Today would have been J. G. Ballard’s 86th birthday. To commemorate this most fantastic and prophetic writer, here are some passages from Angela Carter’s essays concerning Ballard.
From ‘Fools Are My Theme’, originally published in Vector in 1982, now collected in Shaking a Leg: Collected Journalism and Writings, ed. Jenny Uglow (London: Vintage, 2013), pp. 39-45:
“I could relate instantly to the world of Ballard’s Crash. It seemed to me that that was how the late sixties felt, that that was how it was like. That was how it felt to be living through the margin of the Vietnam War. And it was only, it seemed to me, the group of writers who were loosely connected with New Worlds that were actually dealing with the new circumstances in which we found ourselves, as British people in a society that had changed quite radically since we’d been grown up. And also as beings in the world, because we were the generation that grew up with the reality of nuclear weapons.”
From Angela Carter’s review of J. G. Ballard’s Empire of the Sun, originally published in Time Out in 1984, now collected in Shaking a Leg, pp. 681-88:
“[Ballard] convinces me Reagan won’t start World War III because he’s too gaga to locate the whereabouts of the red button. Since, back in the sixties, Ballard was the only sane person in the entire Western world who predicted the ex-movie actor would would day rise to the dizzying heights of the presidency, maybe Ballard-the-prophet will hit target on this one too. Cross fingers.”
“Ballard became the great chronicler of the new, technological Britain […] he grew increasingly obsessed by the aspects of our landscape those of us who grew up with the culturally programmed notion of Britain as a ‘green and pleasant land’ conspire to ignore. Motorways. High rises.”
“[Upon the publication of Empire of the Sun] No doubt the ‘literary men’ (and women) will now treat Ballard as the sf writer who came in from the cold. Who finally put away childish things, man-powered flight, landscapes of flesh, the erotic geometry of the car crash, things like that, and wrote the Big Novel they always knew he’d got in him.”
“Empire of the Sun is a rich, complex, heartrending novel, in characteristically Ballardian prose – a prose with a curiously metallic quality, cold as steel, that makes the imagery shine out, as he wants it to, with the hallucinatory clarity of that of naive painters.”
Angela Carter’s Shaking a Leg: Collected Journalism and Writings is published by Vintage Books.