers between 1962 and 1994; it is divided into eight sec-tions, entitled: "Film," "Lives," "The Visual World," "Writers," "Science," "Autobiography," "Science Fiction" and "In General." The publisher is HarperCollins: they are doing it as a hardback (provisionally about 300pp, £18), and there should be a later American edition from St Martin's Press/Picador USA.
The Angle Between Two Walls
A major new book-length study by Dr Roger Luckhurst, "The Angle Between Two Walls": The Fiction of J. G. Ballard, is due to be published by Liverpool University Press, probably late in 1996. It's based on Roger's Ph.D. thesis, and a short article abstracting some of its arguments is likely to appear in a special J. G. Ballard issue of Interzone early in the new year. The said special issue is still at the planning stage as I complete this newsletter, but readers are urged to watch out for it: it should contain a good deal of interesting material by and about JGB. Interzone, which recently won a Hugo Award (the first British magazine ever to do so), is available from 217 Preston Drove, Brighton, UK (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Carry On Crashing
The long-promised movie version of Ballard's Crash was due to start shooting in Toronto on 18th September 1995, according to a note in the September issue of SFX magazine. Director and screenwriter David Cronenberg; producer Jeremy Thomas (whose father, Gerald Thomas, made the Carry On comedies -- aargh!); stars James Spader, Holly Hunter and Rosanna Arquette. Budget $13 million, which is modest by Hollywood standards, but then this is not a Hollywood film...
I've also received separate confirmation of the above in an e-mail message from Craig Sauer, date 26th September 1995, in which he quotes a message from one Frederic Grignon, who found the following in a Canadian film-trade magazine:
"David Cronenberg's new film, Crash, will cause more havoc on the streets of Toronto than any time since the RoboCop tele-vision series, says the Toronto film permit office. The Cronen-berg film, which stars James Spader, is scheduled to be shot from September 18th to November 24th. Based on a novel about a cult of car-crash voyeurs, the script indicates that at least a dozen total wipeouts may be filmed on the streets of Toronto over that two-month period."
Letter from J. G. Ballard on "Mr Chips," Peter Wyngarde, etc.
2nd December 1994
Many thanks for the latest JGB News [no. 23]. The "Goodbye, Mr Chips" thing was interesting to me. The aged Balgarnie was often seen around the Leys, on speech days, etc., and was well known as Hilton's model. Of course the film then was very much more famous than it is now. I never remember anyone referring to Malcolm Lowry, or for that matter to Michael Rennie, though his film career hadn't taken off then. Infinitely more famous in the film world was the Old Leysian and great benefactor of the school, the flour-milling tycoon J. Arthur Rank. The curious thing is that the Leys, founded by rich Methodists from the north of England as a place where they could educate their sons without any taint of Anglicanism, was very different from the typical ivy-clad public school envisaged by Hilton. A strong emphasis on science, with a lavishly equipped science block, a huge indoor heated pool that was the only indoor pool in Cambridge when I was there. The great advantage for me was that I could slip off to the Arts Cinema and see all those post-war French and Italian classics, which I wouldn't have seen had I been marooned somewhere in Somerset.
Yes, Peter Wyngarde was in the camp, under his real name of Cyril Goldbert. We came to England on the Arrawa, and I bumped into him once or twice in the 1950s. The last time, when he had begun to be successful, he cut me dead in St James's Park. In interviews he claims that his father was a French diplomat and is vague about his age, sometimes claiming to be younger than me. In fact, he is at least four years older than me, and played adult roles in the camp Shakespeare productions.
Also in Lunghua was a Methodist missionary, son of a rich Sheffield steel family, called the Reverend George Osborn, who became headmaster of the camp school, and was the model for Dr Ransom in Empire of the Sun. He became friendly with my father and urged him to send me to his old school, the Leys. Years later, in the mid-60s, when I'd already known the Baxes for some years [Martin Bax is editor of Ambit], it emerged that Dr Osborn was the father of Judy Bax (she and her mother had returned to England in the 1930s). When I was writing Empire I asked Judy if I could use her father's name and she said "Perhaps not," probably thinking of what I had done with real figures in Crash and so on. A pity, in a way. By complete coincidence the name I gave him turned out to be the name of the real-life Lunghua camp-leader, a red-haired Irish doctor called Ransom -- I'd forgotten him, and he and his family complained mightily about what they assumed was his portrait when the book came out. In fact, it was a portrait, in part, of George Osborn (just as Dr Barbara in Rushing to Paradise is a part-portrait of Margaret Thatcher, and Carline of George Bush -- I hope that doesn't spoil the book for you...).
-- J. G. Ballard, Shepperton
Ballard's Recent Writings
The following is a list of JGB's published non-fiction writings (all those of which I'm aware) since the list in JGB News no. 23. Do please inform me if you know of anything which is missing.
