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Champion of Hide and Seek

Amit Chaudhuri: Raj Kamal Jha, 16 December 2004

If You Are Afraid of Heights 
by Raj Kamal Jha.
Picador, 304 pp., £7.99, July 2004, 0 330 49327 2
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... with magic realist euphoria, however, but have a compelling ordinariness. The phrase that J.G. Ballard uses to distinguish Dalí’s work from that of other Surrealist painters – ‘hallucinatory naturalism’ – is also apposite to Jha’s writing in this book. ‘For the most part,’ Ballard says, ‘the landscapes ...


Frank Kermode, 27 July 1989

The Pleasures of Peace: Art and Imagination in Post-War Britain 
by Bryan Appleyard.
Faber, 367 pp., £12.99, June 1989, 0 571 13722 9
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... else that is going on, however sour. Appleyard also has good words for Michael Moorcock and J.G. Ballard, for Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtsman’s Contract and Denis Potter’s The Singing Detective, as well as for Richard Rogers and Will Allsop – indeed for all who demonstrate what is rather vaguely called ‘the real, unfettered play of ...

Every Rusty Hint

Ian Sansom: Anthony Powell, 21 October 2004

Anthony Powell: A Life 
by Michael Barber.
Duckworth, 338 pp., £20, July 2004, 0 7156 3049 0
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... As for his readers, Powell can hardly be blamed for his plummy fans any more than, say, J.G. Ballard should be blamed for the flakiness of his, or Anne Tyler for the limpness of hers. As for the books, they speak for themselves. Edmund Wilson once remarked of Powell that ‘he’s just entertaining enough to read in bed late at night in summer.’ This ...


Patrick Parrinder, 6 December 1990

by Jose Donoso, translated by Alfred MacAdam.
Picador, 310 pp., £13.95, October 1990, 0 330 31157 3
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War Fever 
by J.G. Ballard.
Collins, 176 pp., £12.95, November 1990, 0 00 223770 9
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Great Climate 
by Michael Wilding.
Faber, 147 pp., £12.99, November 1990, 0 571 14428 4
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Honour Thy Father 
by Lesley Glaister.
Secker, 182 pp., £13.99, September 1990, 9780436199981
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... fear and corruption and many unpleasant things, but his novel remains an enchanted space. J.G. Ballard’s fiction maps a very different historical frontier. His last collection of short stories was Myths of the Near Future (1982), and in several pieces in this new collection he again takes up his favourite stance as a historian of the late 1990s and the ...


Iain Sinclair: The Thames, 25 June 2009

Thames: Sacred River 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Vintage, 608 pp., £14.99, August 2008, 978 0 09 942255 6
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... Intimations of psychotic breakdown, financial and ecological catastrophe, located by J.G. Ballard in the hermetic towers of High-Rise (1975), were limned by Ackroyd, with characteristic generosity, as the first green shoots of recovery for a toxic wasteland. Ballard’s dog-eating balcony-dwellers inhabit a ...

Flying the flag

Patrick Parrinder, 18 November 1993

The Modern British Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 512 pp., £20, October 1993, 0 436 20132 1
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After the War: The Novel and English Society since 1945 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 310 pp., £17.99, September 1993, 9780701137694
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... are not mutually exclusive, he said – as if to clinch the argument – ‘Look at J.G. Ballard.’ But in neither of his books has he stopped to look at Ballard, or any novelist like him. Ballard takes an original view of English society in some of his books, and could also ...

‘Don’t scum me out!’

Scott Hames: Alan Warner, 28 April 2011

The Stars in the Bright Sky 
by Alan Warner.
Vintage, 394 pp., £7.99, May 2011, 978 0 09 946182 1
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... Airports,’ J.G. Ballard noted, ‘seem to be almost the only form of public architecture free from the pressures of kitsch or nostalgia. As far as I know, there are no half-timbered terminal buildings or pebble-dashed control towers.’ Alan Warner isn’t a novelist you’d expect to be much interested in the departures hall, being best known for a sort of wild provincial fabulism ...

Heads and Hearts

Patrick Parrinder, 28 May 1992

by Peter Conrad.
Chatto, 252 pp., £14.99, April 1992, 0 7011 3895 5
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A Case of Curiosities 
by Allen Kurzweil.
Hamish Hamilton, 358 pp., £14.99, March 1992, 0 241 13235 5
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Rotten Times 
by Paul Micou.
Bantam, 266 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 593 02621 7
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The Republic of Love 
by Carol Shields.
Fourth Estate, 366 pp., £14.99, March 1992, 1 872180 88 4
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... of raw emotions and visionary perceptions, set in a bleak cityscape strongly reminiscent of J.G. Ballard. The city is divided between the respectable inhabitants of plate-glass tower blocks and a vengeful underclass, who live in the derelict buildings of an undeveloped valley. The middle classes’ only contact with the valley is to drive through it, at some ...


