The OF Blog: J.G. Ballard

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

J.G. Ballard


As has often been the case lately, I have been battling a case of insomnia. Browsing through some of the sites in one set of Bookmarks, I come across a link to a newspaper article about British SF writer J.G. Ballard. It is one of those very sad, introspective pieces, as Ballard, now in his late 70s, apparently is in the last stages of his fight against prostate cancer. Diagnosed in 2006, Ballard decided to write his autobiography of his life growing up in war-torn China during the 1930s and 1940s, the setting for his most famous novel, Empire of the Sun.

Although I have been meaning to read more of his work (to date, I have only read his excellent 1978 short story collection, The Best Short Stories of J.G. Ballard), what little I have read to date has been enough to convince me that Ballard is one of the more gifted and inquisitive of SF writers, at least of the past 40 years. I recently re-read the short story collection and I couldn't help but notice how he not only knew how to begin and to end his tales, but that interwoven into a great many of his tales were some very troubling questions about human society and our passions. I had planned that "someday," when I had read much more of his work, that I would do an extended discussion of his work like I have done with Gene Wolfe's and am planning to do with Ursula Le Guin's. But I had no idea that Ballard was dying and part of me marvels at the tone he takes in that article. But after glancing through an extract of his soon-to-be-published autobiography, Miracles of Life, perhaps I need to find a way to make that "someday" much closer to the present.

And for those readers of this blog who are not familiar with J.G. Ballard, I can only hope that you will read these two links and my few, poor words and go to your local library or bookstore and read as much of his work as you can. Too often people on the SF blogosphere get caught up in exploring the best of the new. It just might be time to discover some of the talents from the rich past before they have faded into a tattered, moldy memory.

3 comments:

Pierre Bellamont said...

I definitely agree that more people need to discover the magic and power of Ballard, but I do not fully understand your choice of words. ;)

"Too often people on the SF blogosphere get caught up in exploring the best of the new. It just might be time to discover some of the talents from the rich past before they have faded into a tattered, moldy memory."

Even if he shall unfortunately soon bite the dust, his works will live on! I take offense to you claiming he will fade into a tattered, moldy memory. For shame! I didn't know that is what Dostoevsky is!

Larry said...

Well, I was thinking about those of the generation after mine, those who haven't heard of Ballard or any of the others of the "New Wave" who made such an impact from the 60s through the 80s (and beyond). Also thought of those bloggers who post so much about the latest and relatively little (if anything) about the "classics" in the field.

So while I do agree that his works will live on, I fear that they will not get the wider readership that they perhaps deserve. Fair enough? :D

Si- said...

I had never really heard of J.G.Ballard before reading this post, but I had watched the Spielberg movie 'Empire of the sun'. Although the film wasn't hugely moving or profound in my eyes, I picked up a omnibus of Ballard's work containing the original novel and the sequel 'The love of women' at an airport bookshop (strangely enough Kenya airport).

It turned out to be a fantastic read, beautifully rendering the strange world of the in the early years of the Japanese invasion of Shanghai through the eyes of a damaged war-child, full of creativity and hunger. And I will take your advice and read more of this interesting author's work.

 
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