1. "The Widest Windows Onto the New" in Aloud [Toronto magazine] vol. 2, no. 7 (October 1992): 12. Short essay reminiscing about JGB's friendship with American science-fiction writer and editor Judith Merril (now a Canadian resident). Begins: "When I visited Toronto in 1987, to give a reading at the International Festival of Authors, I saw Judy for the first time in 20 years..." Concludes: "I remember my last sight of her surrounded by her friends and all the books she loved, shouting me down whenever I tried to argue with her, the strongest woman in a genre for the most part created by timid and weak men." [Old item previously overlooked; sent to me by Erik Arthur]
2. "Books of the Year" in Daily Telegraph ["Christmas Books" section] (November 26, 1994): VIII. Brief piece in which Ballard commends The Life of Graham Greene, Vol. II by Norman Sherry, and An Intimate History of Humanity by Theodore Zeldin.
3. "The Best Reading of 1994" in The Times ["Weekend" section] (November 26, 1994): ?. Brief piece in which Ballard commends The Life of Graham Greene, Vol. II by Norman Sherry, An Intimate History of Humanity by Theodore Zeldin, and Paris After the Liberation by Anthony Beevor and Artemis Cooper.
4. "All I Want from Santa is a Brrmm, Brrmm" by James Deling-pole, in Daily Telegraph ["Weekend" section] (December 24, 1994): 21. Page of brief interview quotes in which Ballard and other celebrities (Alan Clark, politician; Ulrika Jonsson, TV pres-enter; John Peel, disc jockey; etc) describe the cars they drive. JGB's model is a 2.9-litre Ford Granada, "which, over here, is about the nearest you can get to the size, the space and the Detroit glamour of an American car..."
5. "My First Penguin Paperback..." by Giles Coren, in The Times ["Penguin Festival of Fiction" section] (February 23, 1995): 7. Brief quotes in which authors talk about their memories of early Penguin titles. Ballard mentions Raymond Chandler as one of the first writers he bought in paperback: "-- that was when I was about 17, and I still think he is absolutely brilliant."
6. "The House That Jencks Built" in Modern Review no. 20 (April-May 1995): 31. Half page in which Ballard and others (Martin Pawley, Roger Scruton, Deyan Sudjic, etc) discuss architecture. Among other things, JGB states: "I detest postmodern architecture in any form whatsoever... We were driven by this terrible disease of nostalgia, and postmodernism is a gift to nostalgia and re-affirms that we don't have a future... My favourite building is the Heathrow Hilton by Michael Manser: a brilliant white classic building, like a space-age hangar. I'd like everything to be like that. I'd like England to look as if everybody was getting ready to leave for Mars."
7. "Another Girl: Fourteen Star Punters Select Their All-Time Greatest Gig" by Andy Darling, in Q magazine no. 106 (July 1995): 33-36. On page 36 of this feature, JGB (flanked by celebs Barbara Windsor, Michael Fish and Pierce Brosnan) describes his one and only experience of a pop-music "gig": "An outdoor festival, somewhere near Brighton... I was doing a reading, so was William Burroughs, and when I arrived the Hell's Angels security guards said to me, 'Dad, you're in the wrong place'..."
8. "Summertime and the Reading is Easy" by Giles Coren, in The Times ["Weekend" section] (July 1, 1995): ?. Brief piece in which Ballard (flanked by Julie Burchill, Sarah Dunant, Julia Neu-berger, etc) commends The Moral Animal by Robert Wright (a book on neo-Darwinism), and Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg (a novel).
9. "The End of My War" in Sunday Times ["News Review" section] (August 20, 1995): 1-2. Major essay to mark the 50th anniversary of VJ Day. Recapitulates the story of JGB's childhood in the Far East during World War II, and concludes: "to survive war, especially as a civilian, one needs to accept the rules it imposes and even, as I did, learn to welcome it."
10. "Living Dangerously" in Sunday Times [section 7] (September 7, 1995): 5. Review of River of Time by Jon Swain.
11. "Anything Could Happen" in The Guardian [second section] (October 6, 1995): 10. Review of Visions of the Future: The Distant Past, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow by Robert Heilbroner.
Small Trove of Early Ballard Non-Fiction Discovered
My correspondent Neil Hudson has looked through Chemistry and Industry, the journal which JGB once worked for, and has discovered a large number of book reviews Ballard wrote for that publication. (I once glanced through Chemistry and Industry myself, for the years 1957 to 1961, when JGB was assistant ed-itor, but found nothing attributed to Ballard; my error was not to carry on looking through the following two years' worth, from when he had ceased full-time employment but apparently was still writing for the journal on a freelance basis.) Most of these pieces are short and dull -- factual "notices" rather than reviews proper -- but it's interesting that they exist; also, perhaps, they give us some insight into Ballard's scientific and technological reading at a crucial period in his writing career.
