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HARD TO FIND: JG BALLARD CONVERSATIONS

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Ballard decodes the maze of useless & dis-information inundating us, offering us guidelines toward surviving the apocalyptic landscape lying just around the corner of today's financial and cultural meltdowns. Be Prepared — read this Survival Guide!

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You get a splendid window into the universe of the future, as J.G. Ballard discourses on almost every topic imaginable, including car crashes, the immersive virtual reality that has eclipsed “real living,” and the death of both history & the future.

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1 review for HARD TO FIND: JG BALLARD CONVERSATIONS

  1. Rated 5 out of 5

    Never has Ballard sounded so concerned, fatherly, or political. (In an earlier, 1984 RE/Search interview, Ballard impishly exclaims, “I want more nuclear weapons!”) The interviews [in the new RE/Search book] make it abundantly clear that while Ballard has always proclaimed the death of reason and the visceral origins of technology, he now sees these developments as almost wholly negative.”

    – San Francisco Bay Guardian

    J.G. Ballard is the Dr Moreau of British fiction, creator of controlled environments and out-of-control dystopias…Ballard understands the transformation technology may effect on human desire.”

    –The Observer

    ‘Sex times Technology equals The Future,’ proposed J.G. Ballard in 1972. For those who can’t wait: be forewarned: the future never comes. With its promise of arousal and endlessly deferred climax, the formula, as quoted in a fabulous if messily designed [?] new volume of interviews called JG Ballard Conversations (RE/Search Publications, $19.99).

    A recurring theme, wistfully expressed, through these conversations spanning two decades with RE/Search publisher Vale, Survival Research Laboratories’ Mark Pauline, SPK founder turned film composer Graeme Revell, and more, is the decline in literacy and ever-shortening attention spans in the Internet age of instant gratification.

    Ballard himself confesses to having little interest in music, yet for much of the 1970s and early 1980s, he was regularly featured in the UK music weekly NME, where the adjective ‘Ballardian’ was applied to the gear-crashing rhythm of David Bowie’s “Station to Station,” Martin Hannett’s production of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, the machine grind of DAF, and so on. But the most significant explorations of the terrains mapped in Ballard’s fiction (and retrospectively in the dialogues of J.G. Ballard Conversations) happened in Industrial Culture. Daniel Miller aka The Normal’s “Warm Leatherette,” Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle’s grisly pathologies of the British suburban hinterland, SPK’s information overloads, and the short-circuitng noise of Non’s “Rise” stand as powerful testaments to the legacy of Ballard’s impact. Not forgetting, of course, the writer’s longstanding relationship with his most sympathetic publisher, Vale, at RE/Search, whose roots are in the West Coast punk-and-after journal Search & Destroy (issue #10 featured a J.G. Ballard interview).

    Ballard’s influence persists through Matmos’s queasy 2001 album “A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure (Matador) and J.G. Thirlwell’s score for Jonathan Weiss’s 2001 experimental film version of The Atrocity Exhibition (Reel23 DVD).”

    –Wire

    It’s a finely produced book in a new handbag ? or manbag ? size, and certainly one that any Ballard obsessive, and you know who you are, will want to own. Ballard comes across as a warm, private man and a highly prescient writer: recent news images of 100-mile traffic jams outside Houston as people fled hurricane Rita, or passengers on a flaming jetliner witnessing their predicament unravelling live on televisions inside their own aircraft, appear to have come straight out of his fiction. This is, for me, where the Ballard Paradox comes into play: his futures share so much with our present, that they can now feel a little old-fashioned, making even his earlier writing seem increasingly less like science fiction as time marches on.

    The interviews date from 1983 to 2004, during which time Ballard’s opinions and obsessions ? power, celebrity, media domination, war, politics and the future (and what else is there?) ? have remained fairly constant in a changing world, perhaps because he was already into his 50s when the first interviews took place. Our man in Shepperton reveals a solid grasp of the broad sweep of both historical and contemporary geopolitical affairs, as well as the human, and inhuman condition. On a more personal note you’ll find insights into the origins of Crash, The Atrocity Exhibition, Ballard’s childhood experiences in a Japanese POW camp (the basis for Empire pf the Sun, his experience of success and Hollywood following Steven Spielberg’s film of that “breakthrough” book. And he likes cats. A lot. It’s also interesting to discover that while Ballard has always been something of a respected, almost canonical, late 20th century author in the UK, his earlier books were difficult to obtain for American readers, where he has developed a cult following akin to that of William S Burroughs, largley thanks to the work of Re/Search. While not a Ballardophile myself, reading these interviews has driven me to dig out some of his short story collections, so the programme works.

