Monday, April 20, 2009

j.g. ballard (1930 - 2009)

I was terribly sad to learn about J.G. Ballard's death yesterday. Ballard had a powerful influence on my scholarly work. At one point, I even pitched a book proposal focused on his work to the Contemporary British Novelists series at Manchester University Press. (Someone named Andrzej Gasiorek had the pleasure instead. Ballard was spared from "J.G. Ballard: A Philosophy of the Desiring Machine.")

Last night at the New Nonfiction reading at REDCAT, I learned of Ballard's death from David Ulin, who opened his reading with the piece that ran yesterday in the LA Times and is excerpted below.

It’s easy, from the perspective of the present, to minimize just how revolutionary all this was — we now live, after all, in Ballard’s world. Ballard, though, produced work that not only challenged his audiences but also actively provoked them, in some cases literally moving people to vandalism, as when he staged a 1970 exhibition of crashed cars at a London art gallery. This show, intended to illustrate the fetishization of machinery and violence, was a seminal moment for Ballard: It led to the publication of “Crash” in 1973.

“The marriage of reason and nightmare which has dominated the 20th century,” the author wrote in a 1974 introduction to the French edition of the novel, “has given birth to an ever more ambiguous world. Across the communications landscape move the specters of sinister technologies and the dreams that money can buy. Thermonuclear weapons systems and soft drink commercials coexist in an overlit realm ruled by advertising and pseudoevents, science and pornography. Over our lives preside the great twin leitmotifs of the 20th century — sex and paranoia.”

Ballard did as much as any other contemporary writer to define and even craft the world we live in. He will be missed.

Photo via Telegraph