J.G. Ballard… June 20, 2009Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
I was surprised at how sorry I was to hear that J.G. Ballard had died. And thinking about it it struck me that Ballard was one of those people who, in a way a bit like Tony Wilson (and let’s not even think about the links to Joy Division in terms of their lyrics) a couple of years back, one thought would never die. He just seemed to be so perfectly a part of the background landscape of life.
I wouldn’t say I was a huge fan, but I’d read most of his books. Ironically I preferred his later – supposedly – more literary novels to his earlier more clearly science fiction novels. Nor did I find Crash and other mid-period work that enjoyable. Interesting, certainly, but not as compelling as others writing at the same time in what was called the New Wave of science fiction (and there’s a topic for another day). These are minor details, though. He was a fine writer with great scope and a unique sensibility.
If I had a favourite piece by him it would be the brilliantly concise The Index, a short story collected in War Fever (1990), which purports to be the index from a previously undiscovered book. It deals with a figure who, from the entries in the index, would appear to be almost Christ-like in his significance to world history and yet who is completely unknown. There’s a good overview of the story here, should you wish to spoil it for yourself before reading it – or alternatively should you have read it and want to be reminded of its central theme.