There are 27 of these little reviews, published between March 1962 and November 1963, the majority of them just one or two paragraphs in length, and all are signed "J.G.B." They're mostly devoted to works of reference, and only the 18th (and longest) is of any general interest. Here's a listing of dates, page numbers and the books noticed:
1) March 10, 1962: 456. The World of Learning, 1961-62. 12th edition. Europa Publications.
2) March 10, 1962: 456. Industrial Research in Britain. 4th edition. Harrap.
3) March 31, 1962: 602. Dictionary of Chemistry, Vol. 1: German-English by R. Ernst. Pitman.
4) June 2, 1962: 965-6. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research by Harry Melville. Allen & Unwin.
5) June 16, 1962: 1047. Writing a Technical Paper by D. H. Menzel, H. M. Jones and L. G. Boyd. McGraw-Hill.
6) August 4, 1962: 1418. Poisoning by Drugs and Chemicals by Peter Cooper. Alchemist Publications.
7) August 11, 1962: 1463. Great Chemists by E. Farber. Wiley & Sons.
8) September 1, 1962: 1566. Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases revised by Robert A. Dutch. Longmans.
9) September 8, 1962: 1607. Dictionary of Commercial Chemicals by F. D. Snell and C. T. Snell. Van Nostrand.
10) September 22, 1962: 1677. Concise Chemical and Technical Dictionary by H. Bennett. Chemical Publishing Co.
11) September 29, 1962: 1714. Riegel's Industrial Chemistry ed. J. A. Kent. Chapman & Hall.
12) October 13, 1962: 1787. Dictionary of Chemistry and Chemical Technology ed. Z. Sobecka and others. Pergamon Press.
13) November 3, 1962: 1900. Technical Market Research by R. Williams. Williams Technical & Economic services.
14) November 10, 1962: 1942-3. Information U.S.S.R. ed. Robert Maxwell. Pergamon Press. Chides Mr Maxwell for not being thoroughly up to date in this encyclopedia of things Russian: "Among omissions are the names of Pasternak and Gagarin."
15) November 17, 1962: 1978. Index to Reviews, Symposia Volumes and Monographs in Organic Chemistry ed. N. Kharasch and others. Pergamon Press.
16) January 1, 1963: 78. Practical and Industrial Formulary by Mitchell Freeman. Chemical Publishing Co.
17) January 26, 1963: 160. Modern Cosmeticology by R. G. Harry. Leonard Hill (Books).
18) February 9, 1963: 456. The Science of Dreams by Edwin Diamond. Eyre & Spottiswoode. Begins: "The universal experience of dreams, and the conviction that they conceal part of man's essential image of himself, have made them a subject of unfading interest throughout history..." Continues for five paragraphs.
19) March 2, 1963: 371. Cosmetic Materials by R. G. Harry. Leonard Hill (Books).
20) April 6, 1963: 562. Handbook of Chemistry and Physics 44th edition. Blackwell.
21) May 5, 1963: 727. Use of the Chemical Literature ed. R. T. Bottle. Butterworth.
22) June 1, 1963: 902. Paint, Oil and Colour Year Book. 3rd edition. Scott Greenwood & Sons.
23) June 22, 1963: 1023. Solvents Guide ed. C. Marsden and S. Mann. Cleaver-Hume Press.
24) August 24, 1963: 1429. Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, Vol. 1: A to Aluminium 2nd edition. Wiley.
25) October 5, 1963: 1618. Food Processing & Packaging Directory, 1963-1964 ed. R. De Giacomi. Tothill Press.
26) October 19, 1963: 1680. The Flash of Genius by A. B. Garrett. Van Nostrand. "The accounts range from the discovery of oxygen in 1774 by Joseph Priestley to the discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming and of nylon by Wallace Carothers." But unfortunately there are no flashes of personality in this brief review, which could have been an interesting one.
27) November 30, 1963: 1895. Committees: How They Work and How to Work Them by E. Anstey. Allen & Unwin.
... Thereafter, Ballard presumably got bored, or became sufficiently independent financially not to need the small income these notices for Chemistry and Industry must have brought him. While it lasted, though, this stint of reviewing may well have helped "ground" him in the worlds of science and industrial technology, feeding his imagination in various ways. Possibly, there are many earlier notices of a similar type, from JGB's period of assistant editorship, but as these are unsigned they will be extremely hard to identify.