    –Strange Attractor

    Conversations has a dozen new and unpublished interviews from various contributors. In a recent discussion with Vale, Ballard looks behind the enemy line and predicts ‘a crisis will arise that will seed the neo-con mentality, and what at present seems a rather strange aberration on the part of America’s ruling elite, will come to seem completely acceptable in a surprisingly short space of time.’ But he finds some hope in the internet’s uncensored world, and that ‘if we’re entering a New Dark Age, the internet could help keep the lights on!’ In another conversation he discusses the ascendant ‘New Religiosity’ and the ‘new blueprint for a kind of militaristic religion’…”

    –Pataphysics

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V. Vale interviewing J.G. Ballard, 2004

JGB: In my last novel, Millennium People, I was putting forth the proposition that nothing disconcerts people more than an apparently meaningless act. If a hostile act in particular has some sort of obvious point–if you’re an anti-globalization protestor and you picket the offices of some multinational company, or even if you blow up their showroom windows, everybody understands–they may disapprove, but they understand. But on the other hand, a meaningless act really unsettles people for obvious reasons, because we look for logic. To some extent, the tragic events of 9-11 constitute a kind of meaningless act.

V: What do you mean?

JGB: I haven’t seen any convincing explanation of what Mohammed Atta and his fellow hijackers were trying to achieve. I mean, this is a spectacular blow against what we’re told is–was–an American symbol: the twin World Trade Center towers–

V: The WTC was a spectacular symbol of American economic dominance over the world, I think–

JGB: I don’t think they were seen as such by the rest of the world. They were seen as two very tall buildings. I’ve never heard anyone refer to them. Now, the Empire State Building, and to some extent the Chrysler Building, had enormous symbolic value, which I remember back in the 1930s, soon after the Empire State Building opened for business. That stood for New York, and it stood for America. But I’ve never heard of the World Trade Center thought of in those terms. I’ve never heard anyone in any television program, documentary, article or book refer to the World Trade Center towers in the way, for example, that people always refer to the Pentagon as a threatening presence.

I think the WTC towers were elevated into this position of representing American capitalism after the event. Well, whether they were or not, the point is: the attack on them was really meaningless–it didn’t achieve anything, apart from killing a huge number of people. It was almost a meaningless act; the logic was difficult to follow. If you hated the U.S. so much, there were other and better targets, in a way: the Capitol in Washington, the White House, the Pentagon itself–one plane obviously wasn’t going to do enough damage; all four planes could have gone into the Pentagon. The symbolic value of an attack, say, on the White House or the Capitol would have been far, far greater. By comparison, the attack on the World Trade Center in New York was really . . . it almost comes into the category of a meaningless act . . . and it’s this that people find so unsettling.

I think that when you’re faced with a meaningless act of that kind, the brain rushes around trying to find some sort of conceivable reason at work in the perpetrators’ mind. Although no one is prepared to come out and sort of back Samuel Huntington’s notion of ‘The Clash of Civilizations’–you know, the Christian West vs. Islam–people act as if the war against the Muslim world were already declared.

In fact, Bush constantly talks about war, doesn’t he? He refers to himself as the ‘War President.’ Whereas in terms of the huge enormous unlimited power of the U.S. military, I would regard the invasion of Iraq as a police action. I mean, it degenerated into a kind of huge police action now–it’s a ‘law and order’ problem.

The reactive mechanism in Bush’s mind, and in the minds of the neo-cons around him, has been touched off. And also of course, the other thing that sort of worries us in Europe, is the way in which religious belief has begun to merge seamlessly into this sort of War Mentality. That is something that is very scary, because it justifies anything. If ‘God’ is on your side and you’re absolutely convinced of that, then you can do anything–

V: –And justify anything you did.

JGB: Absolutely. Going back to the Crusades and religious pogroms in Europe, the Dark Ages, the Inquisition in the 14th-15th century (or whenever), the religious wars . . . one doesn’t want to get too carried away, but there are unsettling echoes . . .

I think back to earlier American Presidents from when I was younger–say, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower . . . one can’t imagine them ever having gotten into this war in Iraq. Or into this peculiar mind-set, this sort of ‘Religious Warrior’ mind-set. They weren’t riding an emotional horse . . .

