Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Farewell to Ballard

I suppose the death of J G Ballard wasn't unexpected, in that he'd been ill for some time.  But somehow Ballard seemed so quintessentially to embody the modern world that it's surprising that he's no longer part of it. 

I can't really claim Ballard as an influence on my writing (although, when I think about it, my depictions of the decaying factories in The Shadow Walker perhaps owe more than I realised to Ballard's characteristic post-industrial landscapes).  But, when I read him as a teenager, he was one of the authors who first made me want to write - I wanted to be able to evoke a world in the way that he did.

I suspect that, in time, Ballard may be seen as among the best and most under-rated British writers of the 20th century - and perhaps as the author who most effectively delineated the second half of that century.  The Guardian todays carries a fascinating series of short articles tracing Ballard's influence on other art forms.  Incidentally, various commentators (including the BBC and The Guardian again) have highlighted Ballard's influence on popular music.  But I've not seen any reference to the song which seems to me to capture, whether deliberately or not, the essence of one strand of Ballard's work - the Mekons's wonderful 'Ghosts of American Astronauts'


1. Maxine said...

It is a sad time, as my old editor and one of my two major mentors, John Maddox, died 10 days ago, also. I read many of J G Ballard's novels when I was a young girl - I remember my Dad giving me The Drowned World when it was first published which makes me far to young for it! But it left an impression on me. I did stop reading his more recent output, I have to admit. But from the article by Johathan Waxman, his oncologist, in today's Times, he sounds like such a nice man. And he was a famous resident of Shepperton, the terminus of the trains that take me from and to work each day.

2. Michael+Walters said...

I read John Maddox's obituaries with interest - he seems to have been a very impressive figure.

Like you, I first read Ballard at a much younger age, possibly when books have the greatest impact. I've continued to read his books (though not yet all of them), and have remained impressed by his ability to reflect the contemporary world so hauntingly.

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