A Packed-Out Event
1st February 1995
Something which might be of interest is an event which took place at Waterstones bookshop in Camden Town on Wednesday 14th Sept-ember 1994. Ballard introduced Rushing to Paradise, read two extracts from the second half of the book and then responded to questions from the audience. All the seats were filled early and people were packed shoulder-to-shoulder round the edges. The attendance must have been somewhere between 50 and 100 and was apparently higher than for any other single author event of this sort at the shop. Wine and bottled beer was provided and the ticket cost was deducted from the price of a copy of Rushing to Paradise. Ballard appeared very relaxed, wearing a check jacket and a Rene Magritte tie and sipping red wine. The two passages he read were, firstly, when Dr Barbara explains to Neil her wish that he take on the role of stud (pages 146-149); and then the piece at the beginning of chapter 13 when Neil and Dr Barbara share the cooked pheasant (pages 169-171). He read well and dealt with the questions enthusiastically. I made no notes but, from memory, some of the topics covered were as follows:-
Plot in B's Work. In response to a suggestion that Rushing to Paradise was different to his other novels in that it had a strong plot Ballard was insistent that his stories generally did have clear and strong plots.
H. G. Wells. Ballard felt honoured that Rushing to Paradise had been described as a Wellsian work by one reviewer. He sug-gested the reviewer may have been thinking of The Island of Dr Moreau which also had an island setting and explored the con-sequences of an extreme vision and actions.
Dr Barbara. Ballard considered that there may be something in the suggestion that there were similarities with Petra Kelly and acknowledged another major influence as Margaret Thatcher. Ballard spoke of his ambivalent feelings toward his central character who was both attractive and repellent.
William S. Burroughs. Ballard acknowledged the importance of Burroughs as a writer but denied any influence on his own work. He contrasted in particular the rather random structure of The Naked Lunch, which was literally thrown together, and other Burroughs work, with his own very carefully plotted and structured fictions.
Cronenberg. Reference was made to the proposed film version of Crash, his respect for Cronenberg and his hope that the film will be faithful to the spirit of the book and not soften it.
Crash. Ballard cited Crash as his best book. He referred to his published description of it as a moral work and acknowledged that this was not really so. He said he regretted that claim and withdrew it.
There were no startling revelations, but then that is not what one would expect at this sort of event. At the end of the question-and-answer session Ballard stayed to sign books and chat to fans. A number of topics were covered: Victor Gollancz's exceedingly small print-runs, so that they could claim, for example, seventh or eighth printing or whatever in advertisements; the courage and judgment of Nick Austin (Granada/Grafton) regarding the price paid for Empire of the Sun; the fact that Hello America had originally been written as a shorter work to be part of a series of illustrated books, and that it was subsequently extended when this fell through; and the disappointing US sales of The Kindness of Women being attributed, at least in part, to its rather nasty dust-jacket illustration...
-- Raymond Tait, Cambridge
JGB'S Interviews and Profiles
The following list of published interviews/profiles follows on from the column entitled "JGB's Media Coverage" in JGB News number 18 in 1992. (Can it really be so long since I last updated it?) The first ten items are pieces I did not know about at the time of that last list; the others have appeared since. Thanks again to all those who have helped me with information.
1) "Empire of the Sun Shines in Ballard's Eyes" by John H. Richardson, in Chicago Tribune (December 21, 1987): ?. Short interview about the film. [Not seen]
2) "Royal Film of Hell Camp is 'Nonsense' Say Women" by Steve Absalom, in Daily Mail (March 30, 1988): 3. Interviews with Lesley Chalmers, Anne Phillips, Betty Harris (all survivors of Lunghua prison camp, Shanghai) and J. G. Ballard. The women criticize the author's view of historical events in Empire of the Sun and Ballard replies: "The film is an imaginative recreation of the period based on my own experiences."
3) Interview with Ballard in Impulse: The Magazine of Time and Space [Toronto] (Spring 1988): ?-?. [Canadian piece listed in Locus no. 332 (September 1988), p. 57; not seen]
4) "J. G. Ballard: Slowly But Surely" by James Fallon, in Women's Wear Daily (April 1, 1988): ?-?. [Not seen]
5) "Whatever Became of Jim?" by Jeannette Kupfermann, in You Magazine [supplement to Sunday Mail] (April 10, 1988): 72-74. Profile/interview.
6) "An Interview with J. G. Ballard" by Jeremy Lewis, in Mississippi Review vol. 20, no. 1-2 (1991): 27-40. [Not seen]
7) Untitled piece by Malu Halasa, in Blitz no. ? (May 1991): 71. Short interview about the future.
8) "The Ballad of Ballard" by Steve Grant, in Time Out (September 25, 1991): 22-23. Profile/interview.
9) "The Worst of Times" by Danny Danziger, in The Independent (December 16, 1991): ?. Short interview in which Ballard recalls his early life in Britain and discusses the character of England and the English. Reprinted in The European English Messenger vol. 1, no. 3 (Autumn 1992): 20-22.
10) "The Man Who Fell to England" by Stan Nicholls, in Fantazia no. 18 (December 1991): ?-?. Interview about The Kindness of Women and other topics. Reprinted as "J. G. Ballard says SF is Dead" in Wordsmiths of Wonder: Fifty Interviews with Writers of the Fantastic by Stan Nicholls. London: Orbit, October 1993, paper, p. 248-255.