The puzzling thing is: Why has this happened? Is there something within the American view of the world, the way that Americans think, that is responsible? In other words, has the genie escaped from the Hollywood bottle . . . and got out into the ordinary air we breathe? One can’t help wondering that. The logic that underpins Independence Day and Con Air and all these films seems to be directing America today. I’m probably wrong, but that’s the impression that people have over here.

V: Definitely. Those popular films perpetrate, or inflict, a mythology upon Americans . . . there are all these assumptions underlying those films–

JGB: Yes, it underpins those films, and it underpins the American comics that I read in the 1940s. I remember reading Superman comics in 1937, 1938 in Shanghai, and the hero could transform himself–which Bush thinks he can do: he goes into the War Room in the Pentagon and he comes out a cross between Richard the Lion-Heart and god knows who else.

There is the idea that if what you’re doing is ‘right,’ and ‘God’ tells you so, you have unlimited power. That’s a very powerful combination, actually, if you happen to be President of the U.S., but it’s frightening for the rest of the world. I mean, I can imagine a world where everyone is so frightened of the U.S. that we all convince ourselves that we admire it absolutely and will agree with everything America demands of us, but that will not satisfy the man in the White House at the time. What he needs–or it may be a she, although I would think that Hillary’s hopes are rather slender at the moment–I mean for eight years’ time, whenever. But there seems to be a need–maybe it’s something as simple as the need for revenge; it’s hard to say. But I think it’s more than that; I think it’s the need to turn the rest of the world into a free-fire zone where anybody who puts his head up out of the nearest ditch is going to get it shot off. That way they’re safe. But it may be a passing phase . . .

Graeme Revell interviewing J.G. Ballard, 2003

Born in New Zealand, Graeme Revell founded the pioneering ‘Industrial’ music group SPK in the Seventies (see RE/Search #6/7). In 1989 he composed the groundbreaking, genre-crossing soundtrack for Dead Calm. Since then he has composed over sixty soundtracks to date, besides working on projects such as television’s C.S.I. Miami. Graeme interviewed J.G. Ballard by phone on Nov. 7, 2003–20 years after he interviewed Ballard in Shepperton, England for RE/Search #8/9. Topics ranged from the death of cinema, the colonizing of our existence, the end of the Age of Reason, the infantilizing of America, the Internet, and the ascendance of ‘machine morality.’ What follows is a largely unedited transcript.

GRAEME REVELL: I’ve read almost everything you’ve written; you observe almost from the outside all these different kinds of communities and lifestyles. For some reason I’ve ended up practically living within them all! So in a way my questions were, ‘Well, James has taught me how to live–‘

J.G. BALLARD: –reality from the inside!

GR: You’ve certainly taught me how my life was going to go for the last twenty years; I desperately wanted you to tell me how it was going to be for the next twenty–

JGB: I think I’ll pass on that. America is quite a difficult place to ‘read’ now.

GR: Oh, very.

JGB: I felt I sort of had a handle on it back in the Sixties, but now–I haven’t been there for twelve years or something.

GR: Well, I’m actually calling you from Las Vegas this morning–

JGB: Ohmigod!

GR: –which is definitely the heart of the beast, isn’t it?

JGB: From what I hear that’s sort of ‘Phase Three.’ Vegas is now a family resort; the gangsters have gone.

GR: The gangsters are very much gone. But they also gave up on the ‘family’ demographic about three years ago when they found that–

JGB: –they weren’t spending any money!

GR: Right. They had what they called a ‘Demographic Split’ in the marketing–they worked very hard to target the parents and the children at the same time. Then they gave up on that and now it’s just the ‘young people’ demographic they’re after. You find that everywhere in the culture. There isn’t a single adult movie that can even compete against the Kill Bills of Quentin Tarantino and the remakes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and so on–all those films aimed at eighteen-year-olds.

JGB: It’s a shame, in a way, that your rise to domination in the film music business coincided with–I hate to say it; maybe I’m showing my age–but a real decline in movie making–

GR: Oh, it’s extraordinary. You’re not showing your age at all; it really is in decline.

JGB: There’s almost a sense that cinema is over. What we have is a kind of afterlife expressed through entertainment movies. They’re just cash tills in an amusement park urging you to jam your coins in, awarding you with a lot of bright lights and god knows what. There aren’t that many interesting films around . . . but there we are.

