Archive for the ‘Ballard, J G’ Category

In R J Dent’s Library – J G Ballard

September 23, 2013

R J Dent takes a look at the works of the controversial and prescient author – J G Ballard.





In R J Dent’s Library – J G Ballard

Text (c) R J Dent (2013)

Film (c) R J Dent (2013)

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J G Ballard and the Fiction of Enclosed Space by R J Dent

March 12, 2009


J G Ballard

J G Ballard


How incarceration as a child affected JG Ballard’s fiction.


It wasn’t until the publication of his novel, Empire of the Sun – and its subsequent adaptation to film by Stephen Spielberg – that the literary world started to take notice of J.G. Ballard.

Prior to that, he’d been erroneously regarded as a science fiction author – therefore not a “serious” writer. Either that, or he was labeled “pulp author with a cult following” – and therefore not a “serious” writer. Ballard has, however, always been a serious writer. Prophetic too.

Of course, now that Ballard writes novels that appear to be more “naturalistic” than they were prior to Empire of the Sun, the literary establishment regularly lauds him. “The science fiction writer who came in from the cold,” was how one critic described him. Despite this change in the attitude of critics, there is no discernible change in Ballard’s modus operandi; his fiction is still concerned with the themes it’s always been concerned with; Ballard’s subject matter is still uniquely his own – and he still writes about what he knows best – enclosed space. Read more…


J G Ballard and the Fiction of Enclosed Space

Copyright © R J Dent (2009)


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J.G. Ballard: The Shepperton Psychopathologist

October 21, 2008
J.G. Ballard


The best J.G. Ballard book is Vermilion Sands. It’s closely followed by Crash, The Atrocity Exhibition, High-Rise and Concrete Island. All of his other books are very good too.


However, Vermilion Sands is different to the other works by Ballard. At the same time as defying his oeuvre by being warm-toned, gentle and ultimately optimistic, it also defines Ballard’s writing style, presenting characters that live in a near-empty resort town on the edge of a desert, all of whom indulge in psychological games and creative or destructive pursuits.


For the last forty years, J.G. Ballard has been a chronicler of 20th and 21st century psychopathology. His main theme has been the reaction of individuals and groups of people to enforced proximity through restriction, enclosure or imprisonment. Usually the enclosure is merely the actuality of living in a gated community, or in a holiday resort, or in a prison camp, or on an island.


In most Ballard novels, the conflict has happened before the protagonist arrives; in fact it’s the conflict that often brings the protagonist into the story, only to become embroiled in the ongoing conflicts as the story progresses.


Vermilion Sands is and isn’t like that. Each ‘chapter’ focuses on a different group of people who all live in the decaying resort town of Vermilion Sands. As their stories are told, it’s possible to see that Ballard is studying the place through the reactions of the inhabitants, and not necessarily the inhabitants through their reaction to the place. 




In a way, Ballard uses Vermilion Sands to chronicle the psychopathology of a specific geographical location. The book is also a fascinating study of art in all its various forms, dealing with the creation of music, poetry, architecture, sculpture, and other art forms, including some quite bizarre ones.


J.G. Ballard is one of the most important writers of the 20th and early 21st centuries. In terms of cultural influence, he is as important as William S. Burroughs.


Here’s a list of his books:


The Drowned World (1962)
The Wind from Nowhere (1962)
The Voices of Time (1962)

The Terminal Beach (1964)
The Drought (1964)
The Crystal World (1966)
The Disaster Area (1967)
The Day of Forever (1967)
The Venus Hunters (1967)
The Atrocity Exhibition (1969)
Vermilion Sands (1971)

Crash (1973)
Concrete Island (1974)
High-Rise (1975)

Low-Flying Aircraft (1976)
The Unlimited Dream Company (1979)
Hello America (1981)
Myths of the Near Future (1982)
News from the Sun (1982)
The Day of Creation (1987)
Memories of the Space Age (1988)

Running Wild (1988)

War Fever (1990)
Rushing to Paradise (1994)
Cocaine Nights (1996)

A User’s Guide to the Millennium: Essays and Reviews (1996)
Super-Cannes (2000)
Millennium People (2003)

Quotes (2004)
Interviews (2005)
Kingdom Come (2006)
The Complete Short Stories: Volume 1 (2006)

The Complete Short Stories: Volume 2 (2006)

Miracles of Life (2008)

Here’s a short film on the J G Ballard books that R J Dent has in his library:

I strongly recommend Vermilion Sands as the book to start with if you are unfamiliar with Ballard’s work. Also, it’s a good one to read if you know his work reasonably well. Some only know of him as the author of Empire of the Sun, but that’s one of his lesser books.


I read recently that J.G. Ballard, who had terminal cancer, has died. He died on the 19th April 2009. Although his death was not unexpected, this is very sad news. He has been a profound influence on my writing and, although I did not know him, I feel the world will be a far less interesting place without him.


I hope you enjoy the books you choose to read.



Revised April 20th 2009

© R J Dent (2009)