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LAST COPIES: RE/Search #8/9: JG BALLARD

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The nonpareil introduction to the visionary prophet of the 21st century; a comprehensive special on this supremely relevant writer, now famous for Empire of the Sun and Crash, with some of the best interviews ever recorded, PLUS! his rarely-seen collages. This strikingly illustrated volume contains interviews and a wealth of rare selections from every aspect of Ballard’s career…

 

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Weight 1.52 lbs

1 review for LAST COPIES: RE/Search #8/9: JG BALLARD

  1. 5 out of 5

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    ” The volume has been edited with a rare combination of devotion and intelligence and has been designed with equal imagination.”

    – Time Out

    ” Ballard . . . is the most engaged of Surrealists, engaged not directly in politics, but with forcing his readers to see the strangeness of the ordinary world.”

    – New Statesman

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Interview with JG Ballard (Shepperton)

RE/Search: Do you enjoy living here in Shepperton?

JGB: I don’t really live here–in a way it’s just a sort of grid reference on the map. I came here 20 years ago with my wife simply because we didn’t have any money. We’d had three children by then, so we moved out, down the sort of price scale which coincided, by and large, with the distance from London, and found a small house here. Suburbs are nice places to bring up kids in England. I stayed on here out of inertia once the kids went to schools and all the rest of it. It would have been difficult for me on my own to bring up my three kids in Central London…

ball_airportAlso, it’s a great place to work. It’s isolated. In a crackpot way, I guess I do like to be where the battle is joined most fiercely…and in a way a suburb like this is the real psychic battleground–it’s on the wavefront of the future, rather than a city area. I keep an eye on all the social trends that develop–and it’s very interesting to watch the fashions. I would almost call it an airport culture that’s springing up around in suburbs like this–a very transient kind of world.

A city like London doesn’t really offer me anything–I’m not interested in it, it’s much too old. Whereas the suburbs are, comparatively speaking, new. In a way they’re more dangerous–you’re not going to get mugged walking down the street, but somebody might steal your soul. I mean that literally–your will to live. Your imagination might be taken from you by some passing merchandise corporation or what have you.

Excerpt from CRASH

ball_car

Vaughan died yesterday in his last car crash. During our friendship he had rehearsed his death in many crashes, but this was his only true accident. Driven on a collision course towards the limousine of the film actress, his car jumped the rails of the London Airport flyover and plunged through the roof of a bus filled with airline passengers. The crushed bodies of package tourists, like a hemorrhage of the sun, still lay across the vinyl seats when I pushed my way through the police engineers an hour later. Holding the arm of her chauffeur, the film actress Elizabeth Taylor, with whom Vaughan had dreamed of dying for so many months, stood alone under the revolving ambulance lights. As I knelt over Vaughan’s body she placed a gloved hand to her throat.

Could she see, in Vaughan’s posture, the formula of the death which he had devised for her? During the last weeks of his life Vaughan thought of nothing else but her death, a coronation of wounds he had staged with the devotion of an Earl Marshal. The walls of his apartment near the film studios at Shepperton were covered with the photographs he had taken through his zoom lens each morning as she left her hotel room in London, from the pedestrian bridges above the westbound motorways, and from the roof of the multistorey car park at the studios. The magnified details of her knees and hands, of the inner surface of her thighs and the left apex of her mouth, I uneasily prepared for Vaughan on the copying machine in my office, handing him the packages of prints as if they were the installments of a death warrant. At his apartment I watched him matching the details of her body with the photographs of grotesque wounds in a textbook of plastic surgery.

In his vision of a car crash with the actress, Vaughan was obsessed by many wounds and impacts–by the dying chromium and collapsing bulkheads of their two cars meeting head-on in complex collisions endlessly repeated in slow-motion films, by the identical wounds inflicted on their bodies, by the image of windshield glass frosting around her face as she broke its tinted surface like a death-born Aphrodite, by the compound fractures of their thighs impacted against their handbrake mountings, ban above all by the wounds to their genitalia, her uterus pierced by the heraldic beak of the manufacturer’s medallion, his semen emptying across the luminescent dials that registered forever the last temperature and the fuel levels of the engine.

It was only at these times, as he described this last crash to me, that Vaughan was calm. He talked of these wounds and collisions with the erotic tenderness of a long-separated lover. Searching through the photographs in his apartment, he half turned towards me, so that his heavy groin quieted me with its profile of an almost erect penis. He knew that as long as he provoked me with his own sex, which he used casually as if he might discard it for ever at any moment, I would never leave him.

Graeme Ravell’s Critique on JG Ballard

Ballard has gone by far the furthest in adapting the new language of science and technology to positive ends. For him the choice was simple: either to use this new lexicon of symbols or remain mute. Psychologization is a reciprocal movement. The preoccupations of the psyche become reflected in the entire architecture of the urban landscape. But more importantly, ‘internal space’ itself becomes populated by the signposts of the media-technological milieu. The dimensions of time, nostalgia, dream and imagination are expressed in the obsessive language of technology, to the point of a ‘death of affect’ (or emotional expression). Yet for Ballard this abandonment of sentiment and emotion is no cause for regret; rather it has cleared a space for the free play of our perversions and especially our apparently unlimited capacity for abstraction.

This exterior world used to represent for us reality, and our mental universe the imaginary. We speak in these terms out of habit. But the equilibrium has changed radically, even to the point of total inversion.

‘. . . Our universe is governed by fictions of all kinds: mass consumption, publicity, politics considered and managed like a branch of publicity, instantaneous translation of science and techniques into a popular imagery, confusion and telescopage of identities in the realm of consumer goods, right of pre-emption exercised by the television screen over every personal reaction to reality. We live at the interior of an enormous novel. It becomes less and less necessary for the writer to give fictional content to his works. The fiction is already there. The work of the novelist is to invent reality . . .’—Introduction to French ed. of Crash, by J.G. Ballard

In fact, the little reality remaining to us is inside our heads. For many, this collapse of the humanist universe represents another Fall of mankind, a disastrous descent into a nightmarish technocracy, a world without feeling, without standards. But it is Ballard’s most valuable contribution to modernity that he has given us an alternative, a method for manipulating the new colonizers of our ‘interior space’ to our own ends.

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.