GR: Well, the extraordinary thing with the medium, having experienced it from the inside, is: there’s almost nobody who understands, or cares at least, about the function of cinema. They have an extreme inability to analyze what it is that they’re doing–let alone all the broader social implications of becoming a cultural hegemony for the entire world. There are no Godards, or anybody even a millionth as close as him, who understand what they’re doing–it’s just a job. It’s the big billboard, the big signpost of culture in general.

JGB: I think so, absolutely. It’s difficult. As long as you’re targeting not just American teenagers but European and Asian teenagers; as long as you keep the dialogue down so you don’t have comprehension difficulties when the movie is screened in Manila, you’re never going to be able to escape from the cinema of pure spectacle. You’re not going to get something like Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard or Godard’s Pierrot le Fou occurring. We’ll see. Maybe you’ll lead a renaissance!

GR: I have some films in mind, but it’s very difficult to make a film at all, especially something that’s not one of those ones you just referred to.

JGB: One of the interesting little films I saw recently was called Ivans xtc. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it. It was made by a British director in America, Bernard Rose. He did–oh god, I can’t remember the other films he made. But Ivans xtc had Danny Huston in the lead and was about an L.A. agent and his world. It was an interesting film. Anyway–

GR: I was re-reading the BBC Radio 3 interview you did in 1998. It was very interesting to me because you used phrases like ‘the colonizing of existence.’ You said, ‘I think people are beginning to wonder what does life really offer us in terms of its possibilities?’ And you don’t think that they touch the truth. One of the things about your writing that really interests me is that in the background there is, in the way that we’re talking now, a sense of disappointment that there isn’t a truth there somewhere, or that there ought to be. Do you still think that? So much of your writing could indicate that maybe it doesn’t matter, maybe it’s all over, maybe there isn’t any. I’m not sure which way you come down on that–

JGB: I can’t remember the context in which I said that, to be honest. It might have been in connection with a novel called Super-Cannes, or maybe the previous one, Cocaine Nights.

GR: I think Cocaine Nights–right.

JGB: I do think we’re living in very uncertain times; there’s no doubt about that. In some ways this is good to see, because the main pillars that used to prop up society (in this country, anyway)–the monarchy, religion and politics–have all been knocked aside.

I don’t know about America, but here the era of television is over. Television created the British national consciousness in the ’70s and ’80s. It defined people’s sense of civic responsibility: what you should do about single mothers and the poor and all the rest of it. TV doesn’t do that anymore. All people have got left now is the consumer culture: buying things. Going around to big shopping malls here is quite a depressing experience.

GR: You mean ‘entertainment resorts’–they’re redefining the name now!

JGB: Yeah. One sees a terrible boredom coming in. There’s a limit as to how much time you can worry about what sort of trainers you should buy, or how you’re going to redecorate your kitchen for the tenth time. Out of boredom comes a need for change. The status quo now, thanks to the vast consumerist culture, is very difficult to shift. It takes real violence of 9-11 proportions, practically, to shift the status quo.

I see a future of deepening boredom interspersed with random acts of violence. I think, going back to what you’re saying: people do feel that there’s some sort of core identity which they haven’t quite been able to get hold of. That’s common to everybody in all the eras, but now there’s so little to get hold of. As I was saying to Vale a few months ago, we’re living in an era when nothing is true and nothing is untrue.

I think the Gulf War, whose end George Bush proclaimed in his ‘Top Gun’ gear on the aircraft carrier (proclaimed ‘over,’ but it’s still running) . . . I think the Gulf War slipped through the normal cordons that we erect to protect us from our politicians, to restrain them from doing anything too dangerous. It was almost a sort of virtual war. I don’t mean in the Baudrillard sense of it not taking place at all, as I think he said of the first Gulf War–because we simply weren’t given enough information about it–but because it was a virtual war that, thanks to the brilliance of the American military machine, was over in no time at all, militarily.

The virtual war was . . . confused by all the PR and mob-speak poured out, and the very confused psychology of Bush and Blair. They needed a war for evangelical reasons, so they created a war with their huge military toy. But nobody feels that it was fully real . . .