11) "Intervista a J. G. Ballard" by Deborah Bergamini, in Urania no. 1191 (November 1992): 129-131. Short interview conducted on the occasion of Ballard's attendance as a judge at a Crime Film festival in Viareggio, Italy, June 1992. [Italian]
12) "The Visitor: An Interview with J. G. Ballard" by Phil Halper and Lard Lyer, in The Hardcore [fanzine] no. 8 (no date; December 1992?): 19-22, 34. Interview recorded in the autumn of 1991, during JGB's UK publicity tour for The Kindness of Women.
13) "J. G. Ballard Interviewed" by Pat Quigley, in Albedo One [fanzine, Dublin] (Autumn 1993): 10-14. Interview conducted "a short while ago" (probably late 1991) at the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin, during a publicity tour for The Kindness of Women.
14) "All Praise and Glory to the Mind of Man" by Frances Welch, in Sunday Telegraph ["Review" section] (March 20, 1994): 2. Short interview in a series entitled "Me and My God." Ballard confesses to being an atheist, but adds: "that said, I'm extremely interested in religion... I see religion as a key to all sorts of mysteries that surround the human consciousness."
15) "The Billen Interview" by Andrew Billen, in Life [Observer magazine] (August 7, 1994): 8. Short profile/interview to publicize Rushing to Paradise: "Billen visits author J. G. Ballard in his peeling semi to discuss class, feminism and the material world." Accompanied by an odd full-page picture, by photographer Jane Bown, of JGB baring his teeth.
16) "A Horror Story from Paradise" by Will Self, in The Evening Standard (September 8, 1994): 29. Short profile/interview to publicize Rushing to Paradise.
17) "Empire of the Surreal" by Nicholas Zurbrugg, in World Art [Newark, New Jersey] (January 1995): 62-65. Interview mainly concentrating on surrealist painting. From internal evidence, it seems this conversation was conducted in 1992.
18) "Crash and Burn" by Andrew Asch, in Sci-Fi Universe (April 1995): 87. Short profile/interview to publicize the US edition of Rushing to Paradise. Contains an interesting snippet towards the end, about JGB's novel-in-progress: "Ballard's next book is sure to provoke some ambivalent feelings as well... 'It's a psychological study. Oh God, it sounds crazy. It's about the necessity of crime.'"
19) "J. G. Ballard: Trouble in Eden" by Matthew Flamm, in Newsday ["Fanfare" section] (May 21, 1995): ?. Short profile/interview to publicize the US edition of Rushing to Paradise.
20) "Not a Literary Man: An Interview with J. G. Ballard" by Marcos Moure, in Probable Cause: A Literary Revue [Miami] (Summer 1995): 12-13. Short interview to publicize the US edition of Rushing to Paradise. This piece also contains a reference to the book-in-progress: "I'm halfway through another novel -- untitled as of yet -- another sort of cautionary tale. I'd rather not discuss it in detail though."
21) "Leading Questions" in Classic [a British Sunday newspaper magazine, though I'm not sure which paper] (August 20, 1995): 1 [or 3?]. Short unsigned interview in a running series. JGB talks briefly about VJ Day, Shanghai, Steven Spielberg, Charles Lindbergh, alcohol, his childhood chess set, dog-walking, his admiration for the comedians Ken Dodd and Rory Bremner, and his own "strain of reclusiveness."
JGB's Critical Coverage -- Update
The following list of articles, critical essays, books, etc., follows on from the column entitled "JGB's Critical Coverage" in JGB News number 19 -- and includes some older items, from 1987 onwards, which were missed out on that occasion. It consists of items of criticism and reference pertaining to Ballard's works, but excludes reviews of his books; shorter reviews were listed separately in issue 22. Again, I'm grateful to all those who have sent me cuttings or photocopies. Please continue!
1) "Media, Messages, and Myths: Three Fictionists for the Near Future" by Jose Manuel Mota, in Storm Warnings: Science Fiction Confronts the Future edited by George Edgar Slusser, Colin Greenland and Eric S. Rabkin. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987, cloth, p. 84-93. Essay concerned with images of the mass media in the works of George Orwell, Philip K. Dick and Ballard.
2) "The Atrocity Exhibition," "Chronopolis and Other Stories," "The Crystal World," "The Drought," "The Drowned World" and "Vermilion Sands" by Brian Stableford, in Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction, 3rd edition, edited by Neil Barron. New York & London: Bowker, 1987, cloth, p. 226-227. Brief annotations of the named books.
3) "La Mort dans l'oeuvre de J. G. Ballard" by Louis-Vincent Thomas, in La Mort dans la texte edited by Gilles Ernst. Lyon: PU de Lyon, 1988, p. 193-203. [Not seen; French]
4) "The Two Landscapes of J. G. Ballard's Concrete Island" by Reinhart Lutz, in Mindscapes: The Geographies of Imagined Worlds edited by George Edgar Slusser and Eric S. Rabkin. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989, cloth, p. 185-194. Essay on the named novel. [Not seen]
5) "The Dawn Patrol: Sex and Technology in Farmer and Ballard" by Gary K. Wolfe, in New York Review of Science Fiction no. 25 (September 1990): 1, 8-10. Essay dealing with the works of Philip Jose Farmer in comparison with J. G. Ballard's Crash.