Will Self: My Typewriters, 5 March 2015

... delicious, steam-punky 1930s machine), went to her grave in 2010, preceded a year earlier by J.G. Ballard, the last writer I’d known personally – besides myself – who took his books all the way to typesetting as manually generated typescripts. One of the last services I performed for Jim was to obtain a ribbon for his 1970s Olympia; after his death, his ...

In Hackney

Iain Sinclair: Steve Dilworth, 15 November 2001

... All the elements were in meltdown: Victorian asylums as Legoland estates; the M25 muse, J.G. Ballard, in Shepperton; Dracula’s Purfleet abbey reinvented by Esso as the centre of another kind of distribution (oil for blood). I suspected that Dilworth’s project would bend away from the purity of the original vision. That’s what always happens when ...

Kill the tuna can

Christopher Tayler: George Saunders, 8 June 2006

The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil and In Persuasion Nation 
by George Saunders.
Bloomsbury, 358 pp., £10.99, June 2006, 0 7475 8221 1
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... underclass of mutants. But Saunders’s writing doesn’t have much else in common with J.G. Ballard-style dystopianism; nor do you sense that he spends a lot of time reading Baudrillard. The busy satirical backgrounds of the stories don’t dominate the action, which frequently centres on a morally conflicted, low-level corporate drone. Though complicit ...

The Frowniest Spot on Earth

Will Self: Life in the Aerotropolis, 28 April 2011

Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next 
by John Kasarda and Greg Lindsay.
Allen Lane, 480 pp., £14.99, March 2011, 978 1 84614 100 3
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... any more convincing you’ve only to read the frontispiece quote, which is from an essay J.G. Ballard wrote for Blueprint in 1997: I suspect that the airport will be the true city of the 21st century. The great airports are already the suburbs of an invisible world capital, a virtual metropolis whose faubourgs are named Heathrow, Kennedy, Charles de ...


Adam Mars-Jones, 21 September 1995

by Gordon Burn.
Secker, 231 pp., £14.99, August 1995, 0 436 20059 7
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... clear that Gordon Burn and Fullalove aspire to the extremity represented by the best of J.G. Ballard or Derek Raymond, by a Crash or an I Was Dora Suarez. Both of these books retain some residual claim to realism, but work by isolating a lurid element in the world and expanding it almost infinitely. Fullalove tries the same trick, but there is a curious ...

His Peach Stone

Christopher Tayler: J.G. Farrell, 2 December 2010

J.G. Farrell in His Own Words: Selected Letters and Diaries 
edited by Lavinia Greacen.
Cork, 464 pp., €19.95, September 2010, 978 1 85918 476 9
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... James Gordon Farrell – Jim to his friends – turns out to have had more in common with J.G. Ballard than with Paul Scott, George MacDonald Fraser, M.M. Kaye and other writers of 1970s bestsellers with imperial themes. Like the empty swimming-pools and weed-choked concrete landscapes that appear again and again in JGB’s imagined futures, the collapsing ...

Paradise Lost

Stephen Bann, 17 March 1983

Deadeye Dick 
by Kurt Vonnegut.
Cape, 224 pp., £7.50, February 1983, 0 224 02945 2
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by Max Frisch, translated by Geoffrey Skelton.
Methuen, 142 pp., £5.95, February 1983, 0 413 51750 0
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The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction 
by Colin Greenland.
Routledge, 244 pp., £11.95, March 1983, 0 7100 9310 1
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More Tales of Pirx the Pilot 
by Stanislaw Lem, translated by Louis Iribarne, Magdalena Majcherczyk and Michael Kandel.
Secker, 220 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 9780436244117
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Yesterday’s Men 
by George Turner.
Faber, 234 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 571 11857 7
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Rebel in Time 
by Harry Harrison.
Granada, 272 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 246 11766 4
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Three Six Seven: Memoirs of a Very Important Man 
by Peter Vansittart.
Peter Owen, 236 pp., £8.95, February 1983, 0 7206 0602 0
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... between the language of science and the language of fiction’, but that a writer like J.G. Ballard is able to perform a kind of ‘alchemy’ by amalgamating ‘sonorous, emotive words with categorical terms from the sciences’. Lem also possesses this superlative skill. The pyrotechnic parade of specialised terms and unfamiliar sensations is never ...

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