Mark Pauline interviewing J.G. Ballard, 1986

Awhile ago Survival Research Laboratories founder Mark Pauline visited J.G. Ballard at his home in Shepperton, England. They discussed various topics including Ronald Reagan, conformism, the triumph of bourgeois society, travel, recreational drugs, nostalgia, Kathy Acker, and William S. Burroughs. What follows are excerpts from that encounter . . . J.G. BALLARD: People take you at face value. Any role that people see you in they will accept, by and large. That seems to be a rule of life.

MARK PAULINE: They don’t need too much information. Imagination takes care of the rest.

JGB: You’ve got to remember our perception of things in England is very different because it’s very important, from our point of view, that America be well-led–for obvious reasons. You’re defending us–it’s your rockets that are keeping the Russkies away–

MP: Where’s the closest Cruise Missile?

JGB: Well, it’s not that far away. Greenham Common is where the Cruise Missiles are–that’s where the women protestors have been camped, about thirty or forty miles southwest of here.

MP: There are two bases in England–

JGB: Yes, Millsworth [sic] is the other one, I think–southwest of London, about fifty or sixty miles. Most of the big American air bases are in Norfolk, about 100 miles to the northeast of London. You know, I want my own cruise missile at the bottom of my garden, with three technical sergeants smoking Lucky Strikes and asking where they can buy a good hamburger. Also, I would like an encampment of Greenham Common ladies living in a cardboard box out front. That strikes me as perfect!

My reaction to Libya was three cheers–I’m all for bombing Khadafi. [April 15, 1986, the U.S. bombed Libya in retaliation for linkage to terrorist activity, including the bombing of a disco in Berlin which killed several U.S. servicemen and dozens of others.] But I was practically alone–Thatcher and I are the only two people who supported the action! The British reaction, on the whole, was hostile, and I thought this was deplorable and showed the country in its weakest light, frankly.

There are generations of people here–children of parents who are themselves children of parents who were brought up in the post-war welfare state. Their freedom has been guaranteed by the United States, basically, and the nuclear defenses that France and Britain have as well. These people have no perception of the realities of the world, and what it’s like to live under a tyranny east of the Iron curtain. They think that consent and ‘appealing to reason’ is going to mean something in times of international crisis. This vast army of half-baked and inexperienced people were the ones protesting the loudest, while my lonely voice was cheering vigorously.

I thought that was a remarkable feat of arms actually, to fly all that way and hit those targets in Libya.

MP: Well, it’s not like those Libyan terrorists are really the people’s terrorists. They’re really just an arm of Khadafi’s government. It’s not like going and bombing Nicaragua, which is obviously much more complicated.

JGB: If you look at the East and West today, the situation is stable and has been for years and years. If you look at the Thirties when you had Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, it was damned unstable then. People like Mussolini and Hitler tapped psychological forces that came straight out of the abyss. Forces deep down in the core of the human psyche were certainly empowering Hitler, the Nazis, and Mussolini to a large extent, and, I would guess, Stalin and the Soviet regime. And Hitler and the Nazis were these huge media constructs . . .

The only wars that the United States has involved itself in the last twenty years are all rather peripheral matters, aren’t they? You wouldn’t even be allowed to have World War III–

MP: They’d vote it down in a referendum . . . During Vietnam, there was a lot of exciting ill will that isn’t around these days–

JGB: In Vietnam, they stopped calling American soldiers on the ground ‘advisors’ and started calling them ‘soldiers’–then things started going wrong. Around ’66 I said to a friend of mine, ‘They should start calling those soldiers Œadvisors’ again–then everything would be okay.’ As long as you call them ‘advisors,’ there’s no emotional commitment, but once they’re G.I.’s or soldiers or British Grenadiers or whatever, and they walk into battle carrying the flag, then you want them to win, don’t you?

MP: There’s a difference between ‘winning’ and just persuading someone nicely: ‘I think you’d better just move along now.’

JGB: If you’re only an advisor, you can step back and say: ‘Well, the client was a damn fool and he lost,’ and go off with another client.

[…]

JGB: The Presidency is now a movie, and presumably will remain so from now on.

I saw a film that was a documentary investigation into the way Reagan confused fiction and reality. It was conducted by some university researcher, I think. The documentary showed Reagan delivering speeches referring to brave bomber pilots in the Second World War who refused to bail out because of two or three injured crew members, and went down to their deaths. Reagan even quoted their last words over the radio transmitter. Then the documentary excerpted the film clip from the 1940’s which Reagan had actually quoted from–in his mind he had confused movie reality with ‘real’ reality–the two had just merged.