6) "James Graham Ballard: Visioni apocalittiche nello spazio interno" by Giovanni Arledler, in Letture: Libro e Spettacolo/ Mensile di Studi e Rassegne [Milan, Italy] vol. 45, no. 470 (October 1990): 685-698. Essay, divided into subtitled sections in the style of The Atrocity Exhibition, which appears to cover most of Ballard's work. [Italian]
7) "Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun: A Boy's Dream of War" by Andrew Gordon, in Literature/Film Quarterly vol. 19, no. 4 (1991): 210-221. [Not seen]
8) Worlds Apart: Narratology of Science Fiction by Carl D. Malmgren. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1991, cloth?, p. ?-?. Study of the sf genre which has an interesting point to make about Ballard's position therein. According to Elizabeth Hewitt, in her essay "Generic Exhaustion and the 'Heat Death' of Science Fiction" (Science-Fiction Studies no. 64 [November 1994]: 289-301), Malmgren mentions "the reluctance of critics to classify as sf" the work of J. G. Ballard. She goes on to say: "Malmgren cites David Ketterer, 'Such works may be apocalyptic in a psychedelic or surrealistic sense, but in many cases where the science-fictional landscape has the ontological status of metaphor, I would deny that they belong to the genre of science fiction.' Malmgren argues contrarily that it is this very metaphoric-play that classifies Ballard's work as 'speculative sf,' a 'mongrel' breed of sf: 'speculative SF in general tends to blur, obliterate, or cross over the lines separating the "pure" SF types. This "mongrelization," I would argue, is inherent in the very act of speculation which, because it is based on metaphoric substitution at the "deep structure" level, acts upon the worlds it transforms in a radically wholistic way.' Ballard, according to this logic, obliterates the distinction between the inner or outer world; this obliteration, in which the 'science' is not scientific but metaphoric, excludes his novels, according to many critics, from the sf genre. Malmgren, however, claims that the metaphoric substitution is so 'deep' that both worlds (inner and outer) are revised -- that is, neither is merely allegorical for the other." [Not seen]
9) "J(ames) G(raham) Ballard" in Cultural Icons edited by James Park. London: Bloomsbury, 1991, trade paper, p. 25. Short unsigned entry in this guide to "cultural figures who made the 20th century what it is." Claims that the "grey lyricism of his deadening effects owes more to the French anti-novelists Alain Robbe-Grillet and Michel Butor than to anything in English (even Burroughs, an obviously valuable influence, is somewhat more at home with humour and humanity)."
10) "The Artist as Site-Seer; or, A Dinotorphic Essay" by Robert Smithson, in Robert Smithson: Unearthed edited by Eugenie Tsai. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991, p. 74-80. Essay on "megaliths" by the noted American sculptor who died in 1973. It has many references to Ballard and contains brief quotations from "The Terminal Beach" and "The Waiting Grounds." With its 70 footnotes (one per sentence, reminiscent of Ballard's "Notes Towards a Mental Breakdown"), this is an eccentric piece which is more of a rhapsodic fiction than a coherent essay.
11) "On the Critical List" by Harvey Pollock, in Sunday Times ["Books" section] (October 6, 1991): 8. Article about the public-ity surrounding The Kindness of Women. "'I have become a bit of a recluse,' J. G. Ballard told Lynn Barber, who was interviewing him for The Independent on Sunday... For a recluse, he's not doing badly: a BBC documentary, major interviews on Radios Three and Four, more press profiles and reviews than many novelists receive in a lifetime." Describes various reviews, pointing out that "critics seemed keen to review the novelist as much as the novel." Describes more reviews, concluding with this: "Michele Roberts, who reviewed the book live on Radio Four's Kaleidoscope, was refreshingly candid. Ballard, she said, set the reader up as a voyeur on his life's intimacies -- nothing wrong with that, she liked being a voyeur -- but he then somehow failed to deliver. Seductions were often aggrandised, she argued, so that sometimes you were tempted to say, 'Come off it, Jim, you just wanted a quick f***.' This language, somewhat direct as the context required, caused much huffing embarrassment from Kaleidoscope's Paul Allen, who quickly steered the discussion away from the irreproachable Roberts. At the end of the programme, there were more mealy-mouthed apologies. That kind of language, Allen said, was not to be found in Ballard's books -- which was precisely the point Ms Roberts was making."
