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Sunday, April 19, 2009

J. G. Ballard (1930-2009)

There have been lots of books that I remember with great affection: the Lone Pine novels by Malcolm Saville, the Jennings books by Anthony Buckeridge and the Famous Five and Adventure books by Enid Blyton were childhood favourites. There have been lots that I've found thrilling. or funny or fabulous. As someone who reads for entertainment, I tend not to read books where the author's intention is solely to dazzle readers with their literary dexterity; by which I mean that I tend to read books where the author sets out to tell a story—the quality of the writing thereafter depends on how good they are as writers.

Reading brings with it a happy helter-skelter of emotional responses. I worried for the Twins in Saville's books, laughed out loud at Jennings' antics, but I've not read many books that disturbed me to the point where I actually stopped reading, even for a few days. I usually skip cheerfully from one book to another because I enjoy them, whether they be novels, collections of short stories or graphic novels (I make no distinction... they're all books). I can think of only three books that stopped me from immediately picking up another one.

Ape And Essence by Aldous Huxley, The Face That Must Die by Ramsey Campbell and Concrete Island by J. G. Ballard.

Why those three I've no idea. I don't have any vivid memories of any particular scenes that I found disturbing and I don't connect the books with any special or traumatic time of my life. For some reason they've stuck in my mind as books I must go back to and re-read. Indeed, I dug out The Face That Must Die last year and it's still one of Ramsey Campbell's best. Didn't stop me from immediately picking up another book, tho'.

This isn't going anywhere. I've no great insight about the books to offer. I just heard that Ballard died this morning and thinking about the above has been bugging me all afternoon. Enough to make me want to write it down.

Obituaries: The Times (20 April), Daily Telegraph (19 April), The Guardian (20 April); The Independent (21 April).

1 comment:

Norman Boyd said...

Steve

I loved this post. I remember these authors in my childhood, but even more important were the ones that we discover by ourselves, i.e. when attracted to an author without recommendation. That author becomes 'ours'. For my son it was David Gemmell, for me Ballard. I always found his apocalyptic visions slightly too real, but thus they were fantastic entertainment - that sounds weird!