As has been noted elsewhere, James Graham Ballard died on Sunday. This was not an unexpected event. Ballard had publically announced his terminal prostate cancer and had even written an autobiography Miracles of Life (2008) which served to tidy up some of the biographical facts that might have been glossed over in Ballard’s fictionalised memoirs Empire of the Sun (1984) and The Kindness of Women (1991).
I first experienced Ballard’s writing at school. I remember an English Lit timed assignment in which we had to read and write an essay about his short story “The Drowned Giant”. As a teenaged atheist and a cynic I immediately latched onto the story’s imagery of a wonderous and sacred thing appearing as a bloated decaying corpse. A corpse which is defaced and brutalised and mis-used by humanity until all that is left of it is skeletal ignorance and self-serving mystery and evasion. Not being the most voracious of teenaged readers, my love of Ballard would lie mostly dormant until rediscovering his work via David Cronenberg’s adaptation of Crash (1973) However, I think that Ballard only really clicked for me when I read Cocaine Nights (1996)