I remember Reagan when he was in his fifties; I wrote my [‘Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan’] piece in 1966. I wrote it on the strength of his performance as Governor of California. Then he was a much tougher character, with a real latent nastiness. Well, not so latent–manifest nastiness, with a sneering side to his makeup which is completely absent now. His platform was: ‘Get government off our backs!’ Well, an ideal society is the one with the least government–

MP: Why even have a President anymore?

JGB: One thing that puzzled people over here during the Watergate crisis was the way in which Americans as a whole, even the hard-bitten press, seemed genuinely shocked by this evidence of wrong-doing in high places in the White House and elsewhere. Yet every Hollywood movie made since the 1930’s (and there must have been tens of thousands) always showed politicians in an unfavorable light. In all those Frank Capra movies and all those small-town melodramas, if you want a corrupt figure you don’t pick the local doctor or schoolmaster or fire chief, you pick the local politician. And, if you make a movie set in Washington, the politicians are always shown to be corrupt. Yet not withstanding this, Americans seem shocked when–

MP: Well, you’re not supposed to get caught.

JGB: Yes–it’s getting caught.

MP: Yeah; it’s fine to be crooked, it’s fine to be a criminal, it’s fine to be all that. But good criminals never get caught; good criminals never go to prison. And good politicians never get tripped up. Nixon just didn’t know how. He had no precedent to act from . . .

JGB: Yes, Nixon was a very confused character–an internally confused character, wasn’t he? Of all the post-war presidents, he was probably the most capable intellectually, in terms of being fit for the highest office–more so than Eisenhower. Yet there was this deep internal flaw that became quite evident. God knows what that flaw was, but–!

In England we have as our Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. I’ve always admired her enormously. I always found her extremely mysterious and attractive at the same time. I think she exerts a powerful sexual spell, and I’m not alone. I think there are a lot of men who find themselves driven to distraction by the mystery of Margaret Thatcher. She’s remarkable. I think she taps all sorts of extreme responses on the part of, certainly, men in the population at large.

MP: How do you think she fits in with the whole English historical tendency to have female rulers?

JGB: I think she exemplifies that. She taps very deep levels of response. There are elements of La Belle Dame Sans Merci–the merciless muse, in her. Also the archetype of the–

MP: Medusa.

JGB: Yes, the Medusa. She taps a large number of deep responses which people express in present-day terms. She’s the nanny, she’s the headmistress, and she’s school-marmy as well. I think her appeal goes far beyond . . . it’s a very ambiguous appeal. She represents all these sort of half-stages–half-conscious, primordial forces . . . that she certainly tapped.

There’s certainly no other woman politician here who remotely approaches her in that respect. I don’t know if she’s aware of all this; I don’t think she is. She’s quite unlike Reagan in that respect, because I think Reagan is quite aware of his appeal. He is quite cunning in his way, orchestrating his image with a lot of help from his friends. Whereas I don’t think Thatcher does that; I think she just plays her hunches and acts from her gut–like her response to the Falklands crisis. I don’t think she realized this would be a popular move electorally at the time–she just sent the fleet down there. Yet sending the fleet down was the right thing to do–it touched the right nerve.

Thatcher is a mysterious figure. Her day is probably over because she’s been in office for seven years. That’s a long time–you want a new show or you’ll get bored. That’s a very important consideration, you know, because England is a much smaller country and there’s less variety. It’s more of a village here, and once you’ve exhausted the pool of gossip, you want something new to happen…

Ballard understood that the only way for the writer or artist to capture the texture, atmosphere, and meaning of contemporary life is by appropriating the news reportage with which we are all bombarded every single day and which implicitly sees the world as an unfolding Armageddon, as “The Secret History of World War 3″. Unlike the news, however, the radical vision of “The Atrocity Exhibition” is The Real Thing, profound rather than facile, authentic rather than sensationalistic, lucid rather than lurid. Its influence on every aspect of contemporary culture (music, the arts, cinema, and literature) has been immense. The Mannerist cult writer Chuck Palahniuk would literally not exist without Ballard. Everything that Palahniuk has written (often brilliantly) is Ballard Redux; his themes are Ballardian even if most of his knowing admirers do not know it. “One of the most intelligent voices in contemporary literature” (Susan Sontag). J. G. Ballard died on April 19, 2009 at the age of 78, the last of the great visionary writers of our time. One of the greatest writers of the 20th century.