12) "Postcards from the Posthuman Solar System" by Scott Bukatman, in Science-Fiction Studies no. 55 (November 1991): 343-357. Essay primarily concerned with the science fiction of Bruce Sterling and the theories of critic Donna Haraway and others; it also contains a substantial reference to Ballard's Crash and an interesting aside about Bernard Wolfe's Limbo (and Ballard's admiration for that novel is noted); there is passing reference to Daniel Miller's song "Warm Leatherette," based on Crash.
13) "Specular SF" by Veronica Hollinger, in State of the Fantastic -- Studies in the Theory and Practice of Fantastic Literature and Film: Selected Essays from the Eleventh International Confer-ence on the Fantastic in the Arts edited by Nicholas Ruddick. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992, cloth, p. 29-39. "Targets Ballard's Crash, Acker's Empire of the Senseless and Wittig's Les Guerilleres (among other works) as 'exercises in postmodern allegory' where 'SF tropes function as allegorical components in narratives that are not about the future' and where 'the imagery of SF... becomes a means of collapsing the future back onto the present in a way that removes the historical specificity and contingency of that present'" (according to a review by Arthur B. Evans in Science-Fiction Studies no. 59). [Not seen]
14) "The Dawn Patrol: Sex, Technology, and Irony in Farmer and Ballard" by Gary K. Wolfe, in State of the Fantastic -- Studies in the Theory and Practice of Fantastic Literature and Film: Selec-ted Essays from the Eleventh International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts edited by Nicholas Ruddick. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992, cloth, p. 159-167. "Conducts a fascinating investigation a la Foucault on the question of 'whether it is possible to construct a kind of pornography of the machine... in which the encounter with the machine on its own terms is eroticized in a manner usually reserved for descriptions of sexual encounters'" (according to a review by Arthur B. Evans in Science-Fiction Studies no. 59). Probably an expanded version of item 5, above. [Not seen]
15) "J.-G. Ballard: persistance de la memoire" by Robert Louit, in Magazine Litteraire (April 1992): 130-133. Article on Ballard's work which incorporates reviews of two titles newly published in France, La Bonte des femmes (The Kindness of Women) and Fievre guerriere (War Fever). [French]
16) "Archive and Form" by Thomas Richards, in The Imperial Archive: Knowledge and the Fantasy of Empire by Richards. London: Verso, 1993, cloth?, p 45-72. Chapter which moves from a consideration of Lewis Carroll and Bram Stoker to a detailed discussion of Ballard's The Crystal World.
17) Ultimate Island: On the Nature of British Science Fiction by Nicholas Ruddick. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993, cloth, xi+203p. "Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Number 55." According to a review by R. D. Mullen in Science-Fiction Studies no. 60 (July 1993), p. 278, "Ruddick finds the specificity of British SF chiefly in the work of 13 authors, beginning with Wells, moving on (in topical rather than chronological order) to S. Fowler Wright, William Golding, Jacquetta Hawkes, M. P. Shiel, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edward Shanks, J. J. Connington, John Collier, Alun Llewellyn, R. C. Sherriff, John Wyndham, and John Christopher, and concluding with J. G. Ballard, whose stature in Ruddick's view should be as great as Wells's." I've now seen this book, and it's a major study.
18) "Ballard, The Kindness of Women, and Catharsis" by Nicholas Zurbrugg, in The Parameters of Postmodernism by Zurbrugg. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1993, cloth, p 142-144. Brief piece on the named novel, as part of a wider discussion of postmodernism in literature. There is at least one passing reference to Ballard earlier in the book (p. 37), where he is mentioned in the context of a discussion of Fredric Jameson's critical theories.
19) "BALLARD, J(ames) G(raham), 1930-" in Science Fiction and Fantasy and Literature, 1975-1991: A Bibliography of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Fiction Books and Nonfiction Monographs by Robert Reginald. Detroit: Gale Research, February 1993, cloth, p. 63-64. Entry on Ballard in this massive bibliography which lists first editions of all English-language books falling within the stated genres; each title listing gives subtitle [if any], place of publication, publisher's name, date, pagination and a brief definition of the type of book. Empire of the Sun and The Kindness of Women are omitted, understandably, on the basis that they are not fantastic; however, the omissions of High-Rise and The Day of Creation are more problematic. There are a few errors in the existing entries, the most notable of which is the false claim that the 1985 Gollancz hardcover edition of The Voices of Time has "contents [which] differ from earlier collections of the same title" -- it is of course identical in contents to the 1984 Dent paperback of the same collection (and, for that matter, to the 1974 Gollancz hardcover under the book's old title, The Four-Dimensional Nightmare).
20) "Intentional Phalluses: The Male 'Sex' in J. G. Ballard" by Alan McKee, in Foundation no. 57 (Spring 1993): 58-67. Essay which argues in some detail that Ballard's imagination, as evidenced in the depictions of sex in Crash and The Unlimited Dream Company, is "phallocentric."
21) "BALLARD, J(AMES) G(RAHAM)" by David Pringle, in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, 2nd edition, edited by John Clute and Peter Nicholls. London: Little, Brown, April 1993, cloth, p. 84-86. Revised and updated version of the entry which appeared in the 1979 first edition of this fine encyclopedia. Alas, an egreg-ious bibliographical error (an assertion that the 1985 edition of The Voices of Time differs in contents "from all others," which it does not) was inserted by the editors after I wrote the piece: this was presumably a carryover from Robert Reginald's bibliography, which the editors had pre-publication access to, where a similar error appears (see item 19, above).
22) "J. G. Ballard's Empire of the Senses: Perversion and the Failure of Authority" by Dennis A. Foster, in Proceedings of the Modern Language Association vol. 108, no. 3 (May 1993): 519-532. Essay on the novella Running Wild, comparing it frequently with Empire of the Sun and other novels by Ballard; also makes a comparison with Nagasi Oshima's film In the Realm of the Senses (1976), the French title of which was L'empire des sens.
23) "Portrait of the Artist as a Jung Man: Love, Death and Art in J. G. Ballard's Vermilion Sands" by William M. Schuyler, Jr., in New York Review of Science Fiction no. 57 (May 1993): 1, 8-11, and no. 58 (June 1993): 14-19. Substantial two-part essay which deals very thoroughly with the influence of C. G. Jung's psychological theories on Ballard's writing.
24) Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction by Scott Bukatman. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, July 1993, cloth and trade paper, xiii+396p. Critical study of contemporary sf, both literature and film, with sections on Ballard (particularly the one subtitled "J. G. Ballard and the Mediascape," p. 41-46, although there are other substantial references throughout, especially to Crash), Philip K. Dick, William Burroughs, David Cronenberg, William Gibson, and others; there are also mentions of such older prophets of the "post-modern" as Bernard Wolfe [Limbo] and Marshall McLuhan. Cultural critics Jean Baudrillard, Fredric Jameson and Donna Haraway are cited frequently.
25) "L'Ile de beton, dans l'ocean des villes" by Roger Bozzetto, in Les Representations du temps: Metaphores no. 23. Nice: Universite de Nice-Sophia Antipolis, Faculte des Lettres, Arts et Sciences Humaines, Centre d'Etude de la Metaphore, September 1993, paper, p. 3-19. Essay on Concrete Island, discussing the novel in terms of Defoe and the tradition of the "robinsonade." Also mentions many of Ballard's other works.
26) "The Many Deaths of Science Fiction: A Polemic" by Roger Luckhurst, in Science-Fiction Studies no. 62 (March 1994): 35-50. Essay on the apparent "death wish" of the science-fiction genre, as evidenced in the longing for transcendence of genre limitations on the part of many sf historians and theorists. Ballard's work is seen as "performing," and critics' reactions to that work as exemplifying, this ever-repeating process. Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle is also invoked at some length in this provocative but, one suspects, not entirely serious polemic.
As you can see, the above list only goes up to early 1994, and is far from complete. More to come in the future...
A Final Letter...
29th January 1995
I enclose a disc with some JGB material. I found this while playing around with the computer system in the library of Sheffield Hallam University where I am currently a student. The cuttings from the Guardian, Independent and Financial Times are all taken from CD-ROM. These only go back to 1991, which is unfortunate as it is the work of seconds to find every article even mentioning JGB...
A very minor quibble about "JGB and Mr Chips" (JGBN 23). Malcolm Lowry didn't drink himself to death in Mexico. Geoffrey Firmin, the only partly-autobiographical "hero" of Under the Volcano, is certainly trying to do this, but is murdered before he can manage it. In fact, Lowry committed suicide in Ripe, near Lewes, East Sussex, after a long battle with alcoholism.
-- Mike Bonsall, Sheffield
Thanks for the correction, Mike: my reference to Lowry's death was careless. Thanks also to others who sent in small corrections to items in the last issue -- yes, it should have been a "Cray," not a "Kray" supercomputer ... and Warhol's famous remark mentioned fifteen minutes, not five. Mea culpa. Thanks also to Mike Bonsall for sending me that discful of on-line material: I may bring certain interesting items to people's attention in the next newsletter. Eventually, the electronic internet will make JGB News redundant, as we'll all be able to call up instantly all the facts we could possibly want to know about any writer in the universe; but, somehow, the very ease of that process makes the idea lose all its appeal...
I intend to continue producing this newsletter at approximately twice-yearly intervals. If you want to receive the next issue, please send me relevant cuttings, photocopies or a letter of comment. If in doubt as to whether I may want a particular item, please phone me on 01273-504710, or send me an e-mail message (email@example.com). Failing that, but if you still want the next issue, please send £2 (£3, or US$4 overseas) to help defray my costs. All back issues, nos. 1-23, are available at £1 each from me (£1.50, or US$2, overseas).
David Pringle, 217 Preston Drove, Brighton, UK